Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/20/2003 01:45 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 79                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     An Act extending the termination date of the Alaska                                                                        
     regional economic assistance program; and providing for                                                                    
     an effective date.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CARL MORGAN observed  that the Alaska Regional                                                                   
Development  Organizations  (ARDOR)  Program is  the  State's                                                                   
contribution to regional initiatives  for developing Alaska's                                                                   
economy.  In 1988, the Legislature  recognized that a locally                                                                   
driven  initiative, in  partnership  with the  State, is  the                                                                   
most effective  approach to creating and sustaining  a strong                                                                   
and healthy economy.   The Legislature established  the ARDOR                                                                   
Program  to create  a network  of organizations  to plan  and                                                                   
support economic development at the regional level.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Morgan  noted  that there  are  currently  14                                                                   
ARDOR's in the State.  The work of the ARDOR's consist of:                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
   • Enable local officials and businesses to pool their                                                                        
      limited resources and work together on economic                                                                           
      development issues;                                                                                                       
   • Develop partnerships among public, private and other                                                                       
      organizations; and                                                                                                        
   • Provide needed technical assistance via direct links                                                                       
      with local citizens.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Representative Morgan  pointed out that the  ARDOR Program is                                                                   
providing  a return for  the State's  investment.   The State                                                                   
provides $620,000  in grants funds for the  ARDOR Program and                                                                   
with those  funds, the accomplishments  are impressive.   The                                                                   
ARDOR's have  used $620,000 dollars  in State grant  funds to                                                                   
leverage over  $3.6 million  dollars in  other funds.   Board                                                                   
members  participation  reflects a  local  commitment to  the                                                                   
ARDOR  Program.    The  14  ARDOR  boards,  each  with  10-20                                                                   
members, constitute 150 plus local,  civic-minded individuals                                                                   
who volunteer their time to achieve  a stronger economic base                                                                   
in their region.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
The  original  intent of  the  ARDOR  Program was  to  create                                                                   
regional entities  that could  improve the local  economy and                                                                   
eliminate  region-wide  economic  development barriers.    He                                                                   
stressed  that  the  ARDOR  program  is  meeting  legislative                                                                   
intent.   Representative Morgan  concluded, the ARDOR's  work                                                                   
on  a wide  range  of projects  that assist  individuals  and                                                                   
businesses statewide.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Foster voiced his  appreciation for  the work                                                                   
accomplished by the sponsor and the program.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WANETTA  AYERS,  (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),  EXECUTIVE                                                                   
DIRECTOR,  SOUTHWEST  ALASKA  MUNICIPAL  CONFERENCE  (SWAMC),                                                                   
ANCHORAGE, testified in support  of the proposed legislation.                                                                   
She  noted  that  Alaska  Regional  Development  Organization                                                                   
(ARDOR)  funds  account for  25%  of  the total  funding  for                                                                   
SWAMC.    SWAMC provides  educational  opportunities  for  54                                                                   
communities   through   conferences,  workshops   and   other                                                                   
communications.  In FY02, SWAMC  was selected by  Congress to                                                                   
administer a $30 million dollar  program to mitigate economic                                                                   
losses to communities,  businesses and individuals  that were                                                                   
adversely  impacted  by  federal   measures  to  protect  the                                                                   
stellar sea lions.   She urged that the Committee  support HB                                                                   
79.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker pointed  out  that SWAMC  was able  to                                                                   
leverage from $48,000  dollars of State money  a total budget                                                                   
of $211,000 dollars.  He applauded the commendable work.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SUE COGSWELL, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE),  PRINCE WILLIAM                                                                   
SOUND  ECONOMIC  DEVELOPMENT  DISTRICT  (PWSEDD),  ANCHORAGE,                                                                   
urged passage  of the  legislation.   She commented  that her                                                                   
organization  has undertaken many  projects such  as museums,                                                                   
fishery projects  and scientific undertakings.   Ms. Cogswell                                                                   
urged   the   Committee's   support  for   passage   of   the                                                                   
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JIM CARTER,  (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE),  DIRECTOR, KENAI                                                                   
PENINSULA  ECONOMIC  DEVELOPMENT   DISTRICT  (KPEDD),  KENAI,                                                                   
spoke to  the history of  the ARDOR program  in the  State of                                                                   
Alaska.   Alaska is at a  'stage' where economic  development                                                                   
is   essential.       KPEED   has   attempted    to   support                                                                   
entrepreneurial development that  affects the quality of life                                                                   
for  local residents.   Without  these  investments from  the                                                                   
State,  it  would be  difficult  to  continue that  level  of                                                                   
service.  He urged passage of the legislation.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker pointed  out the  work done by  KPEDD,                                                                   
which  successfully leveraged  from  a $47,000  dollar  State                                                                   
investment,  $265,000 dollars  of delivered services  through                                                                   
other funding.  He commended that success.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CARL  BERGER,   (TESTIFIED  VIA  TELECONFERENCE),   EXECUTIVE                                                                   
DIRECTOR,  LOWER  KUSHKOKWIM   ECOMONIC  DEVELOPMENT  COUNCIL                                                                   
(LKEDC), BETHEL, voiced support  of HB 79.  He noted that his                                                                   
agency  exists to  provide economic  development activity  in                                                                   
Bethel  and 26  surrounding villages  surrounding that  area.                                                                   
LKEDC  has  worked in  salmon  quality  management  projects.                                                                   
Additionally, LKEDC has provided  'familiarization' trips for                                                                   
the  travel  industry  to their  region  to  enhance  tourism                                                                   
business.   Mr. Berger urged  continued funding of  the ARDOR                                                                   
Program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Foster voiced his  support of the  success of                                                                   
the program run by Mr. Berger.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
LOREN   GERHARD,  POLICY   DIRECTOR,  SOUTHEAST   CONFERENCE,                                                                   
JUNEAU,  requested  that the  Legislature  support  continued                                                                   
funding,  especially as  the State  faces fiscal  challenges.                                                                   
He emphasized  that ARDOR's  use seed  money provided  by the                                                                   
State  to build  on leveraging  approximately  five times  as                                                                   
much  for business  assistance,  infrastructure  development,                                                                   
community assistance,  and a host of other  functions, with a                                                                   
very low overhead.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Gerhard   pointed  out  that  the   reauthorization  was                                                                   
contained in  the Governor's Budget,  as he supports  efforts                                                                   
to develop  local and  regional economies.   ARDOR's  address                                                                   
the vast diversity  of economic challenges  and opportunities                                                                   
in Alaska.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
In   Southeast,   the   Southeast   Conference   focuses   on                                                                   
infrastructure  issues, primarily  the Alaska Marine  Highway                                                                   
System  (AMHS), and a  regional electrical  intertie.   There                                                                   
are  numerous  organizations  that  concentrate  on  business                                                                   
development  and  business  assistance,   and  the  Southeast                                                                   
Conference  does  not  duplicate  those efforts.    In  other                                                                   
areas,  ARDOR's  are  very involved  in  business  assistance                                                                   
because the need there is unfilled.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
ARDOR's supply a useful resource  to the State.   ARDOR's are                                                                   
now  tasked  by  the Governor  to  apply  recommendations  to                                                                   
members regarding the newly formed  Alaska Highway Board.  It                                                                   
is useful to  have State chartered regional  organizations to                                                                   
help bridge  the gap  between State  bureaucracies and  local                                                                   
communities.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Gerhard pointed  out that  many  ARDOR's are  designated                                                                   
economic   development   districts,    which   lowers   match                                                                   
requirements for  communities utilizing Economic  Development                                                                   
Administration  funding.   Many ARDOR's  are also  designated                                                                   
Resource  Conservation and  Development  Councils, a  program                                                                   
that provides  them with  federal employees  of the  U.S.D.A.                                                                   
and resources to pursue targeting of regional projects.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
The Southeast Conference ARDOR  was instrumental in obtaining                                                                   
federal authorization  for a regional electric  intertie with                                                                   
the help  of Senator Frank Murkowski.   There is  a committee                                                                   
working on  those steps to actually  build the next  stage of                                                                   
that  project.     The  seed  money  made  it   possible  for                                                                   
soliciting contributions from  various communities, State and                                                                   
federal programs to move the project along.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Gerhard stated  that the  ARDOR's help  bring people  in                                                                   
remote regions  together, where  they collectively  decide to                                                                   
pursue a  whole range of regional  projects.  There  are over                                                                   
80 volunteers on 9 committees  and subcommittees addressing a                                                                   
broad range of issues in the region.   Without the grant, the                                                                   
program would be  unable to afford the staff,  which provides                                                                   
the value that the membership relies upon.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Gerhard pointed  out  that this  grant  is an  important                                                                   
piece of  their budget.  The  members supply about  twice the                                                                   
amount  in  dues and  other  support.   Together  that  money                                                                   
allows pursuing goals with staff,  rent, and teleconferences.                                                                   
If  the ARDOR's  were to  disappear, millions  of dollars  of                                                                   
federal  and private  grants would  no longer  flow into  the                                                                   
State.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker voiced his  appreciation for  the work                                                                   
done on the shellfish mara-culture activities.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Williams advised that  to date, the Governor had not                                                                   
proposed  any budget  funding for  the ARDOR  program or  any                                                                   
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Joule  pointed out that  there is a  web site,                                                                   
which highlights the Alaska Native  Arts resulting from ARDOR                                                                   
funding.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative Foster MOVED to  report HB 79 out of Committee                                                                   
with  individual recommendations  and  with the  accompanying                                                                   
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
HB  79  was  reported  out of  Committee  with  a  "do  pass"                                                                   
recommendation and  with a new  fiscal note by  Department of                                                                   
Community & Economic Development.                                                                                               

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