Whether they are hunting bowhead whales in quiet northern seas or mining for copper, gold, coal or oil, Alaskans know that natural resources are key to the state’s economy. But that also means balancing what is best for nature and what is best for people.
Keeping that balance is challenging. Especially since natural resource development also brings its own set of questions about revenue sustainability.
There are a number of resources available for people looking to start their own business in Alaska. These include business planning guides, small business financing options, and tips for creating a successful branding strategy. There are also a number of tools that can help new entrepreneurs with their specific industry or product, such as a marketing strategy template and a customer acquisition guide.
Once you’ve determined what kind of business you want to start, it’s important to think about how you want your company to be perceived by customers. This means determining your target audience, analyzing your competition, and developing a unique selling proposition. For example, if you want your Alaska small business to be a destination for outdoor enthusiasts, you may want to create a niche brand with a focus on gear or equipment for specific activities.
The state of Alaska offers some favorable conditions for businesses, including a low corporate tax rate and an excellent rating in the US News 2023 State Business Climate Index. The Alaska Women’s Business Center is another valuable resource that helps new and existing entrepreneurs connect with the right people and find the funds they need.
When starting a business, you’ll need to register your business name and obtain any necessary permits and licenses. For instance, if you plan to sell tobacco or e-cigarettes, you’ll need to get an endorsement from the state. Additionally, you’ll need to designate a registered agent, which is an individual or entity that can receive legal documentation on behalf of your company.
Finally, it’s essential to consider zoning laws, which dictate where you can open your business. For instance, if you want to open a restaurant in Anchorage, you’ll need to check whether the municipality’s zoning laws allow for it.
Additionally, you should be aware of the COVID-19 pandemic and any local or state-specific guidelines that might impact your business operations. For example, you’ll need to be aware of any financial relief programs for travel companies or safe operating guidelines for restaurants and hotels. Lastly, you’ll need to stay up-to-date on the status of Federal funding opportunities through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was created to distribute emergency disbursements during the pandemic.
Alaska is a tourism destination for its spectacular landscapes, wildlife and authentic communities. It is one of the state’s largest industries. The state’s visitors spend millions of dollars on tours, public land use permits, lodging, car rentals, airline tickets and food. Many small town businesses depend on the dollars spent by visitors. In addition, the local government relies on the revenue from bed taxes to fund infrastructure improvements, community safety and most of its other programs.
Because of its unique geography and a reliance on natural resources, Alaska faces a special challenge in balancing the goals of economic growth and preservation of its beautiful landscapes and resources. This has created a dichotomy between the interests of tourism and those of other industries that are a part of Alaska’s economy. Environmental laws are designed to encourage tourism while at the same time protecting the natural resources that attract tourists.
Many communities in Alaska have experienced a rapid rise in tourism. Some have developed a tourist industry that includes souvenir and jewelry shops, lodges and camps, tour boat and tour bus operations, fly fishing guides and other recreational activities. The increase in tourism has had a dramatic impact on the social fabric of some communities. Residents feel that their traditional way of life is being changed and wonder whether tourism is a good thing or not.
Other communities have experienced slower but steady growth in tourism. Some have developed a visitor association or convention and visitors bureau to promote themselves as an Alaska travel destination. A number of these communities have experienced a significant increase in air traffic and cruise ship visits since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In Juneau, air traffic increased at a rate of 1.4% per year from 1992 to 2002 while passenger count on cruise ships has increased 9% a year from 1992 to 2002 (Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, personal communication).
In general, communities in southeast Alaska are changing in response to the growth of the tourism industry. Some residents question whether tourism is a good thing and others are concerned about how it will affect the quality of their lives and of the resources they are using for subsistence. A number of residents reported that tourism has negatively affected their relationships with other people in the community, their families and friends, and with the natural environment.
Public Lands Resources
Alaska’s abundant natural resources are the cornerstone of the state’s economy. And the state’s constitution enshrines in its laws that “natural resources shall be used for the public benefit.” Consequently, Alaskans must reconcile the economic benefits of natural resource development with protecting its precious, undeveloped landscapes, including wildlife habitat and wild coastlines.
The federal land management agency, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), manages more than 13 percent of Alaska’s landscape. Known as D-1 lands, these huge swaths of wilderness and undeveloped ecosystems are home to wild salmon, caribou, and other migratory species; the nation’s highest density of wild sockeye runs; and vast expanses of Arctic tundra.
Across Alaska, public lands provide outdoor adventures for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, boating, snowmachining and mushing, learning about cultural and natural history, exploring Alaska’s incredible landscapes, observing wildlife, scientific research and natural resource development. Public lands stewards in Alaska work with many partners, including other sections of government like the Department of Fish and Game, nonprofits, private businesses that contract for services such as campground management, community organizations, youth groups, and historical and cultural preservation associations.
Alaskans have a unique relationship with the lands they call home, with a long history of ensuring that federal lands remain protected as wilderness. When the Trump administration passed legislation in 2017 that opened up BLM-managed D-1 lands to potential prospecting and extraction of oil and gas, Alaskans’ outrage was loud and clear.
As the landscape of federal lands in Alaska shifts, it is important that state and local leaders and the federal land management agencies understand how to effectively engage with local communities. In Alaska, the BLM is working with local stakeholders and partners on a variety of initiatives to build trust and ensure that the public lands continue to provide recreational opportunities and ecological services to all Americans.
The State of Alaska’s Geographical Information System (GIS) provides spatial data layers, maps and other tools to help users access state-owned and managed lands and natural resources. The Alaska Mapper allows users to view the general land status of Alaska’s National Parks and Preserves; 16 national wildlife refuges; two enormous national forests; a plethora of state parks, recreation sites, campgrounds and public use cabins; and more.
Alaska has an abundance of recreational opportunities for residents and tourists. The state has a huge park system that covers 3.3 million acres of wild, scenic areas. There are numerous lakes, rivers and mountains to explore, and a large variety of outdoor recreation activities to choose from, such as hiking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, boating, snowmobiling, birdwatching, mountain biking and much more. The state has a wide range of wildlife to see, including bears, moose and a variety of birds. The climate varies from southeastern Alaska with mild winters and warm summers to interior Alaska, where the temperatures are frigid and the precipitation is heavy.
A major concern expressed by many of the state’s planners and managers is the lack of a good base of recreational research to use in planning programs. There is a great need for research into the social aspects of recreation as well as the physical characteristics of the state’s recreation resource, and the ways in which it changes under natural conditions.
Another critical need is for a comprehensive recreation research program that includes information about the recreation needs and preferences of both the state’s residents and tourists. Residents seem to have very different needs and desires in their recreation experience than the tourists who come into the state for short periods of time. A major question is to what extent the current emphasis on tourist demand affects the lifestyle of the residents.
Other concerns include the need to develop a balanced approach to the management of resources. It is important to consider the impact of a management decision that is beneficial to recreation, but at the same time adversely impacts other resource values such as water, timber or wildlife.
There are also concerns about the effects of increased recreation activity on Alaska’s natural environment. Some natural resources are vulnerable to the impacts of human activity, and there is a need for research that will help us understand and predict those impacts. The research may be in the form of monitoring and analysis, or it may be through experimental approaches.