A letter from AEDC President & CEO Bill Popp and Visit Anchorage President & CEO Julie Saupe, printed in the Alaska Dispatch News on July 22, 2015.

Recently, the Department of Defense officially announced its plans to cut 2,600 active duty personnel from JBER.

While we strongly disagree with the drawdown decision and acknowledge it will have negative economic impacts, we’re also confident that our community will respond and continue to grow. Response strategies are already being developed to mitigate the impacts, and an overall assessment shows that many projected economic losses are still speculative.

The cut translates into a loss of 1.7 percent of Anchorage’s payroll, but it may also mean greater workforce availability in Anchorage.

Through May of this year, there were an estimated 8,500 unemployed workers in Anchorage, translating into a very tight labor market. According to Anchorage Economic Development Corp.’s 2015 Business Confidence Index Report, many employers from a number of sectors have job openings that are difficult to fill because of a lack of qualified candidates. Veterans transitioning to civilian employment following the reductions have the potential to make a significant positive impact on Anchorage’s skilled labor pool by adding their energy and abilities to our private sector.

The military population’s median age for active-duty personnel is between 21 and 23, a vital demographic for growth in our economy. In 2014, nearly 10 percent of Alaska residents were veterans, with 48,000 of them in the workforce that year. The troops and their families who are facing the upcoming military drawdown are professional, skilled workers, and we have the jobs for them right here in Anchorage and Alaska. The Army’s loss is Alaska’s gain.

For all of us living in Anchorage, we know that our community is a top place to live, work and play. This will resonate with military families who may have some big life decisions ahead. We want these families to know that they are not just our temporary neighbors, they are a part of our community and we want them to stay. Together we can make Anchorage their permanent home and be a stronger community for it.

A free military transition summit on July 22 and 23 will feature workshops, panel discussions, a networking reception and a hiring fair focused on improving competitive employment for service members, veterans and military spouses. The summit will be held at the Dena’ina Center and will feature key federal agencies, influential military leaders, innovators in the business and employer community and local community leaders. A wide range of employers will be present, from Apple to Olgoonik Corp. to Trident Seafoods. For more information or to register, visit http://bit.ly/1CECM8V.

The reduction of 2,600 troops from JBER is disheartening, but it is a much better outcome than the extreme possibilities put forth last winter. And it presents new opportunities, not only for personnel transitioning out of the military, but for this thriving city we call home.

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