Industry representatives converge on Kenai each year for the Industry Outlook Forum – a chance to take a look at the Kenai Peninsula economy today and where it is heading tomorrow.
This year, the same organization that organizes this forum is sponsoring one that is aimed specifically at the native communities of the peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District is hosting an Aboriginal Economic Futures Forum in April.
KPEDD Executive Director Tim Dillon said there are unique state and federal grants and funding opportunities for Alaska Native communities. One of KPEDD’s jobs has been to connect people to these resources and help them apply.
“A lot of our Indigenous communities here on the Kenai Peninsula — they don’t have the bandwidth at this point for someone to just write grants,” Dillon said. “Many of them do, but that’s not what you see at all levels.”
One of these opportunities is the Indigenous Communities Program through the Federal Economic Development Administration. The EDA is sending $100 million to Indigenous communities that have been impacted by the pandemic.
“We have the head of the EDA here in Alaska, Shirley Kelly, who is actually going to come and present to make sure people know and understand – that’s the process, that’s what we’re going to do” , Dillon said.
Dillon said the forum will also be an opportunity for Indigenous-owned businesses to present updates on their own work.
At least one Indigenous-owned entity was represented in the general forum last month. Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute is a mariculture research center based in Anchorage and Seward and is operated by a tribal consortium, the Chugach Regional Resource Commission. Its Seward facility serves seven tribes in the area.
Dillon said he was still getting confirmation from other potential speakers. He hopes highlighting resources for Indigenous communities in particular will be helpful to Indigenous entrepreneurs and community leaders in the region.
“It’s another way to educate people and bring them together,” Dillon said.
The Native Economic Futures Forum is scheduled for Thursday, April 28 at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai. It will be free and will also be broadcast on KPEDD’s Youtube channel.