The City of Seward, Alaska, struggled with a core element of economic development: business retention and expansion. Business leaders questioned the commitment of City government to expanding private sector investment in Seward. A declining private tax base meant a heavier tax burden on existing businesses. The relatively small amount of land available for private ownership and development further threatened Seward’s long-term economic vitality.
The City of Seward and the Seward Chamber of Commerce engaged TIP Strategies and the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development (UACED) to perform an assessment of Seward’s economic development capabilities. As part of the assessment, the consulting team evaluated Seward’s economic development assets, processes, coordination, and expertise. In addition, the team conducted site visits, interviews, and surveys to understand the city’s opportunities and challenges and assess the commitment of local partners to economic development. TIP and UACED team members presented the results of the assessment to the Seward City Council in May 2009. In addition to the assessment findings, the team presented a set of recommendations designed to help Seward accomplish its economic development goals. One of the team’s central recommendations encouraged the city and chamber to focus on dedicating more resources to aggressively retain, expand, and attract private investment in Seward. To this end, the City of Seward subsequently engaged UACED to assist in exploring more specific options for expanding and focusing the community’s economic development resources.