Vida-Blend, a company that manufactures premixed vitamin blends sold to food making companies, has plans to build a new $1.4 million, 14,000-square-foot plant in Montgomery County's Florida Business Park Extension — a plan the County Legislature is set to support with a $500,000 loan and an application for a $250,000 grant.
Tuesday night, the legislature's Economic Development/Planning Committee supported resolutions to support Vida-Blend's application for the $500,000 loan from the Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency, which administers the county's revolving loan fund. The MCIDA approved the loan in December, which is to be paid back over 120 monthly installments with an interest rate of 5.25 percent.
To secure the loan, Vida-Blend has committed to creating at least 18 jobs over the next three years.
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said Vida-Blend is also applying for a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement, which will have similar job-creation requirements. Rose said if the premix vitamin blend maker doesn't create the required jobs, the county will be able to claw back the funding.
"The job-creation projection is a pretty conservative number based on their potential growth. There are always clawbacks in all of our MCIDA applications. Usually we monitor the loans, which is why we ask them to be very conservative with their job-creation totals," Rose said. "We could call in the [loan] at any time if they don't create them. We'll have [first position] mortgage on the property."
Vida-Blend was created by Mexican-immigrant Freddie Luna in 2013. Luna, who studied chemistry in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen in 2000, had worked for years for a Capital Region vitamin fortification company before striking out on his own. After building slowly, the company in 2016 obtained the "Food Safety System certification 22000," which is a globally recognized safety standard that helped the company gain new customers faster because most companies trust the certification.
Sarah Luna, daughter of the company's founder, works in Vida-Blend's quality-control department and helps administer its social media accounts. She said Vida-Blend, which currently has approximately 15 employees, will have no trouble meeting the job-creation requirements of the MCIDA.
"I don't think we'll stop with just 18 employees. I think we'll have a ton more work to be done once we move into the new building," she said.
Freddie Luna has stated that part of the mission of Vida-Blend is to help provide nutritional fortification to foods to help malnourished people around the world, something he considers an important part of his Christian faith.
Sarah Luna said Vida-Blend hopes to get the new plant, which will be in the Florida Business Park Extension near the new Dollar General building, sometime in the spring. She said Vida-Blend's strategy in recent years has been to target mid-sized companies and niche food producers as customers for the company's premix blends, but the expansion should enable them to take on larger contracts from bigger food makers.
"The building will be custom to our business, which is preblending and mixing, so once we get the bigger capacity we'll be able to do even more business. This is the first step of many that my father wants to do," she said. "His ultimate vision is to build a few more plants in the U.S. and eventually go worldwide with it, the United Kingdom, Mexico, basically just impact the world."