VALE, Ore. (AP) — Officials of Farmers Fresh Mushrooms were not looking to expand beyond Canada, but as the saying goes, one thing led to another, and now they are looking to start up a farm outside of Vale, projecting employment of around 200 people.
Andrew Truong, company project manager, confirmed that property just north of Vale has been purchased and officials are now working to finalize their plans, including going through the permit process and finalizing their financing package, which would include incentives provided by the State of Oregon.
Company representatives, including president and CEO Tan Truong, spent Friday in Vale holding conversations with a variety of state agencies, county and city officials, and utility representatives to discuss their proposed mushroom farm.
Andrew Truong said the company would be employing people in several positions, from pickers and warehouse workers to mid-management.
According to what Farmers Fresh Mushrooms presented to Oregon officials, wages will be at the top of the agricultural wage scale. To be eligible for the enterprise zone, at a minimum, the company must offer wages that are 130 percent of family wages in Malheur County, said Greg Smith, director, Malheur County Economic Development.
However, as is often the case, there will be a training wage for new employees, Smith said.
“They are the real deal,” Smith said.
“We didn’t know anything about Vale,” Andrew Truong said, when Smith, came knocking at the company’s door located in British Columbia.
Vale City Manager Lynn Findley said a person from Sysco Foods of Idaho mentioned to him that there was a company in Canada that might be interested in moving south and Findley passed that information onto Smith, who proceeded to contact Farmers Fresh.
“We were looking to expand in Canada,” Truong said, which it is doing, however, the company is now looking to expand to Vale, as well.
Tan Truong, an immigrant to Canada from Vietnam, said the company is projecting to start up its Vale operation in fall of 2019.
He visited Vale in 1999, on a visit to the now-defunct Oregon Trail Mushrooms. At the time, however, he was just operating a small farm himself, having just started his operation in 1995.
Oregon Trail Mushrooms has been closed for about 10 years, and the property was looked at, but Farmers Fresh officials concluded that was not going to work for them, Truong said.
They like Vale and the support the community is giving the company, but it is the incentives that will be important to them as they establish an operation in the United States, Andrew Truong said.
Smith said those incentives include being located within the county enterprise zone, which provides tax abatement, as well as likely support from the Special Public Works Fund for transportation issues and Strategic Works Funds. Those would be tied to creating jobs in Malheur County, Smith said.
Because of the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Canadian dollar, Farm Fresh Mushrooms will be making less money from its mushrooms in coming to the U.S. Andrew Truong said.
However, he added, moving to a Vale location will help the company solidify its established market in the Northwest.
The company currently produces more than 40 kinds of mushrooms and mushroom products, the company website, says.
While the company is working to finalize the details of its financing packages and obtaining permits, president Tan Truong said he does not foresee any roadblocks.