Sewan Craig holds the plaque for most innovative business award for her mariculture operation Simpson Bay Oyster Company on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

The Cordova Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Cordova Business Gala and awards ceremony last weekend — and in addition to serving as the primary fundraiser for the chamber this year, leaders announced a new partnership aimed at supporting the local tourism industry.  

Cordova Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Renfeldt announced at the inaugural gala on Nov. 18 the launch of the Impact Studio tourism partnership between the chamber and Mondy Jamshidi Kent — a consultant and professor of travel industry management at the University of Hawai’i.  

Jamshidi Kent described Impact Studio as a program that “…uplifts small business to support regenerative tourism activities.” The program will facilitate information exchange between business owners and practitioners across the Pacific Ocean with the goal of encouraging regenerative tourism.

Jamshidi Kent said that the partnership is a natural fit.  

“It’s no surprise that we are connected through these waters that we live, play and make our business though,” she said.  

Participants in the Impact Studio will travel between Cordova and Hawai’i in 2024. Alaska Airlines will provide travel support for the exchange.  


Jamshidi Kent said that she views regenerative tourism as taking sustainability one step further.  

“If we think of sustainability as an equal sign that maintains the status quo, regenerative can be a plus sign that has a net positive outcome,” she said.  

She provided a concrete example of farm tours and voluntourism as a regenerative activity, saying “it’s able to not only create a food basket for the community but also preserves a way of life. In addition, visitors get to sample local foods.”  

Jamshidi Kent says that she sees potential similarities between a farm tour in Hawai’i and a mariculture tour experience in Alaska. 

“Regenerative means leaving a place better than you found it,” she said. She explained that regenerative activities are those that benefit the cultural and environmental preservation of a place.  

The Blue Economy Social was hosted at the Pioneer Igloo prior to the gala where attendees were able to enjoy a cocktail hour and seafood tasting. Cocktails were mixed by Edible Alaska, a sponsor of the event, and made with hyper-local ingredients including elderflower and highbush cranberry. Kelp pickle and salmon chowder was provided by Tommy Sheridan and accompanied by kelp sourdough.  

Online tickets sold out for the primary event, which was hosted inside the Cordova Center on Saturday night. The evening included a presentation of awards to local businesses, dinner, and live auction. Childcare for the event was provided by Girl Scout troop #148.  

During the awards presentation, Renfeldt spoke to the importance of small businesses in Cordova and highlighted the efforts of the chamber to focus on supporting innovation, community outreach, and resiliency.  

“Innovation can be another one of those buzzwords,” she said. “But when you live in a town where everything is harder, you have to make things work and we want to celebrate that and award businesses and individuals that think that way.” 


Chamber Champion – The Net Loft  

Honorable mention – Little Cordova Bakery  

Small Business Excellence – Laura’s Liquor and Gifts  

Honorable mention – Dutch Marine Industries and Copper River Brewing  

Large Business Excellence – Cordova Telecom Cooperative  

Honorable mention – Cordova Electric Cooperative  

Community Outreach – Prince William Sound Science Center  

Honorable mention – ACE Hardware  

Business Innovation – Simpson Bay Oyster Company  

Honorable mention – Seaman’s Hardware and Seawoman’s Gifts  

President’s Award – Alaska Airlines  

This story originally ran in our Nov. 24, 2023 issue of The Cordova Times.