Ferry dollars bring more to communities than thought
New study says state spending doubles the benefit to Alaska communities
(AP) A newly released study found that every dollar put into the Alaska Marine Highway System has double the economic benefit to Alaska.
The state contributed $117 million in general funds to the ferry system in 2014. The report from the McDowell Group, which was funded by the ferry system, shows that the total economic impact was $273 million, The Ketchikan Daily News reported.
According to the study, the ferry system is responsible for 1,017 jobs and indirectly responsible for 683 jobs, which would be for people employed by businesses benefiting from state ferries.
Gov. Bill Walker said in an announcement Thursday that he was "surprised to learn just how widespread the economic impacts are, accounting for 1,700 Alaska jobs and more than $100 million in wages and benefits."
"It's critical that we maintain a viable marine highway system as we look to reduce state spending," said Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Marc Luiken in the same announcement.
The report found significant benefits to both rural and urban communities in Alaska.
Most of the ferry system's capital expenditures, about 65 percent, were made in Southeast Alaska, mainly in Ketchikan. The city of Ketchikan also has the highest number of ferry employees at 318.
Southwestern Alaska, which has very few ferry system employees, accounted for 8 percent of capital spending and southcentral Alaska claimed 26 percent.
The report also detailed losses for the state should funding for the system continue to be cut. It cited increased cost of living and decline in access to health care, with a disproportionate effect on "Alaska's smaller and more isolated coastal communities."
"For every dollar of general fund money not budgeted to AMHS, there will be $2.30 less economic activity in Alaska," the report states. The "impacts of reduced AMHS service will be broad and far-reaching, affecting a diverse range of Alaska residents, businesses, and organizations."