With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air. Here at Fairbanks Economic Development, we want to make sure Interior businesses truly feel that love.

To help make sure they do, along with calling on our fellow residents to think Fairbanks first as they shop for their sweethearts, we and our partners in the economic development community across Alaska are working hard to make resources available that can help strengthen them in the ever-growing digital marketplace — in the form of free online classes for established enterprises and budding entrepreneurs.

If you’ll recall from the Community Perspective last week, FEDC, noting that every shopper and every dollar counts toward building up and supporting the incredible businesses in and around our community, highlighted the new BuyAlaska.com website: an online platform dedicated to connecting Alaska businesses to their Alaska communities.

Open to all businesses (even those without a physical location or a website), this filterable, phonebook-like list of local businesses is free and easy to join, comes with a BuyAlaska newsletter and an active Facebook page constantly highlighting businesses within the directory, and is a risk-free way for local businesses to gain greater visibility as locally-based and/or Alaskan-owned.

More, though, BuyAlaska offers access to resources from the Alaska Small Business Development Center. In a pairing perfect enough to be the commercial version of a Hallmark movie, SBDC has not only worked with the local entities like FEDC to gift local businesses a website dedicated to them and their success, it’s also offering a suite of classes in partnership with the federal Small Business Administration to help those business either get online or maximize their existing online presence.

From now until March 31, SBDC is offering more than 60 free courses on its website, aksbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events.

The classes are primarily prerecorded so, in addition to being free, they can be started, quite literally, today. For developed businesses interested in growing their online presence, webinars include:

• Engaging on Social Media — A course developed specifically to help businesses who’ve had to close down or limit their in-person activities, this workshop will help you learn how to make the most out of your social media business profiles and understand the steps in gaining a larger online audience;

• Drive Business Results with Google Ads — Explore popular campaign types and how each help your business connect with local customers online, promote special offers and grow brand awareness.

And, if over the months of working from home, you’ve considered starting your own business, SBDC is also offering many courses designed to help entrepreneurs bring their business dreams to life. These include:

• Starting a Business — A webinar covering basic issues faced when starting a small business such as licensing, legal forms of business, record-keeping, hiring, business planning and access to financing;

• How to Get a Business License in Alaska — A workshop listing what’s needed, including tips on how to find your NAICS code and what resources are out there to help you get to where you need to go;

• Small Business Administration Loans and What the Lender Requires — Covering SBA’s normal suite loans, their extensive loan guaranty programs for small business, and information on what private-sector bankers assess when making a lending decision.

• Developing a Marketing Strategy — The TREND program (Technology Research and Development Center of Alaska) assists Alaska’s small businesses and entrepreneurs in commercializing their technology and assists Alaska businesses to compete and win federal research and development grants. 

But the support local business love doesn’t stop there: SBA also hosts monthly Business Power Hour Workshops and recently announced this month’s event, a discussion of “Taxes for Small Biz” at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 18.

Lastly, the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce continues to hold weekly business presentations, at noon Tuesdays, which are free to members and $5 for the public. Always an amazing forum spotlighting local businesses and initiatives, upcoming presentations include BuyAlaska on Feb. 9 and a presentation regarding online effectiveness from SBDC’s Penny Gage on March 16.

These are all excellent ways local businesses can find information potentially helpful to their continued operations. As always, though, the best way to help our local businesses, and support the community we share, is to frequent them — and if there was ever a moment to break out and find new stores, explore new foods, or try new activities (who knew we had an indoor ax throwing range in town? Now that’s an Alaska date!) this is it.

So, get on out there, fellow Fairbanksans, and show our local businesses the love this Valentine’s Day shopping season.

Evan Wilken and Julia Hnilicka are project managers for the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation.

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