Small manufacturers get assist

Posted: Friday, November 17, 2000

Small manufacturers in the state have a new resource to help them grow and be profitable.

The Alaska Manufacturers' Association, created eight months ago, is designed to offer low-cost consulting for small Alaska businesses. The nonprofit corporation's president, David Arnsdorf, spoke before the Kenai Chamber of Commerce at its weekly luncheon Wednesday.

"We focus on small manufacturers and providing low cost, high quality consulting," Arnsdorf said. "It's not free, but it's the same quality consulting as the major consulting services."

AKMA, as the organization is known, receives its $1.5 million funding in equal thirds from the state, the federal government and private industry.

State funds come through the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, while the federal funds come from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the former Bureau of Standards.

The mission of AKMA is to strengthen the global competitiveness of Alaska-based manufacturing, Arnsdorf said, adding that assistance is available to help existing manufacturing firms in adopting new, more advanced manufacturing technologies, techniques and business practices.

"I don't know of any type of industry we can't serve," he said.

He said he focuses on a few key areas of business practices, such as creating a system that strives to meet industry quality standards, material management, market studies and strategic planning.

"When a company grows, they often find they need more capital and have to look for a loan," he said. "But a bank won't touch you if you don't have a working business plan."

He said strategic planning through AKMA costs between $600 and $700.

The organization also is funding several studies in the state to provide services that are currently unavailable, such as galvanizing metal and grading lumber.

"If you live under building codes in a community, you must use graded lumber for construction," Arnsdorf said. "Right now Alaska ships raw timber outside and imports graded lumber in from Canada or the Lower 48."

He said AKMA is working to have lumber graded in-state, as well as having Alaska timber analyzed. He said engineering data on Alaska trees is lacking, but early indications are they are stronger than their southern counterparts.

Arnsdorf said there are around 500 manufacturers in Alaska, and AKMA is compiling a database so businesses can locate in-state suppliers for their products.

The organization also is working with Copper River fishers on providing better grade wild salmon to worldwide markets. He said the technology will eventually be shared with fishers all over the state.

The Alaska Manufacturers' Association is based in Anchorage, and can be reached at 565-5655.

The Kenai Chamber of Commerce will not hold a luncheon on Nov. 22 due to its proximity to Thanksgiving. The next meeting will be on Nov. 29.

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