Shockley named 2016 MCE’s Palmer Gillis Entrepreneur of the Year

Special to Dorchester Banner/MCE George Koste, executive director of MCE, Johnny Shockley, Palmer Gillis, founder and CEO of Gillis Gilkerson.

Special to Dorchester Banner/MCE
George Koste, executive director of MCE, Johnny Shockley, Palmer Gillis, founder and CEO of Gillis Gilkerson.

SALISBURY — Johnny Shockley, a third generation waterman born and raised on Hoopers Island, and co-founder of Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company, was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Maryland Capital Enterprises at a dinner celebration at Salisbury University.
More than 20 entrepreneurs from five Lower and Upper Shore counties (Dorchester, Talbot, Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico) were nominated for the prestigious award, and three made it to the final round: Johnny Shockley, Bob Hammond of Atlantic Physical Therapy on Delmarva, and Susan Kuhn Purnell of Kuhn’s Jewelers in Salisbury.

This is the fifth year MCE has presented this award and each year the list of great nominees keeps growing. MCE is all about promoting entrepreneurship and supporting local small business men and women.

This year’s winner, Johnny Shockley, is a third generation waterman born and raised on Hoopers Island. After graduating high school, he became a fulltime waterman building his first work boat, the Islander. After harvesting blue crabs, oysters, and fish on the Chesapeake Bay for several years, he became intrigued with the opportunities arising around oyster aquaculture. In 2010 Johnny and co-owner Ricky Fitzhugh created Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company in hopes of establishing a new industry around sustainable aquaculture in the State of Maryland.

He developed a full line of oyster aquaculture equipment, customized to meet the needs of a new industry. He currently captains the Chesapeake Gold, harvesting fresh Chesapeake Gold and Holy Grail Oysters.

The success in the design and manufacturing of proven oyster growing equipment catapulted the company into the role of a national leader in the oyster aquaculture industry.

HIOAC works tirelessly to successfully develop relationships across the industry with local and state leaders in an effort to develop new policies that will soon establish dynamic programs within the public fishery that will eventually create complete sustainability within Maryland’s public oyster fishery.

HIOAC continues to work to educate local watermen on the possibilities of creating economic stability with a year round aquaculture business while continuing their traditional ways of life.

Johnny is a member of Maryland Aquaculture Coordinating Council, a state representative for East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, a member of Pacific Shellfish Growers Association, a partner with the National Aquarium in Baltimore to create the regions first sustainable fisheries program, and a corporate partner with Phillips Wharf Environmental Center to develop curriculum to educate future watermen and youth on the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay and prepare them to be stewards of a sustainable commercial fishery.

He will take home a check for $2,000 as part of the award, and the two semi-finalists each earned $500.

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