The Ketchikan Shipyard, seen from the airport ferry last fall.

The Ketchikan Marine Industry Council has been working quietly for about a year now, gathering information and planning future marketing to promote Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska’s marine opportunities.

The group includes about 15 marine-centered businesses, and along with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, they all contributed funds to get the council going.

Project Manager Doug Ward and Project Coordinator Jason Custer talked about the group’s plans during a recent Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch.

“Right now, we’re embarking on a new marketing effort to increase regional competitiveness of our website and Ketchikan with the Gulf of Mexico, and try to showcase what we have here in a manner that will be more visually engaging and visually competitive with some of our strongest benchmarks and peers in other parts of the U.S.,” Custer explained.

Custer said that Ketchikan is home to about 1,700 marine-industry workers, who bring home an average annual wage of nearly $72,000. Some of those jobs are directly related to the marine industry, such as ship-building; other are less direct, providing services to marine businesses.

Ward said Southeast Alaska in general needs to improve its image, and let everyone know what the region can offer. He held up a recent study put out by the Alaska Oil and Gas Association.

“I haven’t read the thing,” he said. “I was going to read it last night, but I sat down and looked at the table of contents and – it’s Chapter 4: local and regional impacts and profiles – now let’s see who’s being impacted and profiled by this study: The Municipality of Anchorage, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Valdez, North Slope — nothing in Southeast.”

Ward said there is a huge opportunity for Southeast to profit from Arctic development. He said that while it’s unfortunate for the state that Shell recently put drilling plans on hold, it gives Southeast another chance to organize and let the major oil company know there are options for staging centers in Alaska.

Ward said the time to act is now.

“This is urgent stuff, and it’s got to be understood and we’ve got to execute and do it quickly, or one of the last great economic opportunities that this state has in front of us is going to pass us right by,” he said.

Custer said the marine industry council idea is catching on in Southeast. He gave a presentation about it during last September’s Southeast Conference in Craig. Since then, Wrangell, Skagway and Sitka have started similar groups.

He presented again at the recent Southeast Conference mid-session summit. He says the board hopes to provide help to smaller communities that might be interested in joining the effort, as well as compiling information for a regional picture.