Brittany Brown identifies getting Kenai and its businesses safely back to normal as both a hurdle and first priority in her first months on the job. But she’s well equipped for remote work, if need be.
“Being in public relations, community relations in rural Alaska, that’s been a lot of my career,” she said. “And it hasn’t always been possible for us to get out there. And, so, a lot of what we did was virtual. … I have a feel for how technology works and how we can really use it to accomplish our goals.”
Brown, 28, is the new executive director at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce. Since starting work Sept. 1, she’s been making the rounds introducing herself to local business owners, attending gatherings like last week’s chamber luncheon and prepping for the chamber’s uncanceled upcoming events, including the Kenai River Marathon, Silver Salmon Derby and Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival.
Brown grew up in the Matanuska Valley and has worked across the state with Native corporations, oil and gas companies and in multiple public relations roles — including at Akpik Associates, the agency she founded. She has Inupiaq heritage and sits on the board of the Alaska Native Professionals Association, an organization that helps mentor and guide young Alaska Native leaders.
Her new role allows her to be closer to her boyfriend and focus on a long-held passion — economic development.
“I was born and raised in Nome and my family ended up leaving Nome because it lacked opportunities,” Brown said. “So one of those things that’s near and dear to my heart is the economic development side of that. We want people to be able to live where they want to live and have those opportunities to do what they want to do.
“So that is my job to show them that they have those opportunities here,” she added. “Or if there is not that opportunity, to create it.”
Brown has been learning about Kenai from her team at the chamber and members of the community, who she says have been friendly and forthcoming with knowledge and history about the area.
She’s also been getting to know local businesses by shopping with them, and in her new role, she’ll encourage others to do the same.
“We did lose a significant portion of the income coming into our state, just as a whole,” Brown said. “But what I saw from even my boyfriend’s company, his fishing company, he did so well this year because so many locals showed up and decided that they wanted to support local small businesses.”
Brown hasn’t had a whole lot of free moments yet, but when she does, she looks forward to enjoying the quietude of her new home.
“You know, I come from Anchorage ... even in the neighborhoods it’s still pretty loud. And now being here, just that quaint stillness and the sound of the water, it’s just one of my favorite things.”