Southeast Conference blends virtual and in-person events for Haines summit

Southeast Conference events in-person will take place at Harriet Hall, on the Southeast Alaska Fairgrounds in Haines (Corinne Smith/KHNS)

Southeast Conference’s annual summit bringing together civic and business leaders from across the region opened on Tuesday in Haines. This year’s event will be a mix of in-person and online sessions, with COVID protocols for those who show up in person.

Panels will feature political and industry leaders from across Southeast Alaska gathering to discuss economic development and the future of the region.

Southeast Conference’s executive director Robert Venables says they’re expecting about 150 to attend in person in Haines.

“We’re expecting everyone that shows up to have been vaccinated or tested negative before arriving in Haines,” Venable said. “We’re going to mask up throughout the event. And for the most part, we’re sequestering on the fairgrounds. So we’re going to use local caterers to bring food in. And, you know, make sure that we’re as safe and sequestered as possible.”

Venables says participants’ tables will be spaced out at the conference venue at Harriet Hall, with handwashing stations provided and hall doors open for airflow. The usual after-hours events and social mixers have been canceled. He said if participants do contract COVID while in Haines, they’ve made special arrangements.

“We’ve worked out an arrangement with airlift Northwest that they will come and extract any of our attendees that may test positive during the 60-hour event that we have there in Haines. So we have a provision so that we can address that,” he said.

Elected officials, industry and tribal leaders will meet to discuss a wide variety of economic development issues from rebounding tourism, health care and broadband internet, to President Biden’s infrastructure bill, mariculture and mining development. Speakers include Alaska’s Congressional delegation, Angela Rodell, CEO of the Alaska Permanent Fund and Sealaska’s CEO Anthony Mallott.

Venables said finding accommodations for participants in town has been challenging, but he hopes the in-person and virtual format of the conference aims to be inclusive.

“This hopefully will serve to help others figure out how to have meaningful events and get business done, and bring the causes and the resources together. We have quite a number of individuals and agencies coming that’s going to really be helpful to Haines and the region in rebuilding after a very disastrous year.”

Southeast Conference begins in Haines and online on Tuesday, Sept. 14 through Thursday, Sept. 16. There’s more information on how to register on the Southeast Conference website.

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