Alaska has relaunched a big effort to support small businesses in the state.
The “Buy Alaska” program, from the University of Alaska’s Small Business Development Center, was formerly an internet platform, which had been dormant since 2017.
Katie Ashbaugh took over Buy Alaska at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to retool the project toward a new goal: To educate and encourage the public to shop from Alaskan-owned businesses first. In a presentation to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday (2-24-21) Ashbaugh outlined the economic and social benefits of supporting Alaskan-owned businesses.
“Supporting small businesses also means that we are supporting our regional resiliency,” said Ashbaugh. “The growth of businesses regionally spurs innovation and growth that is unique to our locations, and this can be really important to Alaskans who are facing our own unique challenges and environments. In addition, relying on Amazon can be volatile. Amazon — when they can’t, or won’t, deliver — when they raise their prices or their shipping costs to remote locations, by that time local stores have gone out of business, and our communities are reliant on outside resources. So we want to make sure that we’re supporting small to create that regional resiliency. And having many small businesses across many sectors of the economy — also known as economic diversification — reduces a community’s risk of economic disruption if one large employer goes out of business. So we want to make sure that we’re diversifying to remain resilient.”
Ashbaugh reminded the chamber audience that small businesses in Alaska employed just over half of the private workforce (53%). She said that recent economic studies indicate that 63-percent of revenue from local business remains in state, compared to 23-percent of non-local business revenue.
While the Buy Alaska program will continue to focus on public awareness and branding, Ashbaugh said that UAA’s Small Business Development Center remains a major resource for both new and existing small businesses in the state. Ashbaugh said that the services of the SBDC will continue to be free until March 31.
You can find a link to Ashbaugh’s full presentation to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce here.