Posted on Jun 24, 2021
The 21st-Century economy plays by different rules, rules that may be favorable to Alaska’s long-term economic diversification and development if we can seize the opportunity.
This district-wide project brought current economic information and long-term development advice to Alaska Rotarians in a series of five Zoom forums between September and December 2020.  You can find links to all the forum videos as well as the written materials here:
In early September 2020, Alaska Department of Labor economists presented District 5010 Rotarians with a great amount of data showing how our lengthy recession tied to slowdowns in our traditional resource extraction industries has negatively affected Alaska employment for years and continues to hamper Alaska’s recovery from the effects of coal that-19 economic slowdowns.  
That state data can be found in the attachment to forum number one, linked above, and in the hyperlinked references to the states monthly “Alaska Trends” economics magazine.  State economic data clearly illustrated how our traditional extractive industries cannot be solely relied upon to reliably power Alaska’s economic future.
In our second forum, District 5010 presented our eClub Rotarian Prof. Don Albrecht of the Western rural development consortium, located at Utah State University.  Prof. Albrecht is the author of several recent books regarding the structure and economics of 21st-century rural economies. He described the characteristics of an increasingly diffused 21st-century economy, an economy in which new industrial technologies are negatively affecting traditional employment across all business sectors.  In such an economy, many of the best jobs are newly created sorts of jobs that are “distance-insensitive” and can be performed anywhere where there is adequate broadband connectivity. 
These jobs are typically highly skilled, often technical, in nature and high-paying.  Rural communities that orient their long-term community and economic development toward attracting such employment place themselves at a long-term economic advantage.  “Distance-insensitive” employment of this sort not only diversifies a community’s basic economy but provides good jobs that attract college graduates to return home, helping keep generations of family together. 
Key to successfully competing in the emerging 21st-century economy are high-quality broadband connectivity and a community’s quality of life “amenities” such as excellent schools, high quality nearby outdoor recreational opportunities, a clean environment, and building a pleasant community with an adequate amount of arts, culture and other entertainment that make a community attractive to “distance-insensitive” professionals.
Our third forum presented former Alaska Commissioner of Commerce, Corporations and Economic Development Mike Navarre, who discussed the need for Alaska to balance its budget and diversify its sources of revenue in order to provide a stable long-term business-friendly environment.
Securing adequate broadband connectivity for rural areas was the topic of the fourth 21st-Century economics forum, presenting a variety of actual community examples.  Some parts of Alaska, even some urbanized areas such as Fairbanks, do not have broadband capacities adequate for current, let alone future needs. It appears, however, that Alaska will receive a significant infusion of infrastructure development funds devoted to broadband expansion. Ensuring that broadband expansion reaches all aspects of Alaska will be critical to the development of smaller Alaskan communities.
Finally, Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency services director and Soldotna Rotarian Dan Nelson provided a detailed approach by which smaller Alaskan communities can make their communities more resilient to disasters through an easily replicated local planning and networking process that identifies existing prompt response resources and devised a local plan to promptly mobilize those resources when disaster strikes.