Guest blog post by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Over the last three and a half years, President Obama has committed his administration to make investments to strengthen rural economies and create jobs. That includes Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.
The Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, an economic growth effort by the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham, Alaska is one of the winners of the multiagency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, an initiative that pools the resources of 13 federal agencies to support innovation in rural regional industry clusters.
While Bristol Bay has a wealth of natural resources, it has struggled to leverage those assets to fuel long-term, sustainable growth. The area, for example, is one of the world’s premier fishing grounds for sockeye and king salmon, with millions of fish returning to Bristol Bay and its tributaries each year to spawn.
The Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, representing a consortium of 31 Alaskan tribes, will support the fisheries and seafood processing industry cluster located in Bristol Bay. The goal is to assist distressed rural communities in the region by leveraging local assets, building stronger economies, and creating regional linkages.
An important component of this effort is the technical assistance that the Bristol Bay Native Association will provide to the Southwest Alaska Vocational and Education Center to build training capacity among Bristol Bay’s fisheries and seafood processing establishments. The center’s programs will support job creation in this industry by boosting the skills of the local workforce, helping processors and seafood manufacturers grow their operations, and developing effective marketing linkages.
Federal funding will be used to deliver a variety of technical assistance services, such as organizing and managing an industry-focused conference and helping develop a regional fisheries business cooperative. There will be particular focus on the needs of smaller, “mom and pop” processors in Bristol Bay who often lack the resources to effectively market their products.
The Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which was designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council, recently announced the 13 winners of the competition.