Qualified shellfish growers in all North Carolina coastal counties now can apply for loans of up to $50,000 for business-related expenses such as payroll or equipment.
With more than 1.4 million acres of coastal waters biologically and physically suited for shellfish growing, the new Shellfish Growers Loan Program announced Wednesday was designed to foster the state’s shellfish aquaculture industry.
Thread Capital, a subsidiary of the North Carolina Rural Center, and the Beaufort-based Array Community Development Corp., which specializes in innovative programs and strategies that support individuals, small businesses and organizations, worked with the North Carolina Coastal Federation to create the program. The federation publishes Coastal Review.
“We are excited to be able to offer this new loan product specifically to shellfish growers in North Carolina,” Thread Capital Executive Director Jonathan Brereton said in a statement. “The economic and environmental impact of this program will be invaluable and ensure that the shellfish industry will continue to grow and thrive in North Carolina, and we are grateful for all the partners involved in making this program a reality.”
The working capital and/or equipment loans of up to $50,000 are available to new and existing shellfish growers who already have a lease from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality as well as United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program coverage. Terms will be from 12 to 60 months, depending on the use of loan funds.
“Communities thrive when small businesses are able to access resources and supportive services. Locally driven solutions combined with strong community partnerships often spark sustainable job growth and we are honored to participate in this initiative to assist shellfish growers,” Lavonda Daniels, vice president of Array Community Development Corp. said in a statement.
Array Community Development Corp. notes on its website that they “have a specific focus on small businesses that are owned by people of color, women, low-income individuals, and rural-based individuals.”
Establishing a loan program was a recommendation in the “North Carolina Strategic Plan For Shellfish Mariculture: A Vision To 2030,” a larger strategy that aims to grow the industry to $100 million in market value and create 1,000 new jobs by 2030.
Funds for this program were earmarked in the state budget passed in November 2021.
The federation was instrumental in getting the project off the ground with an eye on revitalization for the region, economic development, and environmental protection, officials said.
Federation Assistant Director of Policy Ana Zivanovic-Nenadovic said that this is an important step in growing the shellfish farming industry in the state. She represented the federation as a chairperson on the advisory committee that developed the strategic plan.
“The program will allow the growers to reach their full potential which in turn will strengthen the coastal economy. By scaling up their businesses and putting more oysters in the water the growers will add to the Federation’s overall efforts of enhancing and preserving the quality of coastal waters and its natural habitat,” she said.