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Thread: Relocating to Anchorage area from Oregon

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    Default Relocating to Anchorage area from Oregon

    My husband and I are in our late 30's, have two high-school age children, have lived in a small town in Oregon all our lives, and are looking into moving to the Anchorage area. We have a cousin and his wife that live in South Anchorage but we are looking into a more of a "small town" feel. My husband is a journeyman sheet metal worker and I am a paraoptometric in an optometrist's office. The construction business in our area, due to the economy, is very sporadic and he only ends up working about half the year. We would have to rent a place to start with, and don't have secured jobs. We would be starting over essentially, and by the grace of god, we would choose the right place to live as far as jobs, housing, and schools go. We have seriously been looking into the Eagle River area. The schools seem good and it seems like a good area to transition from a really small town.
    If anybody has any thoughts or ideas on the schooling, housing, or job situation in this area, we would really appreciate it!
    Thanks

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I live in Eagle River, am a local high school teacher, and have family in the Real Estate business, so my perspective on these things might be a bit biased...but let's call it "informed" instead. Eagle River is a nice mix between small(ish) town feel while being close to Anchorage which in reality is the best place to find jobs for those new to the area. The construction industry in the Anchorage area hasn't taken nearly the hit as much of the lower 48, so a skilled worker should be able to find work with a bit of effort. I don't know details regarding sheet metal work, so perhaps someone else can chime in. As for optometry, the medical care industry as a whole has been growing by leaps and bounds in the area over the past decade. I would imagine you should be able to find work as well.

    Housing is expensive compared to much off the lower 48, though I don't know how it compares to Oregon. A reasonably nice 3-4 bedroom, 2-3 bath house would likely range between $200-300k or more depending on the part of town you're in. Rental rates are similarly high, though there is a fair bit of variation.

    As for the schools, the ones in Eagle River are generally excellent. There are two high schools in Eagle River - Eagle River High and Chugiak High. Eagle River is the newest building in the district and has the smallest student body of any large high school (~700 students). About half of the students come from the nearby military bases and are thus fairly transient by nature. Chugiak is a bit larger (~1,100 students). Both schools have good fine arts program (the choir at Chugiak is perennially recognized at the national level), solid sports programs, and are good academically with a variety of options from half-day vo-tech programs (a bus ride to Anchorage is provided) to AP programs and more.

    If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to take a stab at answering them. Welcome aboard!

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    Thanks for the info Brian! I'm assuming you work at Eagle River High School? My son will be a Freshman next year and is big-time into sports. Is there a lot to offer as far as that goes? My daughter will be a junior and is currenly under an IEP program in her current high school for vision disabilities. Do you know what kind of assistance/programs are offered in that department?

    We have heard the cost of living in Alaska runs a bit higher than where we are now. Do you have any kind of ballpark figure as to what a decent 3 bedroom rental would cost? And do you know if rentals are hard to come by or not? My husband wants to know if we can pitch a tent in your back yard? hahahaha...just kidding. And my son would like to know if there are any attractive 13-14 year old girls there...

    Again, we appreciate your comments and any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!!

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    Member 907pride's Avatar
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    Shanarae,

    I live between Palmer and Wasilla, which is what everyone has come to know as the "Valley" or "MatSu Valley" because of where the Matanuska and the Susitna Valleys come together. Sorry for the geography lesson.

    I love it here in the valley. It's more of a small home town feel, but there are pros and cons to this as well. The pros begin with- having more room, cheaper cost of living, and more freedoms in general. Eagle river is nice. I lived there for a year but the housing market is pretty costly. Since you are looking to rent then you will probably find cheaper rent in the Valley. I know because I rented in Eagle River and the cost was much higher. I rented in the Valley for a few years as well before buying a home. Thats another plus. I got a house in the valley for about 30 percent less price than I would have in Eagle river or Anchorage. The cons of living in the valley as far as cost are that allot of the jobs are in Anchorage and the commute is killer. Its 50 minutes each way, and thats just in the summer. The winter commutes can be much longer. While there are thousands of people that do this every day, it is very taxing on the body and the wallet. Even my wife commutes daily to Anchorage

    The other reason I say that the valley would be good for you is that even if your husband cannot find work in the valley you should be able to. There are many optometry offices as well as two new hospitals. The new native hospital in Wasilla will be opening soon and the MatSu Regional Medical Center is only a few years old.

    Don't get me wrong. I like Eagle River. When I commuted to Anchorage it made sense to live there, but I have 2 friends that are currently living there with their families and they are constantly looking at homes in the valley because they are much cheaper and there are many more freedoms as well. They just can't seem to commit because they are dreading the long commutes to their jobs in Anchorage.

    I also want to add that I grew up in a very small rural community. My graduating class was only 18 people and when I first lived in Anchorage I hated it, but thats because I wasn't accustomed to the city. Eagle River was much better, but I have found that Palmer is the place for my family.

    Check for jobs on craigslist and on Alaskahelpwanted.com

    I hope everything works out for you and your family. Feel free to ask me any more questions

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I teach at Chugiak, though I have a number of good friends that teach at Eagle River, so I've got a pretty good feel for both schools. You can see the boundary lines on the school district website. About 1/3 of Eagle River is zoned for Eagle River High, while the rest of Eagle River, Birchwood, Chugiak, and Peters Creek (all basically part of Eagle River) are zoned for Chugiak.

    There are lots of sports offered in our district. For boys, the options include football, cross-country running, tennis, swimming/diving, riflery, wrestling, basketball, hockey, cross-country skiing, bowling, track and field, soccer, baseball...and there's probably a few others I'm missing. Eagle River's teams are generally not as competitive as Chugiak's due to their smaller population. That can make it easier to make the varsity team or to get playing time, but it can also mean fewer wins. There are exceptions to that - their hockey program is getting better as is their basketball program, but for many other sports Chugiak has consistently done better than Eagle River (as far as wins go).

    As for your daughter, the district provides some pretty solid support for the visually impaired. Over the past two years I've had three visually impaired students in my science classes. They have a full-time support teacher in the building who helps them in their regular classes. The students I've had have made frequent use of CCTV's, Smart Boards, specialized microscopes, and such. I can only assume the same is true at the other major high schools, but I can only speak to my experience.

    As for a decent 3 bedroom rental, you're probably looking at somewhere in the neighborhod of $1,500-$1,700/month, but that's a very rough ballpark.
    Last edited by Brian M; 05-19-2012 at 20:15.

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    You are getting very good and valid information here from these guys. I will add my two cents. My dad is a sheet metal worker in Utah and I did that for a while down there too. I thought about coming up here to do that, and while I ultimately didn't take that line of work here, I found that talking to the guys in the local Sheet Metal Workers Union office helped in getting more info. I also went to a shop in town that a friend worked at and talked to the owner. He did admit that they do layoff some of the workforce in the winter if the workload gets sparse, but overall, I think it is a solid trade here. I know at that time, union sheet metal workers made 25% more that the union sheet workers in Utah and I suspect that the wages are still higher. Make some calls, but a skilled craftsmen is always in demand. Also, the north slope oil fields might be an even more lucrative option. They generally work one or two weeks on, and one or two off; the oil companies fly them back and forth. Definitely worth checking into, particularly if your husband is a good welder.
    I think that you are spot on with renting in Eagle River. Everything that has been said about the valley is true, but that drive is a killer. I lived there for five months and realized while I was saving 30% a month on rent, I was spending that on the commute. the valley is growing so fast, it is bursting at the seams. I got caught in as many traffic jams up there as I do in Anchorage. Eagle River is a good trade off. I think you are smart to start renting and see if you like it. Brian's figures for a rental are right what I would estimate too. Craigslist is a great place to look, but a lot of people Outside don't know about Alaskaslist.com, which is a local craiglist type that doesn't have as many offers from Nigeria.
    As a side note, we were down in Oregon this last month and while I always look forward to a price break going to the Lower 48, I was shocked at how similar the prices were for groceries and other items. Good luck and post any more specific questions you may have.

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    Member cdubbin's Avatar
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    When we moved from Boise to Anchorage four years ago, our auto insurance doubled, rent tripled, groceries doubled, cost of energy (including gasoline) about quadrupled; wages stayed about the same (cabinet shop scale). Bottom line, it's tough, but doable. You just REALLY have to want to live here.
    "– Gas boats are bad enough, autos are an invention of the devil, and airplanes are worse." ~Allen Hasselborg

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    Thanks for all the info, it's so nice to have so many different takes on the situation. As for the commute, my husband and I both have a 45 min to 1 hour drive daily to and from work, and have had to do that our entire lives. Although we are used to that aspect of it, we definitely are not used to driving in wintery conditions, so that would have to factor in.

    Sounds like both High Schools in Eagle River fit what we are looking for. It would just be a matter of where we end up settling. As I mentioned before, my daughter is visually impaired and won't be able to obtain a driver's license. I was impressed with the fact that Eagle River has a transit system that goes between there and Anchorage, which would work perfect for when she goes to college. Is there any kind of transit system in the Valley?

    Although my husband is a Journeyman Sheet Metal Worker and ideally would like to stay one due to his pension, he is skilled in an array of areas. He is a volunteer firefighter/engineer, EMT, has worked several years in the building/construction of new housing developments, and basically is a jack-of-all trades. I think he would be able to work in the oil industry with no problem if anyone has any insight and/or contact information on job information in the North Slope.

    This move has been something we have been considering for a few months now, and we really appreciate all the advice we are getting to aid us in making this difficult decision! Thanks

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    I don't have a lot of north slope insight, but what I meant is that I am sure that there are union sheet metal workers and welders up there working for the oil companies or sub contractors. I think a call to the sheet metal union office up here would be a good first move. I wouldn't want to ditch the pension either! Otherwise, check Conoco Phillips and BP websites for job openings.

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    CWM907 is right when he says that it is more expensive no matter how you put it. Even if the Valley is less expensive than Anchorage or Eagle River, it will still be a change to what you are used to. There is a Costco and Sams in Anchorage. The Valley has a store that is called Three Bears, which is basically a small Costco that doesn't require a membership. Their prices are very good and it allows you to buy in bulk. I shop there when I can to save some $$. The Valley has 3 of these stores. Eagle River does not have a large bulk store but it does have WalMart and Fred Meyers and is only 20 miles from Anchorage. Palmer and Wasilla are both 40 miles from Anchorage.

    I did not go to the schools in the Valley but my little brother and sisters have, and they enjoy them. You can find out about their special needs programs by contacting them. Here is a link to their website. http://www.matsuk12.us/matsu/site/default.asp Their sports programs are very good as well. I'm sure they would have the sports that your kids are into.

    There is a transit system from the Valley to Anchorage as well. Valley Movers has busses that leave every hour for Anchorage. They have allot of really cool programs that they have been working on. Students and elderly ride for just one dollar. They have been getting funding through grants to be able to offer low rates to certain people. The normal rate is $7 one way. They also stop in Eagle river and pick people up. They drop you at the transit center in Anchorage for easy access to the rest of Anchorage. I just happen to know all of this because my mother is their executive director and is the person that writes the grants for the special funding. You can check out their website at http://www.valleymover.org/ I'm sure they would have some kind of discount program for your situation. All the people that work there are very nice.

    There are many people hiring right now. Not only the slope hires for a rotational style job. There are many companies that send people out of town for a few weeks and then you get your time off. Some schedules may not be as god as the coveted 2 weeks on/two weeks off. I am sending you a PM so please check your inbox. I know a few companies hiring a few guys and they pay pretty well. I am in construction management and I work with allot of different companies. I'll give you a few numbers to call. Thats another good thing about working out of town, you get to live wherever you choose.

    Most people that move to Alaska don't regret it. I spoke earlier about my two friends that live in Eagle river, well, both of their families moved here from Oregon not too long ago and they all fell in love with this place. No matter where you choose to settle you will be treated like family by most.

    I hope this info helps out.

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    It won't let me send you a PM. It says that you are not allowing it. You may have to change your personal settings.

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    Default Relocating from Oregon to Alaska

    I'm not sure why my messages are blocked. Everything was set on default. I went in and clicked a few buttons, so hopefully that
    will do the trick!
    Last edited by shanarae; 05-19-2012 at 23:33. Reason: spelling error

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    That valley talk is nice and all, but it would be a shame to move all the way up here from a small town without taking a look at the actual "small towns". Check out the Soldotna/Kenai area before you commit to your move.

    To each their own, but as a self-proclaimed "small towner" (Pendleton), I personally find the Anchorage bowl to be the trash heap of Alaska. I apologize to those who live there and actually like it, but just driving through Anchorage makes me nauseous.

    Have you actually visited Anchorage before making this decision to move?

    BTW, that FF/EMT tag will get you in the door of the paid on-call fire department down here. No such option in Anchorage, though they do have an all-volunteer outfit in Chugiak.

    Lots of good work on the Central Peninsula and it also services oil and gas fields as well as a hub for slope workers who live in the area.


    IIRC, I think new accounts have to have a certain number of posts (like 10?) before the PM feature is available.
    Winter is Coming...

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    I moved here from Oregon, (Umpqua area) in 1980 and never regretted it. The only thing that shocked me was the trees. From some reasons I was expecting Oregon size trees, not 8” “trees”. LOL.

    The school I went to in Oregon 1st grade through 4th grade were in the same room. So my definition of a small town is different than most. 25 years ago Wasilla was a small town I don’t see it that way now. To me Talkeetna is a small town.

    I agree with JOAT. Soldotna/Kenai is a very nice area. Lots of recreational opportunities and its weather is a lot like Oregon, wet!

    Another idea is find work in Wasilla and move an hour drive north. Wasilla use to be a bedroom community of Anchorage, but its grown enough to support its own business. I know of several sheet metal outfits and its’ got a fairly new hospital.

    When I first came up here there was a saying “The nice thing about Anchorage is it’s only a hours drive from Alaska”. Now days I think Anchorage is about a 3 hour drive from Alaska.

    I know with kids and all it’s hard, but what I did was rent an apartment in Anchorage and spent a couple of weeks just exploring. Trying to figure out where I wanted to live. It took me awhile but I'm finally living where I want, 15 miles from the nearest road. For me that’s the real Alaska.

    Good luck!

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    So when I say we are coming from a small town, I am talking 1100 people! So anywhere we move to will be larger. Our kids are actually looking forward to going to a larger school where they have more opportunity for sports and a variety of classes compared to what is offered where we are.

    One nice thing about our situation is that we will be able to stay with family in the Anchorage area while we find jobs and the right place to live. We just wanted some insight as to what the different areas are like from people that experience it on a day to day basis. Our main concern is finding a place that gives our daughter the assistance and opportunity she needs to be as independant as possible for now and the future, and finding work that is more consistent and dependable than what we have now. We are specifically looking at Alaska because we have heard that the economy is a lot better than the lower 48. Hopefully that proves to be true.
    Again, we really appreciate all the input!

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    As fair warning, coming from a liberal state, don't be too shocked to find many outspoken republicans up here. Hopefully that's what you're hoping to find as well.

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    With regards to private messages, that feature along with a few others will become automatically available once you've been here 1 month and have 15+ posts.

    I don't know what the more rural districts offer as far as visual assistance, but I think you're on the right track as far as providing more opportunities for your daughter. If she intends to go to college while living at home, living any further than Palmer/Wasilla would be less than ideal, while Eagle River would be more convenient yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    As fair warning, coming from a liberal state, don't be too shocked to find many outspoken republicans up here. Hopefully that's what you're hoping to find as well.
    So very true. This is a very good warning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 907pride View Post
    So very true. This is a very good warning.
    Ha...!!! Well I believe in letting a person REALLY know what they may be getting into.....

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    Without getting into a political debate, I will agree that Oregon is a very liberal state. That being said, we look forward to moving to Alaska

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