Native Economic Future Forum Slated for April
Industry representatives converge on the Kenai each year for the Industry Outlook Forum – a chance to take a look at the Kenai Peninsula’s economy today and where it’s headed tomorrow.
This year, the same organization that puts on that forum is sponsoring one geared specifically toward the peninsula’s Native communities. The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District is holding a Native Economic Future Forum in April.
KPEDD Executive Director Tim Dillon said there are unique state and federal grants and funding opportunities available for Alaska Native communities. One of KPEDD’s jobs has been connecting people with those resources and helping them apply.
“A lot of our Native communities here on the Kenai Peninsula – they don’t have the bandwidth at this stage to have someone just writing grants," Dillon said. "Several of them do, but that’s not what you see across the board.”
One of those opportunities is the Indigenous Communities program through the federal Economic Development Administration. The EDA is sending out $100 million to indigenous communities that have been impacted by the pandemic.
"We have the head of EDA here in Alaska, Shirley Kelly, who’s actually going to come and present to make sure that people know and understand — this is the process, this is what we’re going to do," Dillon said.
Dillon said the forum will also be a chance for Native-owned businesses to present updates on their own work.
At least one Native-owned entity was represented in the general forum last month. Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute is a mariculture research facility based in Anchorage and Seward and is managed by a tribal consortium, the Chugach Regional Resources Commission. Its Seward facility serves seven tribes in the area.
Dillon said he’s still getting confirmation from other potential speakers. He hopes spotlighting resources geared toward Native communities in particular will be helpful to indigenous entrepreneurs and community leaders in the area.
“It’s another way to educate people and bring people together," Dillon said.
The Native Economic Futures Forum is set for Thursday, April 28 at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai. It will be free to attend and will also be streamed on KPEDD’s YouTube channel.