A group trying to prepare for the possible closure of the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center would like the Kodiak Island Borough to consider taking ownership of the building and property.
Members from the Alaska Research Consortium, which include Assemblymen Larry LeDoux and Scott Smiley, sat down with the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly at its work session last week to try and gauge the assembly’s interest. The Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center is currently under the ownership of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but the research facility may face closure due to budget cuts.
Members of the consortium suggested they could pursue partnerships with local Kodiak groups and rent the space out should the borough own the facility.
Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner expressed a personal interest, but said government has traditionally been bad at running business, and she wants to make sure that the business side is in place before going forward.
“You know, yes, let’s take on the building without you guys having a manager, having identified an actual manager, having an actual business plan, and having some financial commitments from entities. And Matt, you spoke to industry seeing the value of the center. One of my questions I wrote down, well, what industries have made financial commitments to give money to the center?”
Assemblyman Kyle Crow agreed that government isn’t usually the best businessman, and expressed concern about the financial burden for the borough.
“When you go forward with this, I think you need to not make your proposal to the state and the university based on some impression that the funding is going to be available from the borough. I think you need to be transparent and honest and up front about that. So, your sales pitch is going to be based on your business plan, really.”
Despite various concerns, the assembly did state tentative interest. Mayor Jerrol Friend said he’s excited about the idea.
“Having a local group having control of this instead of someone in Fairbanks that doesn’t really care – ‘cause we’ve seen that before – I think this is what this place needs absolutely and can make it work. I really feel that this can work really good.”
Consortium members said they are at the very beginning of the process and need to think about business plans, reach out to interested parties, and communicate with UAF.