Growing the shipbuilding and boat building industry in Alaska could be one way to diversify the state’s heavily oil-dependent economy, according to a new study by the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development.
The report is the first of several that will be released this year looking at economic sectors Alaska might try to grow. The university is partnering with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to produce the series, assessing the potential of several industries.
Marine transportation is already crucial here, from the state’s ferry system to the cargo ships that Alaska relies on to the fishing industry and recreation.
Right now, facilities in the Lower 48 — especially in Washington and Oregon — build a large share of the vessels that operate in Alaska, but the manufacturing of boats and ships here is an industry with high growth potential, according to the study.
“So much of the economy is tied to vessels,” said Nolan Klouda, executive director of the CED at the university. He worked on the study. “It means there’s this large in-state market for marine vessels, and any work we can do where we can build or service more vessels, that’s money that stays in Alaska.”
There are constraints to growth in the industry, the report said, including labor availability, financing and a need for more space. There are also things policymakers and the business sector can do to foster shipbuilding and boat building here, such as developing shared branding and marketing for Alaska-built vessels and promoting innovation in the maritime sector.
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