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Seeking to ‘Rebuild’, Nome Chamber Hires New Director

Nome's Front Street on a wintry night

As of January, the Nome Chamber of Commerce has been operating under a new executive director.

Paul Kosto took over the job from Robert Hafner, who, according to Chamber President Ken Hughes, served as interim executive director for over a year.

Kosto has business experience in Nome as the Alaska Airlines station manager and manager of Tumet Industries, a general contractor. Kosto was the only applicant for the position, but Hughes says the various roles he’s played in the community, like serving with the Nome Fire Department, made him a strong candidate to become the town’s top business representative.

He’s a great choice to help the Chamber of Commerce rebuild itself into what it has yet to be.

Kosto had a similar message when he spoke to the Nome City Council at a regular meeting on January 22nd.

It is a goal to be what a chamber is defined to do, which is to help represent and help network and work with the business community, and help Nome thrive as a business community. So absolutely, we’ll work hand in hand.

Hughes says the Chamber’s executive director fills an essential role in the relationship between the city of Nome and its businesses.

To have a more neutral party that can just advocate for business, without being in business itself, can be critical to creating a situation where all business, and therefore the citizenry, flourishes and thrives.

And that’s especially important, he says, when business and city leaders disagree on particular regulations. An example of that: Hughes says he’d like to see a repeal of the 2-percent seasonal sales tax increase, which the council passed in 2016. He argues it prompts people to shop online or out of town more, hurting local businesses.

I also think that unfairly impacts locals who have to live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have the opportunity to shop out of town.

Proponents of the tax, like City Manager Tom Moran, say it’s necessary to avoid city layoffs and cuts to services. At the ballot, 61 percent of voters supported the seasonal sales tax increase.

As discussion over issues like this continue, Kosto says he hopes to develop more open communication between the Chamber and the City of Nome.

Image at top: Nome’s Front Street. (Photo: David Dodman, KNOM)