PUBLISHED: 11:14 AM on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Knowledge Industry Network copes with state budget cuts
"Word of mouth," is a great way to advertise one's business, because a good recommendation will go far in small towns. In Juneau, the Knowledge Industry Network program, works to help people create connections. Their strategy focuses on socializing and politicking through networking in business circles.

The network was launched by the Juneau Economic Development Council as part of a statewide effort to connect young professionals and potential mentors, as well as foster overall growth in the Alaska economy.

Photo by Abby LaForce
  Program manager Rebecca Parks works with student Jahbril Flores, 12, on a robot model at Creativity Summer Camp at Mount Jumbo Gym July 12. Teams of students from Juneau middle schools are in training for the FIRST Robotics Competition on Nov. 18 at Centennial Hall. The event is organized by the Knowledge Industry Network.
KIN's concept was founded by Meagan Gleason, 29, business development manager, of JEDC.

"Originally it was through my own personal experience, coming back to Alaska after college, and finding it was difficult. My connection to the community was as an athlete, and that was what was standing to people in the community, not focusing on my work experience," Gleason said.

"Through additional discussion with people in the 20-30 age group, I found this was a consistent issue that their connection to the community was not necessarily in a business capacity," she said.

Since KIN's launch three years ago, with tremendous progress over the past year, they recently took a hard hit.

"We received word that KIN has been cut from the state operating budget by a veto from Governor Palin. Challenging times lie ahead for KIN; the state funding made up the lion's share of our FY 2008 budget. We are working to secure alternative funding sources," said in a statement by Jess Parks, former program manager.

"It's unclear across the board for the reason for the cuts generally: it was either not a state responsibility or other funding is available," Gleason said.

KIN said Palin's general comment that it was "fiscally responsible," is hard to interpret concerning individual programs affected by the budget cut. They feel without discerning criteria, the reason isn't quite understandable.

"It's a program that really needs some state buy-in, and we had gotten state buy-in from the legislature members we talked to, so there's a disconnection between that support and getting vetoed by Palin," said Rebecca Parks, current program manager.

CCW photo
  Alana Ballam-Schwan of Ragdoll Boutique, left, chats with Jason Clifton, middle, and Jeremy Bauer, right, of Bauer/Clifton Interiors at the Island Pub during a Knowledge Industry Network Pub Night.
"We're pursuing other funding sources, as a statewide program providing a service that's been acknowledged as necessary for the State, to not be getting money for that source, looks strange to other funders."

They pointed out the Legislature has been a strong backer.

"That's the thing with the KIN, is when approaching the Legislature, this program resonates across party lines. There was overwhelming support from representatives and senators because this is investing in the future of Alaska, private industry and entrepreneurship, starting at 9-years-old. Everyone in the Legislature has a son or daughter, or someone that can benefit from this program," Gleason said.

Trying to keep their heads above financial waters, Parks said, "basically, we have to dedicate a lot more of our time researching and securing new funds, so that the program can keep going. It shortens our existing fundable time," she said.

"It limits outside funding, because many foundations and federal grants require state buy-in and state match, or just matching funds that are unencumbered. The state funds would have fulfilled that," Gleason said.

It shows you have a different level of private funders that are going to take a chance and invest in a state-wide program like this, Parks said.

Currently they are carrying over on last year's state funding and other clients including Beyond Petroleum, JEDC, Wells Fargo and the Island Pub, who's given them tremendous support, they said. They're hoping to receive funding from Juneau-Douglas High School but nothing is filed yet.

"Groups like the Fairbanks Economic Development Association (and) UAA alumni association, have been a critical sponsor," Gleason said.

Parks is working on a few new projects including a robotics competition, a sport instituted by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The event will take place Nov. 18, at Centennial Hall.

Students from Floyd Dryden Middle School and D'zantiki'I Heeni Middle School have already formed teams, she said. Robotics practice sessions are being held at the Creativity Summer Camp at Mt. Jumbo Gym until July 20.

An international program, the FIRST Robotics Competition is designed to help students discover how rewarding the life of engineers and researchers can be. The program is widely supported by the founders of Google.

According to their Web site, the FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules.

Teams build robots from the parts and enter them in competitions designed by inventor Dean Kamen and other professionals.

"It's a creative problem solving to get kids working with real stuff. The challenge here will be about alternative energy resources. Just wait till it comes out!" Parks said.

KIN will also be starting a FRC high school program in January. They are currently looking for sponsors. She said they need engineers, workers and mentorship support for programs.

'With sponsorship with individual companies in the community, also comes mentorship and coaching, and it's (about) connecting these kids to the business community at a young age," Gleason said.

A big part of KIN's goals are focusing on building for children's futures.

"You look at Angoon right now and their energy issues," Parks said. "Kids can connect to community members that are working on that problem, to start thinking of solutions now-kids are great problem solvers. You want them involved in that whole process so they stay vested in that problem as they get older," Parks said.

Another upcoming KIN event organized by Parks is the Mt. Roberts Mingle, a networking event for seasonal employees. The event will take place from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, at the Mount Roberts Tramway.

Parks, 27, originally from New Jersey, taught middle school science in New York City.

"Originally, I was hired as an education coordinator. I stepped out of the classroom about a year and a half ago and was looking to get back into education but wanted a way to focus on that connection and outside factors. This was perfect, so I moved up, she said.

Parks has used the FRC previously at schools in New York, and said the results are significant.

"It's the link that we really need between elementary and secondary schools to make sure we train our leaders," said Barb Mitchell, director of the Creativity Summer Camp.

For more information, contact Knowledge Industry Network at 523.2335 or go online to