Housing tops Juneau’s economic concerns

Respondents to a household telephone poll and an open online survey of local businesses identified housing as the greatest barrier to economic development in Juneau.

“Housing, housing, housing is the message,” said Jim Calvin, president of the McDowell Group, speaking to a Juneau Assembly committee Monday.

Jim Calvin, economic analyst for the McDowell Group. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Jim Calvin, economic analyst for the McDowell Group. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The Assembly hired the research firm for $100,000 to develop an economic plan due to be complete in December. The surveys were part of establishing a baseline to plan and measure against.

Calvin also presented analysis of economic data identifying many 10-year trends.

“Our economy is growing in terms of jobs, in terms of sales, in terms of population. Yet, our tax base has not been keeping pace with that growth,” he said.

Property tax revenue is keeping pace with inflation, but sales tax income is not. There are several reasons, including an aging overall population taking advantage of the city’s senior sales tax exemption, and a $375 cap on the sales tax due on a single transaction that hasn’t been adjusted for some years.

Calvin reiterated other 10-year trends he had highlighted for the Juneau Chamber of Commerce in March; Juneau’s getting grayer, the private sector is growing while the government sector is shrinking, and nonresidents are filling more and more of Juneau’s jobs.

The Assembly plans to hold an in-depth work session with Calvin in July to set priorities for the remainder of the plan, including identifying economic development strategies.

“Part of what we’re doing with this plan is looking at some return on investment, cost-benefit kind of things,” he said.

“Where can you get the biggest bang for your buck whether you invest in economic development infrastructure or initiatives, where can you get the most year-round jobs or the greatest tax revenue? … What steps enhance our housing market most?”

More reports and information about the Juneau Economic Plan are available at juneaueconomicplan.org.

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