In Alaska, “You can’t do that” is not in their vocabulary
Apollo Fuhriman, Region 10 Advocate
While meeting with businesses in Fairbanks, Alaska, it was clear that the entrepreneurial spirit of finding creative solutions is built into the DNA of Alaskans; but sometimes, regulations from DC are out-of-touch with the conditions in the Last Frontier.
At events in Fairbanks, several small business owners and their representatives met to discuss federal regulatory concerns and how these items could be changed to be more efficient.
An over-arching concern across industries was a desire that the regulators and those who create the regulations learn that small businesses do not have time-for anything other than items that are absolutely necessary. Time and again these businesses share the frustration they have with additional training, paperwork, overly frequent filings and reports that they feel exist merely to be a potential fine (if filed late or incompletely) instead of providing any benefit to the public at large. Their hope is that DC understands that businesses do not exist to create paperwork; but that they exist to build, create, and sell products and services.
One suggestion offered was that websites (like uspto.gov) should have focus groups provide feedback on how to make it more user-friendly. An example cited described an incident in which an individual tried to pay patent fees, and it took 45 minutes to give the USPTO the $1800 that was owed simply because of the difficulty navigating the website. No online private company would ever make the process of receiving money that difficult and frustrating.
Another issue facing Alaskans is the relatively onerous burdens placed upon them by ‘interstate commerce’ concepts, in that many products are never shipped out of state, but are wholly in-state, and yet are treated as if they are shipped from Maryland to Virginia to Delaware, something that is physically impossible given the geography and location of Alaska.
Another concern is the roadless rule for forests, even when roads exist on Alaska Native Corporation (ANC) land. For example, on a small island that the ANC owns, they allowed individuals to harvest a few trees for specific wonderful furniture, but the roadless rule is a huge hindrance to reaching larger trees even on roads that exist but that the USDA does not acknowledge. The end results would be that these small producers of exceptional furniture pieces would go out of business, the small ANCs lose these continuous income streams and native carvers and woodworkers lose their ability to be financially independent.
Alaska presents many different challenges based upon location (size, shipping of goods, etc.) and long frigid winters (short outdoor growing/preparation season, road hazards, etc.) that are unlike anything in the lower 48 and regulations need to take into account the specific variations of this state instead of applying one-size-fits-most solutions.
Apollo Fuhriman serves as the Region 10 Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Fuhriman works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of Region 10 to Washington DC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.