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Juneau Business Leaders Welcoming Lawmakers

By Adam Pinsker, Multimedia Political Reporter, apinsker@ktuu.com
Published On: Jan 27 2014 07:34:25 PM AKST
Updated On: Jan 27 2014 08:09:48 PM AKST

Juneau Business Leaders Welcoming Lawmakers

JUNEAU -

The Viking, one of Juneau's established watering holes, is ringing in the new legislative session.  Bartender Thomas Vinson is looking forward to filling a few more bar stools now that the legislature has reconvened.

"The summer is always the big influx of people coming in for tourism, but you know, it's cool because we don't have a lot going on in Juneau,” said Vinson as he served customers at the bar last week.

 “Then all of a sudden the legislature goes into session, you get to see a bunch of familiar faces, that you see from year to year."

The Juneau Economic Development Council estimates 400 additional people reside in Juneau during the legislative session.  That makes the capitol the state's most visited city, but it’s also one of the hardest places to find housing or lodging.

"We also have a terrain that is not easy to build on, land is limited by the geography. There is plenty of land (but) it's hard to access, we're surrounded by a national forest," said JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst.

JEDC is working with builders to see the long term opportunity in the City and Borough of Juneau, believing that if they build it, people will buy it.

Holst estimates 90 percent of Juneau's 1,000 hotel rooms are full right now.

The number fluctuates as people doing business with the legislature often come and go from week to week. Some lawmakers and staff opt for renting a home or apartment while in town for the session.

"When we do hear some stories about people trying to raise rent, those are rare stories and it's really discouraged, especially during the legislative season," said Holst.

Community leaders are protective of Juneau's role as Alaska's capitol and hub for tourism, and are embracing the extra jolt of business these temporary residents will bring to the city’s restaurants, shops, hotels and bars.