Alaska may be an oil state, but don't forget the state's small business community.

That's the message from Jon Bittner, executive director of the Alaska Small Business Development Center.

Bittner spoke to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce during its weekly Make it Monday lunch at the Dena’ina Center.

Bittner stressed the roll of small businesses often goes unnoticed in a state where government revenue is driven largely by the oil and gas industry. He identified a timely example – private contractors' help with the quick repairs to Minnesota Drive's northbound offramp at International Airport Road, which was extensively damaged in the region's massive Nov. 30 earthquake.

Before-and-after photos quickly became iconic images from the 7.0 temblor, prompting fact-checking website snopes.com to verify whether workers indeed rebuilt the damaged offramp in just four days.

“Well done to the folks that stepped up and did that,” he said. “I will tell you a lot of them were small businesses. Construction businesses and things like that – stepping up and getting their people out there. As soon as they found out they were safe, getting them on the streets working 24 hours a day.”

Bittner later shared a creative, timely response to last month’s quake by one of the city’s marijuana retailers.

“Somebody emailed me a screen shot of a text advertisement that one of the local cannabis companies sent out literally within an hour of the earthquake saying, 'We’re guessing all your glass bongs are broken, so why don’t you come in for a 50 to 75 percent discount on any bongs we have left in stock?’” he said. “I thought A, that has got to be the hardest-working guy in marketing and B, he needs a raise.”

Before discussing the earthquake’s impact, Bittner offered a slightly bullish update on the small business community.

He cited a survey conducted by the Small Business Development Center, highlighting:

  • A majority of businesses maintained or increased revenues in 2018
  • A vast majority believe state and local economy will improve next year.
  • All planned to either maintain or increase staffing.

Bittner also there are signs that the state may soon be emerging from a prolonged recession, driven largely by last year’s ending a four-year streak of negative growth.

It's still too soon, he adds, for a complete assessment of damages caused by last month's quake to the region's small businesses.

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