Economic development is on the minds of us all, as our nation all the way down to our cities, look for economic recovery. Revitalizing the city of Southport is becoming a common mantra for those who love our maritime city, here on the coast of North Carolina. The Southport Maritime Museum has never seen such terrific support, as it holds the hope of improving our local economy. How about not only celebrating our past maritime economy, but creating a sustainable maritime future?
The City of Southport has closed its wastewater treatment plant (WTP), located at 901 W. West Street. A proposal is before the Board of Aldermen, which is called Southport’s SMART (Sustainable Mariculture And Renewable Technologies) Enterprise. The proposal is to retool the WTP toward mariculture and renewable energy, as a green business incubator and research park. The relatively hidden plant can be transformed by utilizing the tanks and pumps for aquaculture. Local fish, such as flounder or black sea bass, could be cultured to restock our natural waters or for local, organic dining. Algae, which naturally clean the water, can also be cultured. Algae biomass can be used for bioproduct research, which may include biofuels, bioplastic, animal feed, nutraceuticals, etc.
What makes this site so unique, other than the infrastructure which can be retooled, and saltwater access, and mariculture potential that can actually put the water back into the waterway cleaner than it receives it? It already has a beautiful wind turbine conducting research onsite and is located in a natural wind corridor. Alganomics already has a stimulus fund grant to install solar panels to their photobioreactors, which can be located onsite. Alganomics is also currently working on a Biofuels Center of NC grant, researching algae for biofuels. It is a perfect storm of economic potential in clean technologies!
What’s in it for the City of Southport?
• Maintains ownership of valuable property for future generations
• No financial obligations for the City
• Local job creation and workforce development
• Local food and energy production, decentralization of resources
• Economic development in a growing clean tech sector
• Environmental stewardship
• Reuse/recycle infrastructure and equipment onsite
• Promotion of Southport’s maritime heritage in the seafood industry
• High interest topic for tourism
• Educational opportunity for K-12 and internships with regional colleges & universities
• Model for public-private collaborations
• Potential for significant revenue source through long-term lease agreement and renewable energy tax credit return
• Grant opportunities for site improvements
• High profile, positive promotion for the City and State
The North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) is asking member cities and towns to participate in their Green Challenge or to strive for higher certification in the program. The NCLM Green Challenge recognizes the commitment of cities and towns to preserve natural resources and the many innovative and exciting projects underway to save energy, resources and money. This win-win SMART Enterprise could garner an advanced certification for the City of Southport! For more information, please visit http://www.nclm.org/programs-services/Pages/Green-Challenge.aspx .
The current request is for the Southport Board of Aldermen to allow a portion of the property to be utilized for the period of one year, while they review a long-term waterfront development plan. A longer term commitment by the City would create more opportunity for successes to be developed. Alganomics, LLC is a local entrepreneurial, sustainable business founded by Dr. Kimberly Jones, with her husband Scott Jones, as the Project Manager. Two items make this proposal a bit time sensitive. There is potential to submit a NC Green Business Fund grant proposal for the Enterprise, but the due date is March 30th. Alganomics must also begin its ARRA (stimulus fund) grant immediately. As Alganomics is outgrowing its current location at the Oak Island Biological Treatment and Reuse Water Facility, it would like to begin the solar panel installation and not create the need to move it immediately. For more information on Alganomics, please visit http://algaeresource.com/ .
Can you imagine local art students painting the concrete tanks with a maritime mural, high school and community college students participating in internships, ecotourism flourishing, state and national recognitions, job creation, educational workshops and so much more, all in one project? Please help support this project to the City of Southport Board of Aldermen, by contacting them or coming to the next meeting on March 10th (http://www.cityofsouthport.com/cityofficials.htm).