Laura Black, owner of Fireweed Bakery, sells some of her wares during the Merry Little Christmas Market at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, Alaska on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Laura Black, owner of Fireweed Bakery, sells some of her wares during the Merry Little Christmas Market at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, Alaska on Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Opinion: Shop local this holiday season!

By Julie Anderson

Shopping locally has never been as important or as easy as it is right now! Small businesses around the state are still experiencing the harmful economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic due to low traveler numbers, substantial supply chain issues, and unprecedented staffing challenges in almost every industry. However, Alaskans can help their neighbors’ businesses keep their doors open by choosing to shop within their communities this holiday season; and the good news is that programs like Made in Alaska and BuyAlaska make it easy to shop local!

The Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs’ Made in Alaska program is designed to promote products made, manufactured, or handcrafted in the state, ranging from small gift items to large industrial modules. To qualify for the Made in Alaska program, products must be at least 51% produced in Alaska. You can recognize a Made in Alaska product by looking for the “Buy the Bear” logo, which features a mama and a baby bear.

It’s easy to figure out which businesses or products in your area hold a Made of Alaska permit by checking the online list at www.commerce.alaska.gov/dcra/akmadeproducts/search. Products can be sorted by category or located through a search function based on product type, business names, and/or location.

The BuyAlaska program is a statewide collaborative initiative housed by the Alaska Small Business Development Center (AK-SBDC). Its mission is to amplify Alaska businesses through connection, awareness, and improved access to resources. BuyAlaska makes tools available for businesses and consumers designed to help grow the Alaska economy.

BuyAlaska resources available for consumers include a BuyAlaska Holiday Gift Guide, access to the BuyAlaska Business Directory, access to exclusive discounts, and more. The BuyAlaska Holiday Gift Guide is an especially helpful tool this holiday season. It allows you to sort by category, including “Gifts for Him/Her”, “Handcrafted”, “Gift Baskets”, “Eco-Friendly”; or you can sort by location. You can also find virtual and in-person holiday market listings in case that’s your preferred way to Christmas shop!

BuyAlaska resources available to Alaska businesses include free registration and placement on the BuyAlaska Business Directory and discounts on business resources including with FedEx, Constant Contact, Dell, QuickBooks Online, and ad placement with Edible Alaska.AK-SBDC also offers advising services, workshops and webinars, and business tools including financial model worksheets, and business plan outlines.

Small businesses show up for Alaskans every day, and it’s only right that we return the favor, especially in their time of need. Even if you can’t do all of your holiday shopping locally, switching out a few items regularly bought online or out-of-state for items purchased locally can make a huge difference. If you’re uncomfortable shopping in-person or are unsure if any local businesses hold the products you need, give them a call! Most businesses will be happy to talk through your needs and concerns and will appreciate that you are trying to purchase gifts through them.

Show some holiday spirit and help out your neighborhood small businesses!

Julie Anderson is the commissioner for the State of Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.

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