Alaska businesses lean on resilience, creativity to keep doors open during the pandemic

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 10:03 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The COVID-19 pandemic has made owning a small business difficult, and many are in survival mode as they deal with the trickle-down effects of the pandemic.

“Hopefully we’re at a point where we’re going to start transitioning away from that basic survival and go back into the growth mode (for businesses),” said Small Business Administration Alaska District Director Steven Brown.

He added that the Alaska District Office for the U.S. Small Business Administration has spent the majority of their time the past two years overseeing and distributing COVID-19 relief funds for the state of Alaska. The Alaska SBA said they saw 1,700 businesses open from March of 2020 to March of 2021, and 1,600 close during that time.

“We’d like to see that number higher, I know everybody would,” SBA Alaska District Deputy Director Jeff Salzer said. “But there are folks starting new businesses each and every day across the state of Alaska.”

The journey to opening a business during the pandemic hasn’t been without its challenges as owners have dealt with inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages. This was the case for Brewerks owner Chad Ringler, who recently opened a new brewery in Anchorage.

In April, Ringler was hopeful he’d have his brewery opened by the summer solstice, but that didn’t happen after he quickly ran into issues.

“The first thing that happened was one of my contractors came down with COVID and so that set everything back at least two weeks,” Ringler said on Wednesday.

From there, he dealt with labor shortages, supply issues and skyrocketing lumber prices. He was finally able to open his doors in November, offering five beers on tap with two more coming soon.

“I think you have to remain fluid and understand that these are unprecedented times,” Ringler said. “We’re going to have this, it’s going to be there. And if you just expect to open up on a specific day, it’s just not going to happen. I mean, you have to be able to work around that.”

Alaska businesses that are eligible have until Dec. 31 to apply for the Small Business Administration’s COVID-19 economic injury disaster loan. More information about COVID-19 loans and relief for small businesses can be found on their website.

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