Two Alaskans Win State Small Business Person Awards
Amie Sommer cooking halibut at her home near Wasilla.
Vibrancy and Grit
When Sommer receives her award in Washington, D.C. on May 1 during National Small Business Week, she will be in the company of Sharon Hamer, co-founder and president of Akiak Technology, an IT firm headquartered across the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia. Although born and raised in Southwest Alaska, Hamer is the SBA’s choice to represent Virginia.
An accountant in Alabama, a deli in Delaware, a cleaner in Kansas, and a magazine in Maine are among the SBA’s honorees for 2023.
“Our 2023 State Small Business Persons of the Year have given their all to achieve their American dream—to own and build a strong, resilient business; create jobs; increase competition and innovation; and power America’s historic economic recovery,” says SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman. “These incredible entrepreneurs show the vibrancy and grit of our nation’s small businesses.”
Sommer, the owner of Tutka in Wasilla, has shown her grit since 1999 when she and her sister started Professional Services and Safety Instruments, also known as PSI Environmental, which initially provided gas detection instrument rentals and environmental services. Sommer’s husband John joined as co-owner and brought the company into the realm of heavy civil construction.
According to SBA, Tutka’s three-year revenue average is more than $10.5 million. The company employs a dozen people year-round.
For the upcoming construction season, Tutka will be busy with the Quartz Creek Bridge Replacement near Cooper Landing. Tutka will replace a one-lane wooden bridge with a modern concrete, multiple t-section girder bridge that can accommodate two lanes of traffic.
Meanwhile, near Richardson Highway Milepost 74.2, Tutka will continue working on the Little Tonsina Bridge Replacement project along Burma Pit Road, adding culverts to expand fish passage.
From Akiak to Potomac
Sharon Hamer (left) with husband Kevin (center) and Akiak Technology CFO Brian Wajert (right) in the company’s namesake village in 2021.
Virginia’s winner is Yup’ik and an enrolled member of the Akiak Native Community, and she divides her time between Alexandria and Bethel. Hamer retired after thirty-one years in the US Environmental Protection Agency to co-found Akiak Technology in 2019. She grew the company from negative revenue in 2019 and 2020 to $1.7 million in sales in 2021. In 2022, the company secured its first 8(a) prime contract award for $22.8 million over two years.
A year ago, Hamer succeeded her husband as president while he remained as CEO. At the time, she said of her company, “Our industry-leading use of emerging technology platforms to deliver the first broadband internet to one of the most challenging areas of the country, remote SW Alaska, is just one example of our unwavering dedication to find and deliver the right solution of meet our client’s needs.”
Hamer also co-founded the Yukon-Kuskokwim Tribal Broadband Consortium, a nonprofit comprising seventeen tribes.
Hamer and Sommer are singled out for 2023 out of 33 million small businesses nationwide, along with a pub in Portland, Oregon and a contractor in Columbus, Ohio.
“From Main Street to manufacturing hubs and tech centers, [small businesses] are powering our economy,” says Guzman. “We hope their stories inspire and motivate the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
To see a full list of winners, click here.