A Thomson-based aquaculture company is in the final site selection stages for a regional catfish-processing facility which -- at full capacity -- would employ 165 people and process up to 50,000 pounds daily.
"We are still looking at several sites in the east Georgia area," said Pearl Mulherin of Lithonia, Ga., president of Southern Classic Aquaculture. Thomson restaurant owner Pat Dye is vice president, she said.
"We're working to develop the industry," said Ms. Mulherin, who also serves as vice president of Georgia's Aquaculture Commission, a state panel working to expand freshwater farming of crawfish, shrimp and fish.
The plant will be in east Georgia due to the proliferation of catfish farming operations near Augusta, especially in Jenkins, Jefferson, Tatnall and Emanuel counties.
"We will definitely choose a site later this year," she said. The project has been in the planning stages three years.
Once a site is chosen, construction will take at least six months, due to the need for wiring, refrigeration and wastewater treatment systems.
"It would be operational as soon as the market is ready," she said.
It will take about 3,000 acres of active catfish farms to support a major processing plant, she said.
About 50 fish farmers are scheduled to attend a "catfish summit" April 24 in Jefferson County, where aquaculture experts from as far away as Kentucky will discuss agricultural merits and economic benefits of catfish farming.