Manufacturing in Alaska is generally limited to the processing of local raw materials, and the state still imports most of the manufactured goods it needs. However, manufacturing does play an important role in the economic life of the state, providing goods for shipment to other states and foreign countries. Alaska’s chief manufactures are foodstuffs; gasoline and petrochemicals; and some consumer goods. Canned and frozen fish products account for most of Alaska’s output of foodstuffs. Fish processing is carried on at numerous centers, including Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Cordova, and especially Kodiak, Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, Dillingham, and numerous other places on the Alaska Peninsula and Bristol Bay. The first oil refinery in Alaska opened near Kenai in 1963. In 1969 a major petrochemical complex was established in the same area.
Early in the 1950s Alaskans recognized tourism as a major source of income and tourists discovered Alaska as a vacationland. The development and advertising of national parks has contributed to a dramatic increase in Alaskan tourism during recent decades. Tourists come in organized groups on tour ships, buses, or airplanes; as motor home caravans; and as individuals enjoying a wilderness experience. International tourism has also shown a dramatic increase.
The traditional means of transportation in Alaska were for many decades the boat and dogsled. Boats are still more useful than automobiles in some communities, especially in the Alaska Panhandle. Air transportation, whether by commercial jet or smaller airplanes, connects most cities and villages.
The only road into the state is the Alaska Highway, built as a military supply route in 1942 and extending from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction south of Fairbanks, a distance of 2,288 km (1,422 mi). Another major land route, entirely within Alaska, is the Richardson Highway, about 590 km (about 370 mi), which connects Valdez with Fairbanks. Even though Alaska has vast territory it is generally not covered by roads. All but three of the states—Rhode Island, Delaware, and Hawaii—have longer road systems than does Alaska.
Mining encouraged some railroad development in Alaska, including a line from Skagway to the Canadian Yukon goldfields and a line from the copper mines to Cordova. The Alaska Railroad, the only major line, was begun in 1914 and completed in 1923. It extends 814 km (506 mi), from Seward via Anchorage to Fairbanks. The railroad also operates summer tours. The state of Alaska purchased the Alaska Railroad from the federal government and now operates it as a state-owned corporation. The White Pass and Yukon Railroad, from Skagway to Whitehorse, was built during the Klondike Gold Rush and has been redeveloped as a popular summer tourist attraction.
There are more airplanes per person in Alaska than in any other state. The airplane is the cheapest means of long-distance travel and well suited to serve a small population scattered over a large area. The use of small, light aircraft typifies local air travel, but Alaska also has jet service to its principal communities. The airport in Anchorage is the state’s busiest.
Ships carry cargo and passengers between Alaska and the Pacific coast states and Asia. The principal ports along Alaska’s Pacific coast are Anchorage, Ketchikan, Skagway, Wrangell, Sitka, Whittier, Valdez, Kodiak, and Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, which are ice-free throughout the year. Nome is the principal port on the Bering Sea, but is open for only a short period during the ice-free summer weeks. In summer large cargoes are often towed on barges to Prudhoe Bay. A state-operated ferry system connects ports in Alaska with those in Washington State and British Columbia, Canada.
Most of Alaska’s food supply, with the exception of some dairy products, fish, poultry, and vegetables, has to be shipped in from other states. Manufactured foods must also be imported. Alaska has become a major foreign-exporting state primarily because of its fisheries and mining. Alaska imports most of its consumer goods, primarily through the port of Anchorage, and the Alaskan trade has long been important to the economies of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma in Washington state. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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