Q: Starting with the big picture, why is international trade important to Alaska and what kind of impact does it have on the economy?
A: When we talk about international trade for Alaska we are almost always referring to exports. In other words, Alaska commodities, goods and services sold to customers in overseas markets. Alaska's exports now hover close to $5 billion on an annual basis, having reached a record high of $5.2 billion in 2011. Export revenues represent new money coming into our economy, creating much needed diversification and sustaining thousands of jobs. A few years ago, we commissioned Northern Economics, a leading Anchorage-based consulting firm, to measure the impact that trade has on the Alaska economy. What they found is impressive: in addition to the export revenues themselves, that now are in the $5 billion range, another $2 billion is generated by these export activities. At these levels, exports represent about l0 percent of Alaska's Gross State Product, a measure used to gauge the size of a state's economy, and based on exports as a percentage of GSP, Alaska ranks 14th among all states. If you consider exports in relation to the size of our population, Alaska is fourth in the country. Relatively speaking, trade is more important to Alaskans than it is to people living in other states. Here, there is a very good chance that your paycheck, or your neighbor's, results from trade.
Q: You mentioned jobs. How many Alaska jobs are supported by international trade?
A: In the study conducted by Northern Economics, one of the things they looked at, of course, is the number of jobs that are created or sustained as a result of export operations. They determined that there are about 15,000 jobs, statewide, that flow directly from export activities. In addition, there are another 10,000 indirect or induced jobs generated by exports. Taken together, then, trade accounts for about 25,000 jobs in Alaska. I think that is significant. It should also be noted that jobs tied to exports pay more than jobs connected solely to the domestic economy. The U.S. Census Bureau did a study about this several years ago and reported that export-related jobs typically pay about 15 to 17 percent more versus jobs found elsewhere in the economy. One doesn't have to look around too much in Alaska to find ample evidence of this finding. Indeed, some of the highest paying jobs in the state are tied to trade.
Q: Why is the export business important to Alaska and Alaskans?
A: Well, we would certainly have a much smaller economic base and fewer...