Online business tools help Alaska fishing operations
By DEBORAH MERCY
December 18, 2015
The redesigned website includes material on financing, income diversification, charting exit strategies and many other topics. CoBank, a national rural cooperative bank, provided funding support for the website improvements.
The Alaska Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has helped seafood harvesters for 35 years to address small business management challenges with publications, workshops and a network of coastal offices.
“Supporting coastal fishing businesses is a long-standing priority for Alaska Sea Grant,” said Cordova MAP agent Torie Baker. “Our fishing business website had begun to languish. We knew it was time to step up our online delivery of services to this group.”
The website organizes resources to match fishing career phases and includes customizable financial spreadsheet downloads and podcasts of popular workshop presentations. The new design is appealing and easy to use, with some new tools added and others brought up to date.
“Our goal is to provide an online learning space,” said Sunny Rice, website co-designer and MAP agent in Petersburg. “In addition to Alaska Sea Grant materials, we’ve linked in relevant state and federal resources, so fishermen can build their business skills from a lot of sources.”
“I especially like the resources in the Manage Your Business section,” said Bristol Bay fisherman Kim Ewers. “I think it is relevant to established fishers as well as newcomers. The Plan Your Exit section makes me think about some issues that I have been avoiding.”
Jim Andersen, loan manager at the Alaska Division of Economic Development, commented, “The site helps other professionals better understand the volatility and complexity of the current Alaska fishing industry. The site will be a useful preparation tool for any new or experienced commercial fishermen seeking financing through loan programs administered by DED.”
Baker and Rice emphasize a website is not a substitute for one-on-one consultations about business decisions with bankers, accountants and experienced fishermen.
“Building a successful business requires talking with professionals, family members and other fishermen, and doing your homework. We strive with this site to provide tools to better organize discussions about managing a fishing business,” said Baker.
Baker and Rice are seeking feedback to improve site offerings. Future possibilities include adding a blog where fishermen can share ideas for expense-tracking spreadsheets, and expanding retirement planning resources.
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Provided as a public service by the University of Alaska Fairbanks - Alaska Sea Grant.