Noyo Harbor District in partnership with West Business Development Center (West Center) is thrilled to announce the award of a $3.2 million grant to support the revitalization of Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg. In February 2023, the West Center team worked in collaboration with Anna Neumann, Noyo Harbor District Harbormaster, on a grant submission in response to a Solicitation for Proposals for a CERF Implementation Pilot Program. Mary Anne Petrillo, West Center’s CEO, is excited at the opportunities the grant will afford: “This is precisely the type of funding we’ve been working hard to obtain so that our work in the economic development sphere continues to improve the county’s economic outcomes. This Community Economic Resilience Funding is a game changer for the county and the local economy. It demonstrates that our county has a significant role to play in the California Blue Economy.”
For more than 72 years, Mendocino County’s Noyo Harbor, an all-weather port receiving the most traffic of all ports between Bodega Bay and Humboldt Bay, has played a central role in the region’s commercial and recreational fishing industry. Consistently ranked in the top 10 commercial ports in California in terms of ex-vessel value of commercial fish landings, the harbor consistently provides important healthy food sources, enhanced careers, economic community benefits, and serves as an enduring part of the area’s cultural heritage. In 2019, the Noyo Harbor District adopted a Community Sustainability Plan, which created a long-term, strategic roadmap to help identify key priorities and allocate resources to support commercial fishing and broader harbor-related interests. In response to the Solicitation for Proposals, the District and West Center developed the Noyo Harbor Revitalization Project which has three goals.
The first goal is to purchase and install a new energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable ice house (ice-making facility) for Noyo Harbor, a critical piece of infrastructure. The ice house will serve as the catalyst for Mendocino County’s new blue economy. This project will specifically benefit 80 commercial fishing vessels which are currently located in Noyo Harbor. These fishing vessels represent over 240 vessel-based jobs and another 60 land-based jobs. Anna Neumann anticipates positive changes for the harbor area: “With the support of this grant, over a two-year period, we expect to increase the current fleet roster by 10%, which will in turn increase the number of deckhands and crew working for living wages. These funds will enable the harbor to return to being a viable economic force, not just for Fort Bragg, but for the entire county.” The new ice house building will consist of a pre-assembled ice plant housed in three 40-foot containers powered by solar and energy from the local energy aggregator. The structure is relatively portable and can be relocated if required by the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise. The provisions of the grant mean that Ms. Neumann has an aggressive schedule for the ice house project, which is projected to be complete by early 2025.
The second goal of the Revitalization Project is to create and sustain an innovative entrepreneurial marine-based business training program that will provide small business owners and emerging entrepreneurs with skill development and opportunities for revenue generation, peer-to-peer learning, and community partnerships to grow and expand their businesses. As Ms. Petrillo notes, “Every fishing vessel in Noyo Harbor is a unique small business. Training and learning experiences must be flexible, varied, and targeted to the needs of the moment. We are ready to develop a training program that will help these particular businesses expand their skills and develop new markets.”
The third prong of the project is the Community Fish Market Incubator that will complement off-the-boat fish sales and provide additional sales outlets for the fishing fleet. The market is designed to break down the barriers between the fishing fleet and the community when it comes to buying fish off a boat and will act as an incubator for the fleet to test what they have learned during the training program and practice customer acquisition techniques. West Center in partnership with Noyo Harbor District will develop the community fish market and execute a marketing and branding plan to secure vendors each month as well as a sponsorship plan to support the continuation of the community fish market after the two-year pilot funding expires.
Anna Neumann is ready to roll out the project. “We have a timeline and with the funding lined up, we are ready to get to work. This revitalization project ties in with the Noyo Ocean Collective vision to make the Mendocino Coast a world class marine center that supports regenerative industries, vibrant fishery, and marine research. The completion of this project will enrich the lives of locals, the coastal experience of visitors, and bolster the local economy. I’m very grateful our project was awarded these vital funds.”