Startup Week 2017: Public Policy Supports Entrepreneurism and Innovation

  • With funds raised through intrastate crowdfunding, Baranof Island Brewing Company opened a new tap room and brewery in Sitka. (Photo/Courtesy/Baranof Island Brewing Co.)

Tackling Alaska’s first recession since the 1980s will require a new, innovative approach to public policy. For too long, Alaska has needed to prioritize growing and diversifying our state’s economy. We can build that future now by enhancing how we pursue economic development and cultivating a new generation of Alaskan entrepreneurs.

Our state needs economic policies that empower Alaskans, unleash creativity, and embrace innovation. As policymakers strive to align workforce development, infrastructure, and strategic planning, with stable laws and regulations, we should seek policies that provide knowledge to grow our business community.

As a first step, the State of Alaska has just completed its first comprehensive economic development strategy. The plan, Northern Opportunity, targets public and private resources that can strengthen Alaska’s economy. This will help guide policymakers as we work to generate economic growth and fuel innovation.

This session the Alaska Legislature founded a bipartisan Innovation Caucus open to the public to ensure progress and economic growth is at the center of state policy. At its inaugural meeting industry and non-profits joined with policymakers to discuss how to move our state’s economy forward.

Alaska’s economy should be driven by innovation. Alaskans are innovators by necessity. In our daily lives we adapt to the unique challenges we face in our northern corner of the world.

We persevere and think creatively to provide for our families, and grow our communities and businesses. Alaska was built by pioneers whose grit and vision furthered our state’s history.

Embracing innovation is also essential to improve our quality of life, and smart new policies like rideshare and crowdfunding are already making a difference in our state. Small business development is central to growing jobs in an economy. Accessing start-up funding is one of the biggest hurdles faced by any small business. By enacting equity crowdfunding into state law, the Innovating Alaska Act, there’s a new tool for entrepreneurs and makes it easier than ever for Alaskans to start and invest in local businesses.

Rideshare improves community transportation and grows economies through innovation. Connecting Alaskans through a simple smart phone app, it makes it easier and safer to get a ride around our communities. The Let’s Ride Alaska Act sets a succinct framework for rideshare. The bill provides jobs and makes this technology available to all Alaskans from Ketchikan to Kotzebue.

Britteny Cioni-Haywood of the Division of Economic Development and Kristy Naylor for the Division of Banking and Securities present the state's Innovate Alaska Act at North by North Innovate Arctic earlier this year. (Photo/Courtesy/Alaska Division of Economic Development)

Innovation means more ingenuity and the creation of new jobs and enterprise. Entrepreneurs put together the ingredients to spur growth and start-ups. They are the risk takers, the planners, and the catalyst needed to get an idea off the ground. From craft breweries and kelp harvesting, to tourism and tech companies, Alaska has great opportunities for our future.

Although fiscal challenges and recession can seem overwhelming, small steps and smart public policy solutions will make the difference in forging our state’s future. Alaska can be a talent-driven economy, where ideas developed by Alaskan innovators fuel our private sector and provide solutions for our public sector.

Alaska Startup Week brings entrepreneurs, local leaders, and friends together during 10 days of events and celebration to build momentum and opportunity around our state’s unique entrepreneurial identity. Startup Week is a focal point of the Innovate Alaska (2.0) effort to diversify Alaska’s economic base. For more information and a full list of 2017 events, visit

Senator Mia Costello (R-West Anchorage) co-chairs the Alaska Legislative Innovation Caucus with Representative Zach Fansler (D-Bethel). The Senator serves as chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee and co-chair of the Joint Armed Services Committee.

Britteny A. Cioni-Haywood holds a Master of Science in Natural Resource Economics from the University of Arkansas. She has lived in Juneau since 2006, and was previously a professor of economics at the University of Alaska Southeast. Ms. Cioni-Haywood has been with the State of Alaska since 2012 and currently serves as the Director for the Division of Economic Development.

07/29/2017 - 10:43am