Alaska Small Business Development Center

Operations Staff

The Alaska SBDC Operations Office supports all regional centers, business advisors, directors, and clients across the state. The Operations Office oversees the management of Alaska SBDC marketing and communications, client onboarding, support and relationships, events and workshops, and data and reporting.

Jon Bittner

Alaska SBDC Executive Director | message

As Executive Director of the Alaska SBDC, Jon Bittner oversees seven regional centers to ensure that the Alaska SBDC provides accessible, high-quality business assistance services to individuals and existing businesses. In his role, he provides program management, advocacy, and fundraising in addition to serving as the Lead Investigator for the various grant programs that are run through Alaska SBDC. He formerly served as vice president of Anchorage Economic Development Center (AEDC). Jon also served as the Deputy Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.

Kendra Conroy

Alaska SBDC Associate State Director | message

With over 18-years of Alaska SBDC experience under her belt, Kendra Conroy is an integral leader of the Alaska SBDC team. As the former SBDC Operations Manager and current Associate State Director, she oversees the day-to-day functions of the Executive Office, serves as the HR liaison, and maintains Alaska SBDC policies and procedures. Kendra also manages the Alaska SBDC’s vast client database and ensures proper and timely reporting of all Alaska SBDC metrics.

MaryAnne LeMaitre

Alaska SBDC Learning & Development Manager | message

MaryAnne LeMaitre, Alaska SBDC Learning & Development Manager

As Learning & Development Manager, MaryAnne LeMaitre manages all of our trainings offered by the Alaska SBDC statewide. She was born and raised in Anchorage; attended the University of Alaska – Fairbanks (UAF) for her Bachelors of Business Administration, majoring in Finance; and attended the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa’s Masters of Urban & Regional Planning Program, working on projects with Native Hawaiian communities on the islands of O’ahu, Maui, and Hawai’i.

MaryAnne has worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) – Small Business Development Advisor in the Republic of Palau where she co-developed and managed the Palau SBDC, volunteered her assistance at the Palau Chamber of Commerce, and co-wrote the Peace Corps Micronesia Small Business Development Program’s 5-Year Strategic Plan for the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Palau. While in Palau, she also lived with a Palauan family; learned the language, culture, and open-water diving; and sang the US National Anthem for Palau’s Independence Day when Palau became a sovereign nation.

Back in the USA, MaryAnne worked as the Director of the Moab Business Resource Center (BRC) at the Utah State University – Moab Campus and was an avid mountain-biker.  Prior to her role as Learning & Development Manager, MaryAnne also worked with community councils and federally-recognized tribes across Alaska on a variety of economic development planning, transportation planning and housing development projects.  She has traveled to over 40 rural communities and villages across our beautiful state. MaryAnne loves mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, racing sailboats, and having her trusty dog, Kai, with her on all her adventures!

Frances Wesley

Alaska SBDC Client Coordinator | message

Frances Wesley, a long-time Alaskan has over 30 years of administrative experience including Operations Analyst, IT Project Management, and Human Resources. She takes pride in being an effective team worker, customer service, and helping to ensure projects are completed. She has done various volunteer work at many nonprofit organizations in Anchorage and is currently an officer on the board of a nonprofit organization that is helping to serve the community housing needs.

Frances received her Bachelor of Arts degree with an emphasis on Human Resources Organizational Development from Alaska Pacific University.

Carlos Machuca

AI Resource Center Director | message

Carlos Machuca

Carlos has 28 plus years of experience as a business developer/owner in a variety of industries including industrial and security printing, manufacturing, ERP software consulting, OSHA compliance training, and financial instruments consulting. For over 12 years, he has worked internationally in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, and France.

Carlos has been responsible for developing several successful business divisions for small and mid-size companies in a variety of industries. He has a passion for helping small businesses grow by searching and exploiting hidden competitive advantages.

Carlos holds a Bachelor of Business Administration – Finance and a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis on entrepreneurship from the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is bilingual in Spanish and the current president of the Anchorage Midtown Rotary Club.

Gretchen Fauske

Alaska SBDC Director of Special Programs & Strategy | message

Gretchen Fauske, SBDC Director of Special Programs & Strategy

A marketing minded economic developer fueled by a passion for entrepreneurship, innovation, and small business, Gretchen is the SBDC Director of Special Programs & Strategy. She oversees the TREND, Buy Alaska, SSBCI Technical Assistance, and Mentorship programs, with more on the horizon! Prior to joining Alaska SBDC, she was the Associate Director for the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, worked in the State of Alaska Division of Economic Development, for U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, and in the private sector.

Gretchen has worked on a number of award-winning economic development projects, spoken at TEDx Anchorage, and was named to Alaska’s Top Forty Under 40 in 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Whitman College and is currently enrolled in the University of Alaska Fairbanks Arctic and Northern Studies masters program, where she’s focusing on Arctic entrepreneurship. Additionally, Gretchen is a Gallup-certified Strengths Coach, and earned her “Advanced Design Thinking,” “Human Centered Strategy,” and “Business Innovation” certifications from IDEO U. She is a member of the Anchorage Downtown Partnership board, and previously chaired the Launch Alaska board and the Municipality of Anchorage Library Advisory Board.

Katie Nave

BuyAlaska Program Manager | message

Katie Nave is the BuyAlaska Program Manager and is thrilled to be finding ways to promote Alaska’s small businesses and to encourage shopping local first. With a background in the natural sciences and sustainable forest management, she took her passion for sustainability into the field of business and has an MBA in Sustainable Systems.

Katie has a breadth of experience working in small business management from tourism to e-commerce and understands the needs and hurdles that small businesses face daily. Katie has always felt a sense of entrepreneurship and is currently undertaking her small business venture. Outside of the office, Katie is an avid swimmer, skier, and lover of the outdoors.

Harley Tennant

Alaska SBDC Communications Manager | message

As Alaska SBDC’s Communication Manager, Harley brings a decade of experience at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and over seven years dedicated to the Alaska SBDC to champion its mission. Her passion and purpose fuel her work in new media management, intentional outreach, and crafting engaging communication that resonates with a wide-ranging, diverse, and engaged statewide audience. She excels at showcasing the triumphs of the Alaska SBDC’s clients and program initiatives.

Her dedication to Alaska’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was recognized in 2024 when she was named one of America’s SBDC National Top 40 Under 40. Harley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Alaska Anchorage and a Master of Arts in Communication, specializing in New Media and Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University, equipping her to navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Tyler Arnold

TREND Program & Alaska SSBCI Equity Director | message

Tyler Arnold, TREND Program Director at Alaska SBDC

As the TREND Program & Alaska SSBCI Equity Director, Tyler Arnold assists Alaskan small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing products and services that support government research efforts. Tyler brings a decade of entrepreneurial experience as a startup founder to the Alaska SBDC and its clients seeking to utilize federal research and development funding. Born and raised in Alaska, Tyler’s experience in starting privately funded technology companies spans four countries and multiple U.S. cities, combining a passion for local business with a global mindset. Tyler was previously awarded Alaska SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011.

Jay Halverson

Alaska SSBCI Lending Program Director | message

Jay has been part of the lending industry for more than 30 years starting as a construction lending officer and working his way to the executive office and consultant. In the past he has worked diligently as a liaison between lenders and governmental agencies helping the organizations work together to reach their common goals. Being part of Alaska for the past decade both in the southeast and south central area, Jay understands the uniqueness, great gifts and challenges the State offers. Assisting business/agencies/organizations in working together is his personal aspiration to positively affect communities and individuals in Alaska. As the director of the Alaska SSBCI lending programs, Jay is working to bring the current initiative to the banking and credit unions with the same innovation, coordination and commitment of previous successes.

Dawn Humenik

Alaska SSBCI Operations Specialist | message

Dawn joined the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2017 and has been an integral part of the Alaska Small Business Development Center SSBCI team since early 2023. With a passion for governance, volunteering, and small business, Dawn is highly regarded for her ability to forge connections, provide exceptional customer service, and think creatively to solve problems. Her diverse professional experience includes working with a broad range of clients, from large federal agencies to startups. Dawn’s ultimate goal is to have a positive impact on Alaska’s economy and workforce. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and exploring different aspects of well-being, such as gardening, physical fitness, and mindfulness.

Geoff Wright

SSBCI Technical Assistance Funding Specialist | message

Geoff Wright is a seasoned executive and information technology consultant with deep roots in the Alaska business community. Early in his career, Geoff worked for organizations, including the Institute of Social & Economic Research (ISER), Internet Alaska, and Integrity Solutions, doing a combination of software development and systems administration. In 2002, he started working at Pango Technology, where he served as a managing partner until 2023. During that time, he helped transform Pango from a boutique website design shop to one of Alaska’s premier information technology consulting firms.

Geoff has always been a passionate local volunteer and advocate for Alaska. He recently sold his share of Pango to its remaining partners so that he could dedicate his professional time and energy to building a better, stronger, and more forward-thinking community. As part of that effort, Geoff is now working with the Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC), helping entrepreneurs across the state prepare for federal funding.

In his spare time, Geoff enjoys mountain running, biking, sailboat racing, reading science fiction, woodworking, open-source software development, and spending time with his family. He’s also a Site Director for NSAA’s Junior Nordic program, where he manages a team of coaches who teach kids aged 6–14 how to cross-country ski.

Aurora Agee

SSBCI Technical Assistance Funding Specialist | message

Aurora comes to AlaskSBDC with a decade of experience in consumer lending, commercial lending and rural banking and a deeply held commitment to community service. Aurora utilizes her financial management expertise to empower businesses in urban and rural Alaskan communities.

Aurora is a former small business owner herself, she understands the challenges and triumphs that accompany entrepreneurial endeavors in Alaska’s dynamic economic landscape. She has a passion for championing the interests of small businesses, and advocates for their growth and prosperity.  She is excited to leverage her knowledge and the resources of the SBDC in navigating the financial, legal, and accounting needs of Alaskan small businesses!

Complementing her professional experience, Aurora has volunteered as a Nordic ski coach across Alaska for an impressive quarter-century, fostering a love for athletic endeavors and lifelong fitness. She serves on the board for FOCUS (Family Outreach Center for Understanding Special Needs), Chugiak Eagle River Women in Business, Chugiak Eagle River Nordic SKi Club, and serves as her local Rotary president, underscoring her dedication to serving her community. Aurora is a lifelong Alaskan who has had the pleasure of living in many Alaskan communities such as Anchorage, Juneau, Soldotna, Healy & Denali reflects her profound understanding of the diverse needs of Alaskan communities.  She respects the uniqueness of Alaska’s various regions, finding professional success and adventurous fun in all regions of the State.