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More Than 30 Businesses in Nome Receive PPP Funds to Help Cover COVID-19 Expenses

Close-up of Nome and Bering Strait region on a color map of Alaska

Over $1,000,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans were recently distributed to small businesses in Nome to help keep them afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Small Business Administration released a list of recipients and awards to the public last week [July 6th] but only companies receiving more than $150,000 were listed by name. The only companies registered in Nome to receive above that amount were Bering Air, which received $2-$5 million back in April, and Tumet Industries, a local construction company. (Tumet did not respond to KNOM’s request for comment before the airing of this story.)

Altogether, the SBA document shows that roughly 35 registered Nome businesses received some type of assistance from the PPP: included in that are sole-proprietorships, corporations, LLC’s and non-profits. Those loans ranged from $4935 for an LLC covering the cost of one employee to $91,493 for a corporation covering an unspecified number of employees.

Some of the industries hit hardest in Alaska by the pandemic include tourism, bars and hospitality, as well as construction work.

Outside of Nome, Kotzebue based construction company Drake Construction, Inc. received one of the highest awards overall of between $350,000 and $1,000,000 for their company of 46 people. Drake Construction is also currently doing work on the new courthouse in Nome.

President Toby Drake declined to give the exact amount of the approved loan that the company received, but here’s what he did say:

“As far as was it enough? It certainly helped out at a crucial time. For construction specifically, springtime is when we start up. So, we’re not only hiring people and getting them back to work but we’re digging equipment out of the snow, so its compounded on us specifically in the springtime. As far as timing, it couldn’t have worked at a better time.”

Drake is now the co-owner of the new Nome courthouse building alongside Nome resident Rolland Trowbridge through their newly formed Aullaqisaaq Center, LLC.

Like many other businesses, Drake says he has taken on additional expenses so that he can do business during the coronavirus pandemic and still keep his employees safe. For him, that’s included chartering private flights for his workers to do jobs in village communities with strict travel requirements. Those kinds of extra expenses incurred by businesses are not covered by PPP.

Drake hasn’t lost business, he says, but the uncertainty of the pandemic has made it more difficult to finish projects, like the Nome courthouse, on time.

“We know they’re coming and you’ve still got to get everything ready but you’re trying to find where that line is of not bringing the employees back too early but not bringing them too late that you don’t get things done. So what the PPP did was allow us to close that gap  of still getting ready for the projects even though the projects aren’t quite ready to go yet.”

Some of those employees include hired workers in Kotzebue and other parts of Western Alaska, as well as workers in Anchorage and the Lower 48.

Drake Construction’s awarded funds, along with the approximately $1.5 million that made its way to Nome businesses, is part of $1.2 billion in federal loans given to Alaska. Around the region, local small businesses in Unalakleet, Stebbins, Emmonak, and Anvik also received PPP loans.

*Full disclosure: KNOM Radio was one of the local entities to receive a PPP loan, which was worth significantly less than $150,000.

Image at top: The greater Nome / Bering Strait region. Photo: David Dodman, KNOM file.

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