Investing for Alaska's Future

The Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) in the College of Business and Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage is carrying out a special research initiative, under a continuing grant from Northrim Bank. Scott Goldsmith, professor of economics at ISER, directs the initiative, studying the importance of investment for building a strong Alaska economy.

This research initiative is to help Alaskans better understand the relationship between government policies and economic development, help inform investment decisions, and monitor state economic and fiscal conditions. The results are being made available to the public in a series of reports.

Why is this initiative necessary? It is critical research right now, because the things that have brought Alaska prosperity in the past generation won't be enough for the future. For decades, Alaska has been blessed with a strong economy driven primarily by oil production and federal government spending. But today, even with the high oil price, Alaska's economic future is uncertain. Oil production continues to decline, and federal spending can no longer be depended on to shore up the economy through the short-term "shots in the arm" Alaskans have grown used to.

The state's other natural-resource sectors—mining, fishing, tourism—are important, but aren't nearly large enough to carry our economy in the way oil and federal dollars have. Many Alaskans are pinning their hopes on a natural-gas pipeline, which will be an important piece of the state's future development. But it remains an uncertain prospect, and by itself is not enough to provide a healthy economic future.

So what can Alaska do to ensure a healthy economy as time goes on? Invest its current resources to build a strong base of physical and human assets. Those assets will generate the private-sector jobs and the public-sector tax base that together can bring Alaska prosperity in future decades. And because much of Alaska's resource base is publicly owned or controlled, government—and ultimately, Alaska citizens—will have a crucial role in fostering smart and timely investments that lead to economic development.

Research done through this initiative will help Alaskans better understand how to successfully invest for the future. The research spans six areas:

* Alaska Economics 101: This research provides, for the first time, a complete quantitative description of the activities that drive the Alaska economy. It forms the basis for building the analytical models that will relate the activities of government to the growth of the private economy.

* How Petroleum Has Transformed the Alaska Economy: Few Alaskans today know what the state economy looked like before the Prudhoe Bay oil discovery. This analysis demonstrates just how much of our current economic prosperity depends on petroleum.

* Monitoring the Health of the Economy: ISER provides continuing analysis of the long-term health of the economy.

* Tracking Alaska's Fiscal Performance: ISER continues to monitor the fiscal condition of the state, with special attention to the question of whether the state is saving and investing enough to sustain necessary public expenditures as oil production continues to decline—while at the same time fostering a strong private economy.

* The Importance of Investment to Alaska's Economic Future: This research documents the importance of private investment in creating sustainable economic growth, the role of the public sector in fostering private investment, and the relationship between public policies and economic activity. Using formal models and analytical tools, it demonstrates the long-term economic effects of current public policy choices.

  • Presentations
  • Other
    • Forum on State Funding of Energy Projects, Commonwealth North, November 2013.
    • Workshop on Alternative Wealth Management Strategies: Alaska, Alberta, and Norway, Anchorage, July 2013.

* Citizen's Guide to the Petroleum Industry: Managing Alaska's publicly owned petroleum assets requires an understanding of how the petroleum industry works as well as current and projected future activity. This guide will help Alaskans better manage the assets that so much of our economic future depends on.

Contact Scott Goldsmith for more information on this project.

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