County Approves Contract to Open Cheese Plant

Sandra Tung, president of Silverdale Cheese/MBC USA, speaks to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

EL CENTRO – The Imperial County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an Agricultural Benefit Program loan to Silverdale Cheese/MBC USA, Inc. during Tuesday’s regular board meeting. Silverdale Cheese reportedly has plans to revive the dairy industry in Imperial Valley and re-open the old Imperial Valley Cheese location.

The $491,890 loan will be utilized to reopen the former Gossner Cheese Plant as a cheese cut-and-wrap facility.

“I am very happy and totally overwhelmed,” said a tearful Sandra Tung, president of Silverdale Cheese. “We have been working on this project for a very long time. Words cannot express my gratitude. We have had a lot of official support and from the agencies in the Valley.”

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.

“We already have half of the equipment,” said Tung. “All we were waiting for was the loan, and now we have it, so we can move forward quickly and hopefully open within 60 days.”

In regards to step one of the project’s long-term goals, that of opening the cheese co-packing facility, this project expects to 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.
“I fully support this project,” said Michael Kelley, District 3 supervisor. “It will create employment and bring in tax revenue. I see nothing negative about this. The county’s main concern is to create jobs. This is an opportunity and I am sure that we will get a full reimbursement of our investment.”

District 5 Supervisor Ray Castillo commended Sandra Tung and said numerous jobs had been lost when the old cheese plant closed down.

“I am looking forward to this project and glad to see that it’s already here,” said Castillo. “We are definitely putting our money to use.”

“We want to hire those who lost their jobs when the old cheese plant closed down and plan to give them shares after we begin repaying the County, maybe in three years,” said Tung.
The application was reviewed by an agricultural subcommittee who recommended support of the project.

A quorum of the full Agricultural Benefit Advisory Committee met on September 26 to review the application and subcommittee report, and to discuss the project with Silverdale officials. The committee voted unanimously to recommend the Board of Supervisors approve the request loan amount and inclusion of a forgivable provision of up to 20% total, if ag job goals are met and sustained as follows: 10% forgivable for 25 jobs, and an additional 10% forgivable if 58 jobs are created.