New world order
That day came closer on April 14, 2015, when National announced an agreement to sell the plant to One World Beef. Eric Brandt had started One World, originally based in Buena Park, California, in 2013 and had carved out a niche as a meat sales and marketing agent. It was distributing top quality beef products to high-end restaurants, chefs and meat purveyors across the globe. It began by selling beef under the Brandt Beef–The True Natural brand and also imported Wagyu beef from Japan under the Ka goshima brand. The company still does this.
Brandt and his backers, however, faced a long, complicated journey in raising capital and getting the plant approved to reopen. The company’s efforts received strong support from several local agencies and other entities. But the Brawley’s city manager obstructed the company’s efforts at every turn, and does so to this day, Brandt says.
Brandt meantime had formed One World Ventures, based in Solana Beach, California, an umbrella company for One World Beef and OWB Packers. Financial specialist Armand Nicholi came on board as CFO and was instrumental in helping Brandt put together what Brandt calls “a very complex financing package and capital structure.” For example, Nicholi helped One World obtain New Market Tax Credits from the state of California through a program designed to inspire job creation. “I would not have been able to do any of this without Armand,” Brandt says.
One World also spent millions of dollars to refurbish the plant, including rewiring 70 percent of it. Brandt is especially proud of the fact that the company used only local contractors to do the work. Some plant experts said the company couldn’t do all it intended to but all the work took only nine months, he says.
Brandt already knew the plant well as he had worked there, in every department, for four years from 2001 to the end of 2004. But he also relied heavily on the experience of Jose Lara and Rafael Gongora, who have worked in the plant since its original opening and remained at the plant during its closure. They are now director of engineering and director of maintenance, respectively. Another key team member, Brandt says, has been Eddie Beltran, the plant’s refrigeration and boiler manager.
The company also gutted the cafeteria and completely rebuilt it with a brand-new kitchen. The cafeteria offers employees a wide range of hot and cold foods, with a special focus on healthy food. The cafeteria also serves as a testing ground for the company’s resident chef, Ricardo Rubio, who serves up breakfasts and lunches for plant visitors.
One World will soon begin installation of a unique Chilean water filtration system called BioFiltro. All of the plant’s wastewater will trickle through the system, which includes layers of earthworms, gravel and sawdust. The system will reduce by 90 percent the plant’s energy use for treating its wastewater. The water will be so clean it will be virtually drinkable, Brandt says. The company has bought land next to the plant and will grow crops irrigated with the water and on other land around the plant.
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