The Department of Commerce is focused on creating the conditions for businesses to grow, hire, and strengthen the economy in all 50 states. This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in Alaska to showcase how the Department keeps the Last Frontier open for business.
Secretary Pritzker met with business leaders in Anchorage this morning to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the business community in the state and resources for Alaska businesses that are looking to grow. Among the roundtable participants were representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, as well as the transportation, logistics, and travel and tourism industries.
During their conversation, they discussed workforce development challenges, the need for infrastructure development to seize the economic opportunities of a changing Arctic, and the importance of making it easier for visitors to enter the United States. With more than 1.9 million visitors during fiscal year 2014, Alaska’s expanding travel and tourism industry is critical to economic growth and job creation in the state.
She also highlighted the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” of which trade and investment is a key pillar. Alaska’s merchandise exports have grown from about $3.2 billion in 2009 to $4.5 billion in 2013, but the Commerce Department wants to help Alaska reach even more international buyers. Secretary Pritzker announced that the Commerce Department is getting ready to reopen the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Alaska in the coming weeks. USEACs around the country connect U.S. companies with international buyers, provide them with market intelligence and trade counseling, and facilitate business matchmaking and commercial diplomacy support.
Secretary Pritzker also met with 12 CEOs representing the Alaska Native Corporations, which are critical to Alaska’s economy. Established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the corporations are intended to provide economic opportunities to hundreds of smaller Alaska Native Villages located in the 12 geographic regions of Alaska. The Commerce Department has a long-standing relationship with Alaska Native Corporations. For example, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center in Anchorage, operated by the Native American Contractors Association (NACA), helps Alaska Native Corporations, tribal enterprises, and other minority-owned businesses access contracts, markets, and capital.
In addition, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has invested $29.4 million in Alaska since the beginning of fiscal year 2009 for a variety of projects. This total includes $9.7 million in public works projects, as well as $17.9 million in economic adjustment assistance projects related to port infrastructure development, workforce development and skills training, support for environmentally sustainable economic development, and Alaska Native industries. With these strategic investments, the Commerce Department aims to help Alaska’s businesses stay on the cutting-edge of innovation and ensure that Alaskan entrepreneurs are able to turn their ideas into successful businesses.