Money hunt delays Vale plant

By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

VALE – The company looking to bring a new mushroom growing facility to Vale is experiencing difficulties financing the new plant.

Farmers Fresh Mushrooms, a company based in British Columbia, said the company was pursuing several options, including possibly self-financing a new plant outside of Vale.

“We are having some difficulties, but are still working on finding financing,” said Andrew Truong, program manager for the corporation. “We are resubmitting some information and also looking at possibly financing the new plant from banks in Canada. The problem with that is banks in Canada don’t like financing projects in the U.S.”

While the hunt for funding continues, Truong said the engineering of the Vale plant is continuing on schedule.

“We are committed to the plant,” he said.

Farmers Fresh took interest in Vale in November 2016 and last August bought 117 acres near the intersection of Frontier Lane and Lagoon Drive northeast of Vale. County records showed the company paid $1 million for the land, with $300,000 down.

At the time, Tan Troung said the firm wanted to be in production by the end of 2018, employing 200 people with an investment of between $15 million and $20 million. He hoped construction would start by January.

Truong said Farmers Fresh has considered financing the new plant itself. That would mean building the factory and doing the hiring in phases.

Once the company arranges financing, the state is ready to assist, according to Scott Fairley, regional development officer for Business Oregon.

Fairley said the state agency has discussed assistance programs available with both the city of Vale and Farmers Fresh. This includes state financing for water and sewer lines to the new plant and possibly paying for the training of new employees including the state picking up the tab for sending employees to Farmers Fresh plant in Canada for training.

“We are there to assist when questions come about concerning infrastructure,” Fairley said. “Those programs are run through the city, but we cannot start that process until the land is actually annexed by the city.”

Fairley said he is not concerned with Farmers Fresh time frame.

“I really did not expect to hear anything about this project until spring,” Fairley said. “Project of this size always seem to take longer than you thought.”

Former Vale city manager Lynn Findley continues to take an interest in the Farmers Fresh project.

“Farmers Fresh is still working on a number of different financial packages,” said Findley. “They have changed lenders as the previous lender wanted the company to change to U.S. dollars. Nothing they have faced so far is insurmountable.”

“Farmers Fresh has hired a local attorney to manage the property and have signed a short-term lease to have someone farm the ground while plans are being made go forward with the project,” Findley said.

Have a news tip? Contact John L. Braese at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.