By Will Lindsey, Environmental Defense Fund
Allied Concrete Company, a 68-year-old firm based in Charlottesville, Va., is creating new business opportunities by partnering with conservation groups to deploy miles of new oyster reefs along the Gulf Coast. These reefs are composed of an innovative concrete product and create both a restored ecosystem habitat as well as a new business opportunity for Allied Concrete.
In 2011, the 100-1000 Coalition began implementing a project to build 100 miles of oyster reefs in Alabama, which would then support more than 1,000 acres of marshland. Coalition member organizations include Mobile Baykeeper, The Nature Conservancy, The Alabama Coastal Foundation, Weeks Bay Foundation, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Ocean Foundation, Alabama Wildlife Foundation and Coastal Conservation Association.
A displaced Louisianan, Allied Concrete company president Gus Lorber has a passion for saving the Gulf. “I grew up in Louisiana and worked, played and fished in the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast area my entire life,” said Lorber. “I have seen firsthand the degradation of the coastal wetlands in that area my entire life.”
Founded in 1945, Allied traditionally made concrete blocks, but the company has since diversified its product range in response to ever-changing markets and customer needs. Notably, in 2007, Allied joined forces with The Nature Conservancy and others to develop a solution to the declining oyster populations in coastal regions. The result of this partnership was the Oyster Castle, which is a concrete unit by Allied specially designed to build oyster reefs. The unit is made of a “certified blend of proprietary material conducive to attracting and fostering oyster settlement, attachment, and growth.”
Significantly, the Oyster Castle has received a gold Cradle to Cradle certification for its environmentally-friendly design. With Gulf Coast restoration projects likely to ramp up in response to potential monies flowing as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, Allied’s business is expected to increase. “I firmly believe that, as the RESTORE Act monies become available, the monies should be spent on creating economies in the ‘home’ states, and we are prepared to license local manufacturers to make our units to accomplish this goal,” says Lorber.
Allied is proud to be making a product that has a positive impact in the Gulf Coast. “Besides being my passion, all of my employees love what we are doing with Oyster Castles,” said Lorber. “They feel good about this company for helping the environment, they feel good about their part in making a product that plays a part in this, and they always volunteer for whatever hair-brained scheme I come up with to make products that do good things.”
In addition to providing habitat, oyster reef restoration projects provide numerous environmental benefits including water filtration, habitat for other marine life, storm surge attenuation and erosion control.