Hundreds gather for regional economic summit

Hundreds of business and political leaders from Canada, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho have come up to Alaska to talk about what these places all have in common.

They’re here for the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s annual summit, being held at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage. And Tuesday, Gov. Sean Parnell gave an address on the group’s shared policy interests.

“As the PNWER region, we will continue fostering economic opportunity together. We’ll do it on a stronger foundation of public safety and education. We’ll do it with infrastructure investment and tax and regulatory policy that makes sense. And we’ll do it with regional cooperation.”

The governor hit on a number of familiar themes. He talked about the importance of the Arctic, about federal overreach, and about lowering taxes as a way of encouraging business.

Parnell also strayed from typical business topics to discuss the role public safety plays in an economy. He gave special attention to the state’s campaign to curb violence against women, comparing the annual “Choose Respect” rallies coordinated by the state to the civil rights marches of the 1960s. Parnell also suggested that the J-1 visa program, which brings foreign students to the United States for cultural exchange and temporary work, is being targeted by human traffickers.

“Before the employer realizes what is happening, these people — these representatives — haul off your foreign student employees, and you don’t know where they’ve gone.”

A spokesperson for the governor says the situation Parnell brought up is currently under investigation, but could not provide further details.

The PNWER summit continues through Friday.

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