Buy Alaska encourages spending locally

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2003

If everyone in Alaska made an effort to spend an additional 10 percent on Alaska products, it would mean an additional $700 million in additional revenues for Alaska businesses.

That's the message delivered Tuesday by Bridget McLeod, program director for the Buy Alaska program. McLeod told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce that $7 billion is spent annually by Alaskans on products from outside the state.

Following the meeting, McLeod said one of Buy Alaska's primary goals is to convince Alaskans to spend more money within their community.

"What we do is match buyers with sellers to keep business in Alaska," she said.

The program aims to build confidence in Alaska's economy by proving that many products bought and produced Outside are available right here in Alaska.

"It's an optimistic message," she said.

The Buy Alaska program was started in 1991 and operates under the Alaska Small Business Development Center in partnership with Anchorage Economic Development Corporation and Alaska businesses.

McLeod said between the SBDC and Buy Alaska, small businesses have a wealth of resources to help them everything from business models and seminars to help securing grants and loans.

"We work together to meet every need a business might have," she said.

But while the SBDC mainly helps to nurture and grow small business across the state, McLeod said the work she does is a little bit different. Instead of building business from the ground up, Buy Alaska works with existing businesses and agencies to find ways to get Alaskan businesses together. She said the program does that in a variety of ways.

One aspect of the program involves making referrals to people who might want to do business with others in the state, but just don't know what's available in the marketplace. By keeping tabs on the Alaska business community, Buy Alaska is able to provide information on goods produced in Alaska and steer potential customers toward making purchases in-state.

"We try to level the playing field so every business in Alaska has the opportunity to compete," McLeod said.

To do that, the most important thing Alaskans should know is that there is an enormous amount of commerce that can be done right here in Alaska.

McLeod said she often works with government agencies and large companies who want to buy locally, but just don't know where to turn. Buy Alaska is able to step in and provide Alaska alternatives to those agencies when it comes time to make purchasing decisions.

However, it's not all large agencies and companies that can make a difference, she said. If both individual consumers and large entities can make a conscious effort to spend a bit more of their money at home, McLeod said everyone stands to profit.

"We can all make a difference," she said.

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