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Sen. Begich visits new Chamber offices

Posted: March 5, 2013 - 4:34pm  |  Updated: March 6, 2013 - 1:09am

Juneau’s Chamber of Commerce warmed its new offices at the Huna Totem Building with Alaskan Amber beer, Abby’s Kitchen hors d’oeuvres and a chance to grill Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich.

About 50 people stopped by the chamber’s new offices set under large pine trees off Glacier Highway.

“We love our new space. We love our new landlords,” Cathie Roemmich Juneau Chamber CEO, said as she introduced Sen. Begich.

Along with Juneau’s Chamber, the offices are the new home of the Juneau offices of the State Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Small Business Development Center.

Juneau business leaders, elected officials and others were in attendance.

Begich presented a letter of recognition to local caterer Abby’s Kitchen & Catering.

“For a business that has lasted five years and an entrepreneur who has done a good job,” Begich said.

The senator referenced his and his wife’s small business entrepreneurship when he congratulated Abby’s success.

“I know what it is like to own and operate a small business. The threshold of small business is when you make it to five years,” Begich said. “That is a very good sign. That means the odds are with you now.”

Begich also mentioned the Alaska Brewing Company’s new spent grain boiler system.

“That is money in the bank and makes a small business more successful,” Begich said.“ And we like helping wherever we can in those areas.”

Veterans returning home are looking to become business owners, Begich said. He said forums being held around the state show veterans how lot locate new businesses around the state.

“We hope they think about Southeast and Juneau,” Begich said.

Begich said he is encouraged by the young motivated peers he’s seen come to Washington, D.C., recently. He mentioned positive indicators such as home markets stabilizing, stocks going up and new and used cars sales also going up.

“But it is a fragile economy,” Begich said. “We have a lot more work to do. We have to get this budget under control, we have to make the cuts.”

In an interview after his talk, Begich said the government is working to offset some of the losses to small businesses that might come as a result of sequestration. He said congress has already increased the amount of loan money available to small businesses.

“Another thing that is critical,” Begich said. As D.C. cuts the budget “do not cut into areas of job education programs. Businesses need a certain level of employee … and if we are slicing and dicing there they are not going to get the qualified employees.”

Business can also rely on upkeep to the nation’s roads and other public infrastructure, Begich said.

“We held harmless infrastructure dollars,” Begich said. “We are keeping that money flowing into the system.”

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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