Hump Island Oyster Co. near Ketchikan. has been growing oysters since 2013, and recently added kelp. Maritime businesses like this one are part of a ‘blue’ ocean-based economy. (KRBD file photo by Leila Kheiry)

The Ketchikan Small Business Development Center office has been closed for months while the statewide organization searched for a new employee to fill the position.

The job still isn’t filled, but it has changed somewhat, SBDC officials told the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly during a presentation Tuesday. They hope to hire someone soon who would help local small business owners and startups in general, along with maritime-related businesses in particular.

Joel Cladouhos started his presentation with a joke.

“Where does seaweed look for a job?” he asked. “In the kelp-wanted ads.”

Cladouhos is the SBDC’s Blue Pipeline director. Blue Pipeline is affiliated with the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, and has teamed up with the Small Business Development Center.

Cladouhos said the newly redesigned Ketchikan SBDC position blends maritime with the agency’s more traditional work. He said other countries are doing a lot of ocean business development, and they hope to mirror that in coastal Alaska, encouraging a “blue economy.”

“The blue economy touches on all sectors that are related to the ocean. Many of the traditional sectors which are well represented here in Ketchikan are fish processing, coastal tourism, ship building, maritime port services,” he said. “The emerging industries, like ocean technology, underwater drones, mapping the sea floor, inspecting vessels without a diver. You have all kinds of uses for the technology.”

Marine bio-tech is another area, Cladouhos said, as is mariculture.

The borough has provided office space for the Ketchikan SBDC at the borough’s White Cliff Building. Ian Grant of SBDC in Juneau asked that the office be reopened in anticipation of filling the position soon.

Assembly Member AJ Pierce asked how much focus the new position would have on maritime. Because, she said, Ketchikan has diverse opportunities.

“We are versed in the arts, we are versed in many different industries,” she said. “I appreciate our environment, I appreciate the initiative that you both are trying to do, but it’s not just that industry.”

Grant said the position will continue to provide advice for all developing business ideas, in addition to maritime.

The assembly directed borough management to bring back an ordinance that would appropriate $4,800 to reopen the SBDC office in the White Cliff Building. The funds would not be spent until the local position has been filled.

Also Tuesday, the assembly talked more about smoking sheds at Ketchikan International Airport. Starting in October, state law prohibits smoking within 50 feet of a public facility, which means there would be no protected area at the airport where smokers can light up.

Previously, the assembly declined to spend money on smoking sheds. But, on Tuesday the assembly asked that the matter be brought back.

The next assembly meeting is Sept. 17.