Zita Cobb is Founder and CEO of the Shorefast Foundation, a registered charity that aims to help build economic and cultural resilience for Fogo Island, Newfoundland, one of Canada’s oldest settlements.
After graduating high school on Fogo Island, Ms. Cobb left to study business at Carleton University in Ottawa and built a successful career in high-tech. She is best known for her work at JDS Fitel, and subsequently JDS Uniphase.
She helped turn JDS Uniphase, a fibre optics powerhouse, into a leading technology innovator. Following her retirement as Vice President of Strategy, Ms. Cobb returned to Fogo Island. Growing up there, she had developed a deep belief in the inherent value of place. She also had a profound respect for the human ways of knowing that emerge from respectful relationships with nature, culture and community.
Those views help to drive Shorefast, which believes in a world where all business is community business. Shorefast created the artist-in-residence program Fogo Island Arts, and three innovative social businesses: Fogo Island Inn, the Woodshop on Fogo Island and Fogo Island Fish. Operating surpluses are returned to Shorefast for reinvestment in community development work.
Fogo Island is a singular rural community. Ms. Cobb and two of her brothers chose the word “shorefast” for the charitable foundation, as it describes the line and mooring used to attach a traditional cod trap to the shore. Shorefast symbolizes Fogo Island’s cod fishing heritage, and a belief in the importance of holding on to community and culture.
In 2016, Ms. Cobb was named a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her contributions as a social entrepreneur, and Shorefast’s model. As the Order of Canada award stated, Ms. Cobb’s vision for place-based economic and social development provides an example for other rural communities seeking renewal.