The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce weekly luncheon featured a panel discussion about “Opportunities in the Arctic.” The panelists were Craig Fleener, the Alaska Governor’s Arctic Policy Advisor; Fran Ulmer, Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC); and Hugh Short, Chairman & CEO of Pt Capital Investments.
Describing himself as a born and raised in Fort Yukon “Arctic boy” of Gwich’in heritage, Fleener summarized the recent policy recommendations of the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission (AAPC), the Governor’s Arctic Transition Team, and Gov. Bill Walker’s Arctic strategy.
Fleener said AAPC worked on four themes: community and culture, economic development and environmental protection, public safety and security, and decision-making transparency and public inclusion. The AAPC made specific recommendations to the Alaska Legislature.
Fleener said that because of AAPC’s work, Alaskans are now “in the room” on Arctic policy development and implementation.
Composed of 14 members, the transition team made five general recommendations:
- Increase Alaskan involvement and prominence in Arctic governance.
- Create mechanisms for sustainable development.
- Achieve a better understanding of the changing climate, oceans and environment.
- Invite more public participation, transparency and collaboration in setting Arctic policies.
- Build needed infrastructure.
Fleener said Gov. Walker’s Arctic strategy and policies involved reducing a long list of priorities. The main elements are to drive down energy costs as part of achieving community sustainability, to have an improved statewide infrastructure plan that looks a decade ahead, and to have a better understanding of climate change impacts and how to adapt to a different environment.
Another large part of this is finding ways for the state to live within its fiscal means and to diversify its revenues.
Fleener said that while the immediate future may be cost-limited, the state still needs to develop plans in order to take the right steps. There’s an upside to starting that process now, plus outreach is inexpensive.
Ulmer gave a condensed version of a longer presentation explaining the USARC mission, Arctic Council plans, and how the Arctic is changing (refer to the presentation to the Consortium of Ocean Leadership on March 9, found on page 2 of the 1st Edition of the Arctic Report).
Ulmer said the U.S. theme for its Arctic Council chairmanship is “One Arctic: Shared Opportunities, Challenges and Responsibilities.”
With President Barak Obama’s January 2015 Arctic executive order and a U.S. implementation plan, Ulmer said, the federal government is now paying more attention to the Arctic than it has in years. Even with that, it still doesn’t have the money to do the things it needs to do, such as building new icebreakers and other Arctic-related infrastructure.
In conclusion, Ulmer said USARC was created to provide the government with advice for all of the decisions that need to be made in the areas of research and infrastructure. For more information, visit the USARC website.
To start his presentation, Short asked each table at the luncheon to take 10 minutes to discuss whether Alaska in 15 years will be the same, worse off or better. Most of the tables concluded that Alaska would be better. As befits a chamber of commerce, Short said that showed he had a roomful of optimists. He also asked for a show of hands of people who had been in Alaska during the 1986 economic collapse, and a large majority raised their hands.
That fits in with the story of Pt Capital Investments, which is a private equity fund with an investment target of $300 million. “We’re optimists,” Short said. “We look for investment opportunities and, in (times of) turmoil, there are opportunities.”
From its raising and deployment of money, Pt Capital will be the furthest north investment bank, Short said.