EL CENTRO – The Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously during Tuesday’s regular board meeting to advance a $491,890 loan to MBC USA, dba Silverdale Cheese, a co-pack cut and wrap facility soon to open in El Centro.
On November 1, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved a loan application submitted by MBC, USA Silverdale Cheese under the Agricultural Benefit Loan Program with certain assumptions and conditions. Among the assumptions was that the County’s loan would be funded concurrently with bank financing which Silverdale had applied.
Since that time, the County was advised by President of MBC, USA Sandra Tung that Community Valley Bank (CVB) changed the type of loan they had originally applied for therefore delaying its finalization. As a result, Tung requested the County accelerate its funding to allow them to commence operations prior to closing of the bank loan.
“If I wait for the SBA loan approval with the bank (CVB) which could be in February, there will be no project at that time, we will be gone,” said Tung. “I cannot financially support this project for another three or four months. We have people from all over the country looking for our product however we cannot move forward without the County’s assistance.”
After an hour of discussions, the board agreed to move forward with the loan advancement contingent upon Silverdale Cheese receiving a loan guarantee from the Small Business Administration. In addition, the County requested the equipment currently owned by Silverdale serve as collateral for the loan, to which Tung agreed.
“I’m satisfied with everything I have heard,” said Raymond Castillo, District 5 Supervisor. “We have been going at this for months now and it’s about time to get the cheese plant in operation.”
The board also requested all permits be in place except for the milk and dairy which cannot be issued until all equipment is in place and tested.
“Let’s get this thing in production, get some money, get the loan and hire some people,” said Michael Kelley, Chairman of the Board. “Let’s get it done.”
The project is the first step in a long-term plan that includes setting up a liquid milk processing plant to produce value-added products from local milk, opening a visitors’ center to promote agri-tourism and Imperial County commodities, and reopening a dairy as a second local milk source.
The loan amount will be used to assist with purchasing needed equipment and working capital for new employee training and initial salaries. The request does not include compensation for the project leaders.
According to Tung, the opening of the facility will eventually add a total of 58 new direct ag jobs; 25 initial jobs, 8 jobs for expansion/adding a new line, and 25 jobs for adding an additional work shift with the ability to create more jobs with additional phases of the long-term plan.
Silverdale Cheese, who plans to revive the dairy industry in Imperial Valley, is expected to re-open the old Imperial Valley Cheese facility in the next six weeks.