Movers and shakers from the across the spectrum of Alaska industry converged on the Homer Spit Thursday for a two-day forum held at Land’s End Resort. The 2013 Industry Outlook Forum kicked off with at least one surprise.
And what better way to kick of an industry outlook forum than with a ukulele serenade from former Homer Mayor Jim Hornaday? Hornanaday performed his local hit “Homer Bound,” which he used to soften up the large crowd before introducing Homer’s current mayor, Beth Wythe.
Describing Homer’s present economic outlook, Wythe quoted “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens.
"It's the best of times and it is the worst of times," said Wythe. "And I think right now, in Homer, we really exemplify that."
Changes in commercial and sport fishing have taken a toll on the local economy, said Wythe, as has a downturn in tourism over the last few years.
On the positive side, Wythe pointed out the anticipated arrival of natural gas into the Homer area, which is expected to have a positive effect on the economy, as will the many planned construction projects around Homer that are set to begin in the near future.
"The City of Homer needs to present itself to Alaska ... as a community that is open for business," said Wythe.
Wythe was joined on the stage Thursday by representatives from Kachemak City, Seward and Seldovia – as well as Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre.
The proceedings were interrupted at one point. While Seldovia City Manager Tim Dillon was speaking about a new project in his community, he was suddenly interrupted by an angry outburst from a woman who claimed she was being denied entry into the forum.
The woman speaking was Jess Tenhoff, the owner of Nomad Yurts and the Yurt Village in Homer. It was unclear why Tenhoff was denied entry into the forum, although organizers had posted at the door and on their website that the forum registration was full.
Tenhoff was guided out of the room and into an adjacent hallway, where she stayed until two Homer Police officers arrived a short time later. She was not arrested but was asked to leave the premises.
Tenhoff later told Naomi Klouda of the Homer Tribune that she is upset about the proliferation of resource extraction industries represented at the forum. She said her goal was to open a dialogue about alternatives to resource extraction.
Before Tenhoff’s outburst, Navarre spoke at length Thursday about the importance of the oil and gas industry on the Kenai Peninsula. He said one often-overlooked asset of the industry is the people they bring to Alaska.
The 2013 Industry Outlook Forum continued Friday, with schedule presentations from Homer Electric Association, Buccaneer Energy, Holland America Cruise Lines and The Pebble Partnership, among others.