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Nome entrepreneur wins NSEDC grant, plans to open machine shop

A man with welding mask kneeling down and working on a round metal object.

Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation announced in October the three winners of its Small Business Initiative grants. One of the recipients, Isaac Thompson, owns and operates Arctic Works LLC, an electronics design and repair service. He wants to open Nome’s first commercial machine shop.

Thompson has been running Arctic Works through Facebook since 2018, and formally registered his company as a limited liability corporation (LLC) in September 2020. But now he’s ready to lay down some bricks and mortar.

“I’ve got a bunch of the equipment for it, but now I’ve got the opportunity to build a building and actually turn it into a real business where I can work on big things. So I’m excited,” Thompson said.

Thompson thinks a machine shop is something Nome needs, especially with the increased port activity anticipated as the ​​Arctic Deep Draft Port project begins to move forward.

“Right now we’ve got a few places where you can go to get basic metal welding and cutting done. But if you want precise parts — like, you know, bearings fit into a new bore, maybe you need some shaft made for a pump or something like that — there isn’t really any options in Nome where somebody off the street, say, can go in and get their project worked on,” Thompson said.

While the new shop will allow him to significantly expand his business, Thompson expects Arctic Works to remain a one-man operation for the foreseeable future.

“I imagine for the first few years it will stay fairly small. I mean, like, right now, most people don’t realize what a machine shop is or what it can do. And if you don’t realize you need one, then you don’t need one. So once people and businesses and, you know, people working on these big projects around the port realize it exists and what it can do, then I expect more people will try to take advantage of it,” Thompson said.

Thompson doesn’t have a location for his shop yet, but ideally, he’d like it near the west side of the port, where much of his work is already based. Even before receiving the grant, Thompson was taking steps toward building a shop. The grant money has accelerated his construction timetable considerably.

“I’ve got a foundation plan drawn up, but it was going to take probably several years to amass everything to put it together. And now with the grant, I am essentially able to track down materials that I’ll need next year and get them coming on one of the springtime barges,” Thompson said.

Thompson was very pleased with NSEDC’s grant application process, and he encouraged fellow entrepreneurs to apply for future grants.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of time out of your schedule to put it together. And even if you don’t end up getting it, I think they do it every two years, and they’ll certainly give you feedback on what they would like to see next time. So yeah, definitely if you’re thinking about any kind of a business opportunity, go for it,” Thompson said.

NSEDC will open applications for the next round of Small Business Initiative grants in early 2023.

Image at top: Isaac Thompson welds a piece of metal artwork. Image from Thompson’s Facebook page, used with permission.

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