AEDC head thinks Alaska’s recession is coming to an end

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - 11:00

For the first time in quite a while, Bill Popp is bullish on Anchorage’s economy.

“The recession, I believe, seems to be near an end,” the president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Council told the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce earlier this month during its biweekly lunch forum at the Eagle River Ale House. “And yes, I said that here first.”

Popp’s comments came as he prepared to join

Gov. Walker’s trade delegation to China, where state officials and business leaders spent the end of May working on a variety of Sino-Alaska business issues. Along with working on ways to foster trade between the state and China, the trade mission’s purpose was also to seek a deal on construction of a long-hoped-for gas line from the North Slope to Southcentral Alaska. Although that portion of the meeting was being handled by state officials, Popp said he’s optimistic about a potential partnership.

“I’ve never seen it this close,” he told the chamber. “… It’s going to be interesting to see how these discussions go.”

Popp’s optimism comes as Alaska’s economic numbers continue to flag. During his presentation, Popp showed slides showing the state continues to lead the nation in unemployment and Anchorage is likely to lose another 1,000 or more jobs in 2018.

Still, he said those numbers appear to be stabilizing, and said there’s always a silver lining.

“When you come out of a recession, your economy will be stronger,” he said.

Popp said Anchorage has a number of things going for it, including a booming health care sector and the world’s fifth-busiest cargo airport. And, he said, a recession was long overdue, with Alaska experiencing positive job growth for nearly three decades.

“That’s unheard of,” he said.

Popp noted things continue to look gloomy in the retail and dining sectors, and offered an only half-joking plea for people to support local business.

“It is your patriotic duty to go out and have a meal, I’m serious,” he said, echoing former U.S. President George W. Bush’s call for people to go out in the aftermath of 9/11. “I’m serious. Now’s the time to go out and support them.”

Popp said he thinks 2018 will be the year the recession ends, and pointed to Anchorage’s many upsides relative to other parts of the country as reason for optimism.

“For the first time, it’s now more expensive to live in Seattle,” he said.

Popp said people who have been reluctant to invest in Alaska might want to reevaluate their strategy as things begin to turn around for the state’s economy.

“I’m not saying now’s the time to do it, but now’s the time to start thinking about it,” he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call (907) 257-4274.

Facebook comments