SANTA FE – In a city already known for its culinary arts, the Santa Fe City Council on Wednesday threw its unanimous support behind a new economic development project by approving a resolution declaring its intent to issue $18 million in industrial revenue bonds to help fund a $27 million state-of-the-art high pressure food processing plant.
The bond funding would be used for the “acquisition, construction, renovation, equipping and installation” of the plant, which would be located in a census tract and federally designated disadvantaged “opportunity zone” in a building at 1549 Sixth St.
The IRB would benefit New Mexico Fresh Foods, LLC, a newly formed company headed by Kelly Egolf, who also operates Verde Juice Company in Santa Fe.
According to a memo from Fabian Trujillo, acting director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, New Mexico Fresh Foods would lease 17,000 square feet of a 42,000 square foot building it intends to buy in the city’s Midtown district. At the end of the lease term, New Mexico Fresh Foods could purchase the facility from its current owner for a nominal amount.
Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said during discussion of the resolution that the property was valued at about $3 million.
Trujillo’s memo says that there are only five high pressure processing-equipped facilities in the country.
Egolf explained that the process uses water pressure to denature bacteria and extend the shelf live of food products without using chemical preservatives or heat pasteurization. New Mexico Fresh Foods, which now employs seven people, expects to hire another 162 full-time employees at salaries of approximately $43,000 per year, she said.
Egolf said the facility is projected to process more than 100 million pounds of food products over a 10-year period and generate $2.5 billion.
Egolf, spouse of New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf, said there was a need for such a processing plant for several reasons. Her own Verde Juice products, for example, as well as salsa, hummus and bacon products made by other companies, have a limited shelf life. But through the high pressure process such products can last longer, helping to expand their markets.
Mayor Alan Webber and all eight members of the council embraced the project. Councilor Mike Harris and others said the building had been under-utilized over the years and the location in one of an impoverished part of town was also a plus. “It’s only positive, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
The plant site is across the street from a public housing project but also is only a couple of blocks away from well-know businesses like The Pantry restaurant and the El Rey Courts motel, both on Cerrillos Road. A public hearing on the project is scheduled for Sept. 25.
The City Council is already considering one other project that would utilize industrial revenue bonds.
El Castillo retirement community is asking that the city issue $80 million in industrial revenue bonds to help purchase land to build a 68-unit facility at the intersection of Paseo de Peralta and Old Taos Highway.