Milk producer buys Tulare County cheese plant

Milk producer buys Tulare County cheese plant

Bay Area developer Tom Henderson works with immigrant investors, including those from China who seek to buy into U.S. businesses. Many are ready to put at least $500,000 to help create jobs in low-income urban areas or rural areas like Tulare County.

Henderson and partners in the dairy business have purchased the vacant Mozzarella Fresca cheese plant in Tipton in a deal that closed this month. The facility has been shut down since 2013.

Henderson’s company Crystal Garden plans to produce dairy products but not cheese, since that was part of the agreement with Lactalis America who owned the 51,000 square-foot building.

“We are looking to make Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk products mostly for export,” said Henderson, adding that he is, “very excited about the plan to restart the dairy operation and hire around 140 workers.”

“We should be in operation by next summer,” Henderson said, although some $30 million or more in improvements to the plant will be underway by the first of the year.

Henderson’s company plans to use around 40 loads of milk a day, similar in size but somewhat smaller than the Marques Cheese Plant’s milk supply in Hanford. He says the supply will be sourced from various Valley dairies.

Henderson says UHT milk is perfect for export since it has a shelf-life of 9 months without refrigeration.

“Many parts of the world don’t have refrigeration either at home or in transport and the product is great. You can't taste the difference between UHT and milk we have here.”

Helping to boost their business plan is that California milk quality is highly regarded around the world, he says.

Henderson is well-known in the Bay Area for his work with the federal EB-5 program that offers foreign investors a chance to get a visa and legal residency, a green card for both themselves and their children who can then attend college in return for capital invested in the U.S.

All jobs are for US residents. He once sold newspapers for the Oakland Tribune as a kid and now owns the Oakland Tribune building that houses a call center that employs 250, many low-income residents of Oakland.

The Post News Group recently reported, “While Mayor Libby Schaaf boasted about Oakland’s declining unemployment rate during her State of the City address on Wednesday night, it’s businesses like Henderson’s call center that have helped Oakland residents find hope when jobs are still scarce.”

One Bay Area business paper used the headline, “Tom Henderson’s Chinese Empire” to describe how he has raised $100 million in a year from foreign investors and with plans to do the same each year for five years. In the bargain he must create thousands of jobs to comply with federal regulations

Besides the call center Henderson’s companies includes a food company, a frozen fish exporter and an acute-care nursing facility among others.

Highway 99 location

Henderson says investors in the Tipton project are from China, Vietnam, Singapore and South America. Although they are investors they have no day-to-day hand in the operation.

Henderson says he spent three years looking for the right location for a plant adding that he likes this location on Hwy 99 equidistant from the posts of LA and Oakland to ship out of.

Other EB-5 programs have attracted capital to projects in the Valley including a group that built the Walmart shopping center in Delano.

Fresno broker with Newmark Grubb- Pearson Commercial Nick Audino handled the transaction.



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