Skagway doesn’t want to just be a tourist town.
The municipality is seeking to cash in on the regional mining boom by expanding its port.
For the small town, this kind of development is very much needed, said Tom Smith, Skagway’s city manager.
“We certainly appreciate the tourism industry,” he said. “In a big way that keeps us alive and open for business, but we would very much like to have a year-round economy.”
Last week, the Alaskan governor signed a bill that authorized the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to issue up to $65 million in bonds to finance port upgrades.
Yesterday, Skagway held a bond referendum that, if approved by voters, would provide another $5 million for the project.
Along with another $10 million allocated in the state budget for port improvements, the project has $80 million of potential financing.
The project has been in the works since 2008, but even if all the financing comes through, construction won’t start until next year, said Smith.
“This project isn’t just important for Skagway but for the whole region,” he said.
That’s something that Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway agrees with.
“Things that are good for Skagway are also good for the Yukon and, of course, Whitehorse,” she said.
Having a deep-sea port in the region is a huge advantage for the Yukon mining sector, said Yukon Chamber of Mines president Claire Derome.
“It’s great news,” she said, but it also reflects the long-term viability of the regional resource sector.
“We are looking towards a very sustained expansion in the Yukon and that investment reflects that this is not just a short-term blip that is happening in the Yukon,” she said.
“We’re going to see investment continuing for a number of years.”
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