Lifelong Alaskan Brittany Brown began her job this month as the newest executive director of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce. Brown, who was born in Nome and grew up in the Matanuska Valley, recently moved to Kenai to make a home for herself.
“I’m really excited to be here,” Brown said on Monday. “Everybody’s been so, so welcoming. I can’t even express how thankful I am of how kind people have been as I’ve jumped into this new role and immersed myself in this community. Sometimes it can be hard, but the Kenai has been a very welcoming place. It’s been pretty great.”
Brown’s boyfriend, Scotty Daletas, is a fishing guide based in Kenai and runs a local charter company, Kenai Drift Anglers, so she was already familiar with the peninsula and had spent several summers here before taking the job, she said. When Brown and Daletas started discussing where they would make their home, Kenai seemed like the best choice for them. Brown said getting the job as the chamber’s executive director only affirmed that decision.
“It just seemed like a really good opportunity to put my background to use,” Brown said. “I have a background in economic development as well as public relations, so it seemed very fitting for me.”
Brown brings with her the experience of working on economic development projects with the Sitnasuak Native Corporation. In 2018 she co-founded a consulting firm called Akpik Associates, which does much of the same economic development work on behalf of rural communities across Alaska. Being from the Bering Strait Region, Brown also has Inupiaq heritage and serves on the board of the Alaska Native Professionals Association.
Brown said being the chamber of commerce executive director is similar to other roles she’s played in her career in terms of providing support for local businesses in a small community.
“We’re here to support local organizations,” Brown said. “I’m here to advocate for them, to build plans, to market for them, and that’s really what I was doing at my consulting company.”
Brown said that she is currently not doing any work for her consulting firm so that she can prioritize her new position.
“I really want to focus on this job here, to get things moving and rolling in the direction that I see we should be going.”
This year has already seen many of the events normally hosted by the chamber canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including the Fourth of July parade and the annual beer and wine festival. Brown said her priority going into the winter will be figuring out a way to hold some of the events still remaining on the calendar — such as Christmas Comes to Kenai or the Gingerbread House Competition — in a way that makes people feel safe.
“One of my biggest priorities is getting us back to business,” Brown said. “I just really want the businesses and community members to be able to still come together and enjoy the things we put on every year. There’s still a lot of people who are worried, but we want to create an environment in which people feel safe to come and enjoy it.”
Aside from hosting events again, Brown wants to make sure that the chamber assists local businesses in marketing to their fellow Alaskans, especially as many businesses who rely on tourism continue to struggle financially.
“It’s a tough world out there right now, and one of the biggest things that we can do is market for these businesses,” Brown said. “Right now the key is to have locals supporting locals. That’s what we need to focus on here at the chamber, and that’s what I’m having our team here focus on — how do we get the people here to support their local businesses if they aren’t already?”
Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at firstname.lastname@example.org.