Common-Sense Change to a State Program Supports Small Businesses in Fledgling Mariculture Industry

Ketchikan – Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed legislation into law today to help participants in Alaska’s growing mariculture industry get access to capital. Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) sponsored House Bill 76 after learning that many of the small businesses in Alaska’s mariculture industry were having trouble securing financing for improvement projects through private lending institutions. HB 76 changes the Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund to allow up to 40 percent of the fund to be used for loans to help pay for shellfish and seaweed hatcheries or enhancement projects. Expanding the purview of the loan fund to include hatcheries will allow those invested in the mariculture industry to develop a stable supply of seed for resident marine plants and shellfish at no additional cost to the State of Alaska.

“Where private banks see too much risk I see too much potential to pass up,” said Rep. Ortiz. “We have a growing mariculture industry in Alaska that is ready to thrive with some much-needed investment, and we have small businesses in the industry that want to expand. A lack of access to capital is holding back those ready to put in the hard work to ensure success. I believe we took a step forward in solving that problem today with House Bill 76 becoming law.”

The Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund was created in 2012 with a $5 million investment. The purpose of the fund was to provide loans for the development of Alaskan-owned mariculture operations with a goal of diversifying the economies in many coastal communities. To date, the Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund has made seven loans totaling $598,000 with no delinquencies or defaults. To better accommodate the time-consuming nature of the mariculture industry and the long lag time from seed to a product that can be sold, HB 76 includes provisions allowing loan repayments to be deferred for up to six years for most loans and up to 11 years for the new hatchery loans authorized by the bill.

House Bill 76 passed the Alaska House of Representatives last year by a vote of 26-14. The Alaska State Senate unanimously passed the bill in May by a vote of 19-0. Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed HB 76 into law today during a ceremony at the Hump Island Oyster Farm north of Ketchikan.

For more information, contact Liz Harpold in Rep. Ortiz’s office at (907) 247-4672.