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Another Year of Growth

In the January issue of Alaska Economic Trends, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Research & Analysis Section Economists Dan Robinson, Neal Fried, Alyssa Shanks and Mali Abrahamson forecast a 1.2 percent growth in 2012 Alaska employment—3,900 jobs. This is good news for Alaska businesses for the third consecutive year.

The largest area of growth is expected in the health care industry, a sector that saw an 8.3 percent increase from 2008 to 2010, according to the economists. Overall, they anticipate statewide growth to be fairly modest this year, with increases of 0.6 percent in Anchorage, 0.5 percent in Fairbanks and 0.4 percent in Southeast.

One important observation by the economists, “What Alaska has, the world needs,” speaks to the importance of international trade to the state’s economy. We focus on this very issue in a special section this month celebrating World Trade Center Alaska’s 25th anniversary. In fact, 2011 turned out to be a record year for international trade when Alaska topped $5 billion in exports for the first time. That number would increase substantially if we built a natural gas pipeline and exported LNG.

What better way to move the economy along toward a bigger better Alaska than the intense infrastructure development of a natural gas pipeline? It’s time for the Legislature to spend some quality time in Juneau and pass legislation essential for economic growth—instead of inaction—enact.

Getting back to international trade, what made up the more than $5 billion in exports last year? According to Governor Sean Parnell’s office, “Alaska’s seafood exports posted the largest year-to-year increase for this period: nearly 34 percent to $2.4 billion. Mineral ore exports rose 31.4 percent to $1.7 billion. The export of energy declined 6.6 percent to $348.3 million with the change at the Kenai liquefied natural gas plant. In addition to liquefied natural gas, the energy category also includes refined petroleum products which more than tripled in value to $73.2 million, and coal, up 14.6 percent to $27.3 million. Precious metals rose 28.3 percent to $243.4 million.”

And where did it all go? Again, we turn to the governor’s office for details: “China emerged as the top market for Alaska’s 2011 exports through November. It’s the first time China held that spot. The remaining top 20 markets for Alaska’s 2011 exports for this period are: Japan, South Korea, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, Finland, Mexico, France, Thailand, Belgium, Portugal, Taiwan, Chile, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ukraine.”

Expanding exports, especially in the Pacific Rim, equals expanding the economy. We can salute the folks at World Trade Center Alaska for helping make that happen.

We’ve got a really great magazine for you this month—two special sections and a dozen other features and articles. Our Engineering & Architecture special section has some very interesting articles, including bios of the nominees for the 2012 Engineer of the Year, a first person account about creating a place for the people of Newtok to relocate to, the directory, a piece about how the LEED Building Standard is changing the industry, a look at Google Earth 3D modeling, and an article about buildings and architects that we’ve had to abbreviate for the magazine, but which appears in full on the website this month. Be sure to read both accounts.

This editorial first appeared in the February 2012 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.

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