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Shrimp plant looks for investors

US - A plan some believe could save South Carolina's sinking shrimping industry may be in trouble.

Financing for an in-state processing plant fell apart in recent weeks, at least temporarily derailing a private company's efforts to capitalize on keeping the state's few remaining shrimpers in their boats.

With just two months remaining before Kingstree-based South Carolina Shrimp Processing & Seafood Co. planned to break ground on the $6.8 million project in Williamsburg County, the company couldn't secure a bank loan to fund about 80 percent of it, said CEO Richard DeMarco.

The proposed 50,000-square-foot plant would clean, process and package shrimp for commercial resale. It would stand alongside a 12,000-square-foot shrimp-byproduct facility that would transform discarded shell material into chitosan, which has commercial, agricultural and biomedical uses.

Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture backed the loan as part of its Rural Development initiative to create jobs and stimulate rural economies, the handful of banks the company approached didn't bite.

"That was a heartbreaker," DeMarco said. "We know we're going to make it, but the banks balked. They did not want to take a chance."

The company is now scrambling to solicit at least $4 million from investors for the plant it had planned to have operational by August 2007.

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