The economic impacts of COVID-19 have been devastating for small businesses across the nation, and unfortunately Alaska is not immune. The Dunleavy Administration continues to be committed to ensuring deployment of all the available federal and state resources during difficult times. With the implementation of new grant programs, ease of regulations, and increased partnerships with local economic development organizations, we are working to sustain our local economies.
The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED), in collaboration with Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) and the Alaska Regional Development Organizations (ARDORs), successfully and swiftly implemented the AK CARES grant program after overcoming administrative challenges and consistently changing federal guidance. As of Nov. 22, the AK CARES program has supplied over $271.3 million to 5,525 small businesses, nonprofits, and commercial fishermen across Alaska. In support of communities across Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy also allocated $565 million to communities, and to date over $460.8 million of that has been disbursed. With those funds, more than 30 local governments have created small business relief grant programs in their communities. This aid has been critical to businesses and communities that experienced a decrease in economic activity this year. There are several programs at the state and local levels that all Alaskans can utilize to help in the effort to sustain our local businesses.
The Made in Alaska Program (MIA), housed within the Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA), remains committed to Alaska manufacturers large and small. The MIA program provides resources, marketing materials, and promotes locally made products. When you buy Made in Alaska products, you can be guaranteed that they were produced within the state by local artisans, crafters, and manufacturers — which ensures your money will stay within the state to help grow our local economy. Consumers can find a complete list of Made in Alaska products on the MIA website. While there, consumers can also find upcoming shopping events, search for products, and apply to be in the program.
In partnership with the Buy Alaska Program, located within the Alaska Small Business Development Center, the Made in Alaska Program and the State of Alaska are connecting consumers and businesses through improved access to resources and increased awareness of the importance of purchasing items from locally owned businesses. Buy Alaska is bringing together partners from across the state to provide webinars, training opportunities, and marketing tools to help our local businesses grow during these challenging times.
This year, we have watched as local Alaska businesses become more creative in the ways they operate their businesses to ensure they can continue to provide us with the goods and services we all know and love. Many Alaska businesses have created new online marketplaces, are offering curbside pickup, and adopted virtual communication platforms to better serve their customers.
As we enter the holiday season, let’s remember all the great Alaska businesses that need our support. Gifts for our family and friends can be extra special this year if we remember to “Look for the Label” and buy local. After all, when local businesses succeed, Alaska thrives!
Julie Anderson is the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
• By Julie Anderson