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“While maintaining our traditions, we work to build strong communities for future generations.”

On February 3, Sheri Buretta, Chairman of Chugach Alaska Corporation (Chugach), welcomed community leaders to the 2017 Chugach Regional Summit. Buretta’s opening remarks set the tone for the day’s agenda. “We are all advocates for our communities,” Buretta said. “This summit provides a model of collaboration that can allow us to address the needs of our communities and explore new ways to develop the potential of our region.”

Clay Koplin, Mayor of Cordova, was the keynote speaker and his message further defined the summit’s objectives. “We need to think bigger than projects,” Koplin said. “We need to think community projects and even regional projects.” From hydroelectric ventures to educational endeavors, Koplin touched on a number of avenues that could bolster the economy in the Sound, and he concluded, “The opportunity is here.”

The first two panels, Food Security & Community Gardens and Mari-culture in the Chugach Region, identified natural resources that exist throughout South Central Alaska, primarily plant life and the marine environment. Panelist encouraged a renewed look at plants such as Devil’s Club, Yarrow and Stinkweed, which have been a source of traditional Native medicine. The presenters further identified kelp and oyster farms as a means of sustainability and possible year-round employment in the region.

Chugachmuit presented a panel on Community Water Supply. This discussion focused on the region’s utility infrastructure and the governmental resources that can assist in efforts to enhance and improve this vital resource. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium lent their knowledge and insight to the panel, and their representatives offered suggestions on how to acquire funding for these improvements.

The Enterprise Development panel explored potential investments and ways to increase employment. The panel encouraged local entrepreneurs to consult the Small Business Administration and the vast resources devoted to new businesses. Panelists also advocated the need for a well-thought out business plan before starting a new venture, and they identified a planned approach as a key to business success.

Rod Worl, CEO of Eyak Corporation, shared the activities that Eyak is pursuing in Cordova. Sheri Buretta touched on the recent Bering River Coal Field commitment and the 100-year plan that Chugach has adopted. Chugach CEO Gabriel Kompkoff expanded on this long-term strategy, identifying the current momentum that has placed Chugach on the path to $1 billion in revenue for 2017.

Toward the day’s end, regional and village leaders provided overviews of their organizations and individual communities. Each addressed the status of their lands and regional priorities.

Buretta thanked all of the participants for taking part in the discussion. As the summit concluded, all of the attendees shared their final thoughts and views. In this closing round of comments, Walter Meganack, an Elder from Port Graham, identified one of the most important reasons for gathering as a region: “The most basic resource we have is each other.”


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