Alaskan Escalator – Alaskan Born heading south

The Alaska Escalator showed up again in today’s ADN reporting that we are losing half of the Alaskans born here and about the same for our high school graduates.

Despite this issue affecting employment and housing (who would build new housing in a declining economy), we continue to wave goodbye to our kids, friends, and family while focusing on retaining businesses and attracting people here to fill empty jobs. Meanwhile, we are ignoring the leaky holes in our economy from self-inflicted gaps created by not investing in a place for people to STAY that supports innovation, startups, technology, and education. (Read more “Angst over youth outmigration emerges in Alaska campaign rhetoric and debates”)

Our “opportunity narrative” continues to be an uninspiring message of stability for legacy natural resource development industries that offers nothing for motivated Alaskans seeking growth opportunities. (See the Alaska 2022-2027 CEDS Goal 1, Objective 1. Page 25)

While we invest in tax credits for stable oil and gas production or capital spending on pipelines ignored by the market and roads to nowhere (West Susitna and Port Mackenzie); where are the investments in creating opportunities for Alaskans who stay here in a world full of exciting innovations and growing businesses in health tech, fin-tech, energy systems, carbon management, data and information science (AI and ML), and advanced sensors and automation?

Is it any surprise that we are losing half of Alaskans when our opportunity narrative message is: keep the pipeline 25% full, hope for the return of salmon, support the federal pork money flowing, sue to keep pesky federal protection out and avoid any taxes while hoping for a big PFD.

In the vast expanse of Alaska, there’s a potential for an even grander narrative that champions innovation and harnesses the power of today’s global shifts in technology and economy. Instead of bidding farewell to our talented Alaskans, we need a new narrative and the will to cultivate an ecosystem that retains and attracts a generation driven by innovation, technology, and growth. Alaska has always been a land of pioneers, and with a refocused vision, we can be pioneers of the new digital and regenerative age. The future is bright for Alaskans who are here and might return, but only if we begin to weave a narrative that resonates with the aspirations of its people. Embrace the change, invest in innovation, and together, we can build a thriving Alaska for generations to come.


Photo retrieved from 9/17/2023. Posted with attribution.




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