CEDAS members visit “America’s Last Frontier” to attend the IEDC’s Annual Conference in Anchorage


Writes CEDAS President Patrick McMahon:

“The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) held its annual conference from October 4-7 in Anchorage, Alaska. Making the trek from our great state and representing CEDAS were Patrick McMahon, Becky Nolan (accompanied by her husband Mike), Mark Waterhouse, Leslie Cosgrove and Bob Santy. Over 1,100 economic development practitioners from around the world attended the conference.

The day before the conference’s official launch, attendees had the opportunity to take the Alaskan Railroad from Anchorage to Seward, and then embark on a large catamaran to explore the Kenai Fjord peninsula and witness a truly remarkable glacier. We were treated to views of eagles, whales, sea otters, seals and sea lions, as well as breathtaking views.

The conference began with a very inspiring and humorous presentation by Martin Buser, 4-time Iditarod Champion. This was followed by an informative address by Sophie Minich, President and CEO of the Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), an Alaska Native corporation. Alaska Native corporations were established in 1971 when Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which settled land and financial claims made by Alaska Natives. Native Alaskans are shareholders in profit making enterprises.

There were many informative sessions during the conference including one on certified industrial sites. Connecticut established the QuickTracts program several years ago but other states are going much further. For instance, Tennessee’s program includes state technical and financial assistance in exploring sites and marketing their availability. This is something Connecticut might want to replicate.

Above: Bob Santy Accepts IEDC AwardOne of the highlights of the conference was witnessing Bob Santy accept, on behalf of CERC and Eversource, a Gold Excellence in Economic Development Award for its Connecticut Economic Review publication in the category of General Purpose Print Brochure for communities with populations of greater than 500,000. The Connecticut Economic Review, produced by CERC and Eversource, features data about Connecticut’s economic landscape – from the abundance of talent and attractiveness of location, to array of industries and quality of life.  Used extensively for state business recruitment efforts, the current annual publication was developed with assistance from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and creative firm Adams & Knight to reflect a design that complements the state’s “Connecticut Still Revolutionary” branding. For a digital copy of the award-winning publication, visit www.cerc.com.

Becky Nolan and I attended the State, Regional and Provincial Partners Meeting. Representatives of several state associations and Canadian Provinces were present and shared updates on their activities. One very interesting program that was discussed was British Columbia’s “Business Walks” program where local leaders and economic development reps chose a date to visit several businesses in their jurisdiction to take a pulse of the business community while identifying common themes for action. The British Columbia website has templates to assist a community in conducting a business walk. This program could be replicated in Connecticut Communities.

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city with an estimated 300,000 residents and is situated in the south-central part of the state on the Cook Inlet. It contains more than 40 percent of the state’s total population. The city relies on tourism and the oil industry. There is an extensive trail system in the city. Views of distant mountains were visible from many city streets. Surprisingly the second largest communities are Fairbanks and Juneau, each with about 32,000 residents. With a state-wide population of approximately 700,000 people and a sprawling land mass spanning 570,640 square miles, Alaska is truly a frontier with unique villages, amazing outdoor recreation opportunities, wonderful craft beers, and friendly people. Put it on your bucket list if you have experienced it already!

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