Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/20/2003 01:45 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.