Administrator Isabella Guzmán of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) visited Nome on Wednesday (August 23) to tour the future port expansion project site. Administrator Guzmán visited Ketchikan, Anchorage, and Nome over the course of three days to meet with small business owners.
A media advisory published on Monday (August 21st) announced the SBA visit by Administrator Guzmán. She serves as the 27th Administrator of the SBA, representing 33 million small businesses across the nation. Administrator Guzmán joined Senator Dan Sullivan in Ketchikan for the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Monday before continuing to Anchorage and Nome later in the week.
On Thursday (August 24th), Administrator Guzmán visited the site of the Arctic Deep Draft Port in Nome, which is anticipated to encourage economic viability. The port will ensure that supplies, food, and fuel reach residents of rural Alaskan communities in a cost-effective manner. The Arctic’s first deep-water port will attract and ensure economic development in the region, says Guzmán.
“On an immediate basis, the port means job creation, contracts for our small businesses and 8(a) participants.”
The 8(a) program is a nine year long business development program created to help firms owned and controlled by socially or economically disadvantaged individuals. The federal government aims to award 5% of total federal contracting dollars to 8(a) programs each year.
A roundtable discussion with Native Corporation leaders took place on Wednesday at the Aurora Inn. Bering Straits Native Corporation, Kawerak, Sitnasuak Native Corporation, Nome Eskimo Community, and Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority were all in attendance. Administrator Guzmán hopes BSNC will be part of the port’s construction.
“We visited the sound quarry, one of the companies of BSNC. They’re hopefully going to be a part of, you know, building this infrastructure. They’re working on an airport project, and hopefully, they’ll work on the port as well as they source locally when they’re building this port of Nome. And that’s what the SBA is trying to ensure — that small businesses have an opportunity to plug into these contract opportunities.”
Administrator Guzmán visited the small businesses of Bering Tea & Coffee, Naataq Gear LLC, and the local grocery stores. Noting the high cost of prices overall, Administrator Guzmán stressed the importance of the port with resource distribution.
“There’s more opportunity to distribute resources, potentially attract some more tourism as well to the region with better connectivity and infrastructure connecting communities. It allows you to get your goods around, but it also allows you to get more customers.”
In the Norton Sound Region, Administrator Guzmán says that while it varies from business to business, a lack of workforce remains a struggle for many small businesses.
“Workforce continues to be a challenge around the country, but particularly challenging here in Alaska, obviously, continued some inflationary pressures. We’ve seen cooling of inflation; we’ve seen this incredible economic recovery with great job creation, sustaining, but businesses still have to figure out how to strengthen their bottom line, be more efficient, and grow their revenues.”
Last year, the SBA opened an Alaska Women’s Business Center in Anchorage to offer virtual and in-person support to women-owned businesses. Administrator Guzmán says, The Veterans Business Outreach Center and Alaska Women’s Business Center connect small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs to SBA resources.
“It’s wonderful to be able to open up all these opportunities for infrastructure building, get small businesses and our 8(a) entities engaged in these contracts.”
The SBA is the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the federal government. Over 20,000 small business applications have been submitted in the state alone since President Biden launched the ‘Investing in America‘ program.
Image at top: Admin. Guzmán speaks to a crowd at The Veterans Business Outreach Center in Anchorage on August 24, 2023 (Photo by Ava White)