Johnsen far right and White second from right. Kayla Desroches/KMXT
Uncertainty about the future of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center and concern from the public prompted UA President Jim Johnsen to put together a task-force with members drawn from the academic community. The committee will advise administration on what direction to go with the facility. Johnsen and task-force leader, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Research Dan White, stopped by Kodiak this week to hear what local representatives have to say.
Last night, they spoke at a joint work session between the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and Kodiak City Council on the issue. Johnsen said the University of Alaska depends on the state for 45% of its revenue and, taking into consideration the state’s budget issues, all university programs are on the table alongside the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.
“The charge that I’ve given the universities and I’ve asked Dan in this particular case is, what are the opportunities there? What uniquely powerful, what uniquely distinct, what niche can that facility fill for the community, for the region, and, indeed, for the state?”
Kodiak Island Borough Assemblyman Dennis Symmons asked if it was possible to reach out to global contributors for funding. In his response, White spoke about mining companies and how they have supported facilities in the past.
“International companies have gotten together and said, you know what, we’re in the mining business, but we need value-added products, and so we’re gonna get together. I’m not gonna pay for it, you’re not – but together we can make a difference. And so they’ve gotten together to support these kinds of enterprises. So, anyway, there are some models like that available which would include international interest companies based in Seattle or based in Alaska.”
Paul Lumsden from Trident Seafoods spoke about the real-world ways that the center affects life in Kodiak. He said on his way to the joint work session, he dropped by Subway and bought a Seafood Sensation.
“Not only has Trident Seafoods produced all of Subway’s surimi, a good percentage of that is produced here in Kodiak, and sort of a light bulb went off, and the development of shore-based surimi – a lot of that is done in Kodiak and a lot of that support and infrastructure that helped develop that product that I just ate was from this facility that we’re talking about.”
Lumsden is also one of the members of a local ad-hoc group focused on the future of the Center. The joint work session served as a community platform for everyone to share their thoughts and concerns about the facility. Mayor Pat Branson closed the meeting with a statement.
“I think this community can do wonderful things. We’ve done that in the past, we can certainly do it again given the opportunity. I think the important point is to communicate with us and let us know where you are in your decision-making process so that we’re in the loop and can ask more questions and maybe give more feedback.”
By the end of their visit today, White and Johnsen will have spoken with the KSMSC Policy Council, the local task-force, and members of Kodiak College. And while the Kodiak ad-hoc group has requested an extension to the deadline for the decision, White and his committee are so far slated to make their recommendation to the chancellors of the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Fairbanks by March 1.