Mathews County is exploring the possibility of developing an aquaculture business park and would like to find out what residents think of the idea.
A public meeting to discuss the issues and gather information will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Mathews Active Lifestyle Center.
The meeting is the first step in applying for a community development block grant and a community improvement grant to help fund a possible future project. The grant funding process is being handled by the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission under contract from the county.
An aquaculture business park and incubator could provide the community new opportunities for economic development and employment, said Lewis Lawrence of MPPDC. It would offer both in-water operations and on-land facilities for growing oysters.
Under such a plan, the county could lease subaqueous lands, divide those lands into five-acre parcels, and assign the parcels to people interested in using them for oyster aquaculture. Those using the parcels would ideally be watermen, entrepreneurs, college students or others interested in developing skills and techniques in shellfish aquaculture, said a press release from Lawrence.
The on-land component could include such physical infrastructure as a dock, electricity, parking, a boat launch, fuel, a maintenance area, cold storage, water, sewer and public moorage, said the release.
In addition, there could be a facility where oysters could be sorted, graded, and processed, along with space where advisors could provide marketing, accounting and crop insurance assistance. Aquaculturists could also receive help with developing an aquaculture business plan, establishing a co-op, and other business services.
Lawrence said the county is currently focusing on the East River Boat Yard as the possible location for the shore side of the project. Ideally, the marine business park itself would be within two to three miles of that site, he said.