In the community, Local government

Local firm aims to reopen Vale’s shuttered mushroom plant

VALE – A local company is proposing to reopen the Oregon Trail Mushroom facility to create leather products from mushrooms and generate more than 70 jobs.

The Malheur County Court signed a letter of support for the venture during its regular meeting, Wednesday, April 10.

Tim Stephenson, the chief executive officer of Vale Textiles, said after the court session that 72 jobs at the facility would be “a minimum,” to start.

Stephenson said Vale Textiles is negotiating to buy the facility from the owner, Dr. Amandeep Bhalla, of Redondo Beach, Calif.

The 165,000-square-foot building sits on about 29 acres.

“We are still assessing everything. We still have a couple of hurdles,” he said.

Chief among those challenges is finding funding to get the project going, he said.

“In this part of the state we just don’t have funding available like they do on the other side of the mountains,” he said.

Stephenson said he’s talked to Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, and initiated conversations with the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board about financing. He said talks with state and local officials have been “promising.”
“Vale Textiles is trying to do all of our due diligence to make sure we don’t get into a situation we are not prepared for,” said Stephenson.

Stephenson said another problem is the Oregon Trail Mushroom building which has sat vacant for nearly 16 years.

He said to get the facility “back up and running,” will cost “in excess of $5 million.”

According to the letter of support from the county, the Vale Textiles’ operation will be focused on “producing mycelium leather at the facility which will serve the non-plastic textiles market.”

“The alternative leather market is a fast-growing industry with voracious demand. Vale Textiles will initially provide alternative leather to the clothing, furniture and wall paper markets,” the letter said.

Stephenson said Vale Textiles will grow its own mushrooms at the facility.

“We are not necessarily interested in the mushroom part, but the dense mass that is intertwined,” he said.

He said the once the facility is in operation the process will be “like running a greenhouse except mushrooms don’t need light.”

Stephenson grew up in Adrian and lives there part-time. His other home is in Portland. For the past 30 years he worked in the mortgage banking industry.

He said when the mushroom plant was put up for sale last fall, he decided to look closely.

“The plant itself has been on my radar well over 10 years to strive and buy it,” he said.

Stephenson said Vale Textiles is “just trying to get something where we can get jobs back into the county.”
“I want to make sure we are a good neighbor and everyone is comfortable. But this isn’t a Portland company. I’m from here. I only work there. This is a way to contribute back to the community,” he said.

Jim Mendiola, Malheur County commissioner, said the proposal is good for the county.

“If it puts 72 people to work in Vale I’m all for it,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

Previous coverage:

Oregon Trail Mushroom plant goes on the auction block – again

Long, winding road for Malheur County mushroom plant takes new turn

More than 15 years after it closed, Oregon Trail Mushroom facility is up for sale

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