Despite the fact that Southeast Alaska is 35,000 square miles, we don’t have much in the way of land here. Of that total, only 0.3 percent is owned by communities and private landowners — just 1/3 of one percent. The federal government owns 95 percent of our land base, while the rest is owned by a combination of the State of Alaska and Alaska Native Corporations. But, in addition to the land, there has always been the ocean. The vast shoreline of Southeast Alaska is (by the latest count) 18,500 miles, and saltwater has always acted as a fuel for our economy.
For every $4 paid to workers in Southeast Alaska, one of those dollars goes to someone who works directly with the ocean. It could be a commercial fisherman, kayak guide, marine biologist, boat builder, an engineer on the ferry or a Lieutenant with the Coast Guard. But taken together, the more than 400 businesses and government agencies directly tied to the ocean comprise Southeast Alaska’s largest economic sector.
In Southeast Alaska there are 8,200 of these “blue workers,” and they earn nearly a half-billion dollars annually. This maritime employment sets Southeast Alaska apart from the rest of the United States.
When economists look at an economy to identify the economic drivers, they look at something called a “location quotient” to see what makes a region unique compared to national norms. The national location quotient is 1.0 and thus anything over two (twice as prevalent) is considered to be significant. Maritime jobs are 49 times more prevalent in Southeast Alaska than in the U.S. as a whole.