I attended the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce yesterday because I heard that Neil Fried was giving a presentation on the MatSu Economy. I always enjoy his speeches…he has a way to make the economy entertaining. Neil is a long-time economist for the Alaska Department of Labor.
Basically his presentation could be summed up in the statement that although the US economy has been in recession the Mat-Su has mostly avoided it. We have seen a slowing in growth, but it’s still growth while other areas in Alaska and in the country have seen a decline.
For example, employment grew again this year in the valley as it for the past 20 years or so. The largest growth sector has been in health care, retail was second, and government was third.
The primary magnet for valley growth is housing. Housing is more affordable here than in Anchorage and in other parts of the state.
Population has grown at a rate of 42% since 2000 and growth is expected to continue. In a short time the Mat-Su will overtake the Fairbanks-North Star borough as the second most populous area.
Of course, our economy, like the state’s is dependent on oil. Oil production is declining so there are certainly dark clouds on the horizon. However, many things are happening in the Mat-Su Valley that continue to bode well for our economy.
First, Larry Devilbiss was elected mayor yesterday. That is a great help for the business community because increased regulation holding back businesses will likely not move forward. Second, the Alaska Rail Road is planning an extension to the Port at Point Mckenzie which will increase jobs at the port and elsewhere. Third, South Central Foundation is planning a major health center at the corner of the Palmer/Wasilla Highway and Knik-Goose Bay road. Finally, Usibelli is still moving forward for plans of a coal mine near Sutton which will provide a lot more jobs.
To read more about Neil Fried’s analysis of the Mat-Su Economy go to the State’s report.