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New Business Enterprise Institute at University of Alaska Anchorage

Seeing more effective statewide engagement with business community


The Alaska business community will soon receive new and improved support from the state’s university system. University of Alaska leadership recently announced the creation of the Business Enterprise Institute (BEI), a new University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) unit that will place nearly all of the system’s business and economic development programs under one roof. The institute will be located at UAA’s Bragaw Office Complex at 1901 Bragaw Road in Anchorage. The mission of the BEI is to develop and diversify the economy of Alaska. In addition, the BEI will improve coordination, collaboration, and innovation of services available to Alaska’s business community.

The institute is well-positioned to address the needs of Alaska businesses—large and small. The BEI brings together the Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the UA Center for Economic Development (UACED), and their constituent programs. Christi Bell, previously the executive director of the Center for Economic Development, has been named Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director of the BEI.

“With the formation of the Business Enterprise Institute, UAA is placing itself firmly on the road to greater engagement with state industry,” Provost Elisha “Bear” Baker states. “This new unit combines an incredible depth of expertise and will improve on service coordination and administrative efficiency. The message to businesses and economic development organizations is clear: the University is ready to have a more productive partnership with industry, support development that sustains Alaska’s communities and economic growth, and better serve the people of Alaska to grow and diversify the state’s economy.”


Providing a Platform

Bell believes the BEI will provide a platform for high-level consultancy between industry and the university and will serve as a one-stop bridge to the wealth of expertise and talent across the entire University of Alaska system. Bell states she is “excited to lead a dynamic team of professionals that together represent a full suite of services capable of supporting the growth of innovative strategies across Alaska.”

The united entities all share complimentary attributes that will allow for greater organizational synergies and better service to clients. These programs include the following:

UA Center for Economic Development: The UACED’s mission has been to leverage university expertise to support economic development efforts across the state, specifically in rural and economically distressed communities. The UACED accomplishes this by providing technical assistance to municipal and tribal governments, as well as Alaska Native Corporations and economic development organizations.

Alaska Small Business Development Center: The Alaska SBDC supports the state’s small business community by providing one-on-one business counseling for entrepreneurs. The SBDC also offers classes, seminars, and workshops aimed at improving entrepreneurial capacity and skills training.

Professional and Executive Development: The formation of the new BEI will also include a newly developed division that will focus exclusively on professional development offerings including Executive Education, aimed at senior level managers, as well as courses supporting professionals in their transition to executive management. In addition, courses addressing common organization challenges will also be offered on topics ranging from current human resource issues to front-line staff training. Professional development courses will be available in both open enrollment and customized formats.

Supporting Programs: The new entity also unites under one roof other economic development related programs such as Lemonade Day Alaska, a youth entrepreneurship program; the Cooperative Development Program, which provides technical assistance to cooperatives; the Procurement Technical Assistance Center aimed at supporting firms engaging in government contracting; the Minority Business Development Center assisting Native businesses in accessing contracts, capital, and strategic management; AKSourceLink.com, a web portal for entrepreneurs; and BUYAlaska.com, a web portal encouraging in-state purchase of goods and services as well as other programs related to economic development. The BEI may ultimately host additional business and economic development programs.

The formation of this new entity will usher in a new era for economic development in Alaska, one in which the university and its programs are better aligned to serve Alaska’s business community, both large and small. The future for economic development in Alaska is bright, and the formation of the new Business Enterprise Institute is a clear message that the university is not only committed to a stronger coordination of business and economic development services, but also serving as a far more engaged “go-to” business and economic development partner moving forward.

Nolan Klouda is the Associate Director at the Center for Economic Development.
Born and raised in Anchorage, Klouda has been involved with the Center since 2010.

This first appeared in the April 2014 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.
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