Buying locally has never been more important or easier than it is today. Small businesses in the state are still suffering the adverse economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic due to low numbers of travelers, significant supply chain issues and unprecedented staffing issues in nearly every industry. However, Alaskans can help their neighbors’ businesses keep their doors open by choosing to shop in their community during the holiday season; and the good news is that programs like Made in Alaska and BuyAlaska make it easier to buy locally.

The Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs’ Made in Alaska program is designed to promote products that are manufactured, manufactured or handcrafted in the state, ranging from small freebies to large industrial modules. To be eligible for the Made in Alaska program, products must be at least 51% made in Alaska. You can recognize a Made in Alaska product by looking for the “Buy the Bear” logo, which represents a mom and baby bear.

It’s easy to determine which businesses or products in your area are licensed Made of Alaska by viewing the list online at Products can be sorted by category or located via a search function based on product type, trade names and / or location.

The BuyAlaska program is a state-wide collaborative initiative hosted by the Alaska Small Business Development Center (AK-SBDC). Its mission is to amplify Alaskan businesses through connection, awareness, and better access to resources. BuyAlaska provides businesses and consumers with tools designed to help grow Alaska’s economy.

BuyAlaska resources available to consumers include a BuyAlaska holiday gift guide, access to the BuyAlaska business directory, access to exclusive discounts, and more. The BuyAlaska Holiday Gift Guide is a particularly useful tool this holiday season. It allows you to sort by category, including “Gifts for him / her”, “Handcrafted”, “Gift baskets”, “Eco-Friendly”; or you can sort by location. You can also find listings of virtual and in-person holiday markets in case that is your favorite way to shop for Christmas.

BuyAlaska resources available to Alaska businesses include free listing and placement on the BuyAlaska Business Directory and discounts on business resources, including with FedEx, Constant Contact, Dell, QuickBooks Online, and ad placement. Along with Edible Alaska, AK-SBDC also offers consulting services, workshops and webinars, and business tools including financial model worksheets and business plans.

Small businesses show up every day for Alaskans, and it is only right that we return the favor, especially when needed. Even if you can’t do all of your holiday shopping locally, replacing a few regularly purchased items online or abroad with items purchased locally can make a huge difference. If you aren’t comfortable shopping in person or unsure if there are local businesses with the products you need, give them a call! Most companies will be happy to talk about your needs and concerns, and will appreciate if you try to purchase gifts through them.

Show some holiday spirit and help out the small businesses in your neighborhood.

Julie Anderson is the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.