Northern Enterprises plans growth at boat yard
Among the properties that the Kenai Peninsula Borough owns is some land off Kachemak Drive in Homer, which is prime real estate for moose to hang out in -- and for storing fishing boats. It’s not as big a conflict as it might seem at first.
“The first thing I did was go over and introduce myself to these guys, and sit down for an hour and a half to see if our paths were going to collide too hard,” said Lynn Whitmore, the chairman and founding member of the non-profit Kachemak Moose Habitat. He was responding to the request by Homer’s Northern Enterprises, which is looking to expand its boatyard on Kachemak Drive.
“And just like me, they’re moose hunters and users of the resource, so we did okay.”
Earlier in Tuesday night’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, Aaron Fleenor, representing the family-owned Northern Enterprise, gave a presentation on his company’s history and plans to expand. He said there are 40 businesses with a workforce of around 150 who use the boatyard.
“Anything from marine safety to ship builders. Even a restaurant,” he said. “We say we have our own little community within our fences.”
He said an expansion could potentially double the number of people working in the yard.
Fleenor says a new, longer dock is being manufactured and will be installed this year. It will accommodate a new marine travel lift arriving in June that has over three-times the capacity of the current lift. That, he said, will allow vessels up to 200 metric tons to be lifted from the water.
“Even with our current infrastructure, we can’t keep with demand for repairs or builds on boats. We estimate that we will be handling at least 30 of these larger vessels, and don’t quite have the space to accommodate them.”
Fleenor asked that his company be kept in mind when the borough comes to dispose of the property. On a PowerPoint slide he described his goal.
“With the red, green and blue lots, we will be able to expand our yard, improve infrastructure and be able to store more boats. We’d like to request that the assembly and the administration consider a negotiated sale for some or all of the lots planned for disposal.”
Fritz Creek Assemblyman Willy Dunne, queried both men about the possibility of a land swap of some kind. Both seemed amenable to the idea.
“I’m curious if you’d be willing to work with the administration on a land trade. Is a land trade possible?” Dunne asked.
“Yes, we are interested in a land trade,” Fleenor said. “The more we have room to grow, I think it would be for the betterment of the entire Kenai Peninsula.”
“That whole area has been on our radar for a long time,” Whitmore said. “And of course anything that works to help both sides come to an agreement would be fine with me, and I would be happy to work with people on various parcels.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that and look forward to seeing how things progress in working with you guys and the land management department to figure out a solution that helps everybody,” said Dunne.