Situated in South Central Alaska, Mat-Su Borough covers an expansive area totaling nearly 25,000 square miles. Since 1970, Mat-Su has experienced explosive population growth, driven largely by Anchorage residents drawn to its more affordable housing options and appealing lifestyle. The associated residential construction surge resulted in haphazard growth patterns and conflicting land uses. With few large private employers, the Borough’s economic base remains largely dependent on external factors, including federal and state fiscal policy, the health of the Anchorage economy, and the price of oil. Mat-Su’s competitive position has also been limited by the state’s high transportation, labor, and energy costs and its remoteness relative to high-growth markets.
With these challenges in mind, Mat-Su commissioned TIP Strategies to develop a Borough-wide economic development strategic plan. The purpose of the plan was to provide a blueprint for positioning Mat-Su for sustainable economic growth and prosperity. Input for the plan was gathered over a 10-month process incorporating input and ideas from key stakeholders throughout the Borough. The information for the planning effort was provided primarily by four stakeholder committees and seven focus groups comprised of representatives from private businesses, public entities (such as cities, utilities, and state agencies), and workforce development. In addition, individual interviews and discussions were conducted with employers throughout the Borough. The plan was presented to the Borough’s stakeholders and approved by the assembly in April 2010. The highest priority strategies included establishing a university-medical district, creating a new economic development partnership, and building greater awareness of Mat-Su among employers in Anchorage.