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Alaska Turns to Tech as Oil Prices Drop

Alaska is looking to the tech industry to boost the state’s economy.

Since 2012, Alaska has experienced a drop in its GDP and has been losing jobs in mining and logging–a job category that includes fuel extraction, which makes up the single largest sector of the state’s economy. Currently, Alaska has an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, the highest of any state.

To combat economic troubles, state, regional, and local governments are looking to an unexpected industry–high-tech statups.

The Alaskan government hopes the state could become Silicon Valley with snowshoes. Officials said Alaska is ideal because tech jobs can largely be done remotely and don’t require close proximity to a company’s customer base. So, even though Alaska isn’t part of the contiguous 48, it doesn’t mean residents can’t help build the next great app.

While the state offers many benefits to potential tech employees–the peaceful landscape being only one–there are challenges facing the state. Because tech has never been a priority for Alaska, the needed infrastructure and talent pools are not present as they are in the lower 48.

One big push to get tech companies to Alaska is the business accelerator, Launch: Alaska. Launch: Alaska is an intensive, roughly 90-day process that takes early-stage businesses from both the local region and beyond. At the accelerator, the businesses are brought together as a cohort to improve their business plans, products, and investing potential. The program offers business, business connections, mentorship, and capital. Launch: Alaska is specifically looking for early-stage startups operating in the Arctic technology space.

If the focus on tech succeeds, it will most likely be limited to major cities in Alaska and won’t include the more far-flung, remote cities. However, if state officials can make the focus on tech successful, it could offer a new future for a state trying to grapple with its major industry changing. Alaska’s success could offer a lesson plan for other states dealing with their major industry experiencing a major disruption–such as West Virginia’s coal industry or Detroit losing car manufacturing.

Kate DeNardi
About Kate DeNardi
Kate DeNardi is 21st Century State & Local's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs
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