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home : business : business August 17, 2017

6/13/2017 11:49:00 AM
City of Sisters presents forgivable loan
City representatives presented a check for $51,000 to Laird SuperFood last week. photo by Sue Stafford
+ click to enlarge
City representatives presented a check for $51,000 to Laird SuperFood last week. photo by Sue Stafford

By Sue Stafford

Laird SuperFood of Sisters accepted a check last week in the amount of $51,000 - the promised forgivable loan granted to Laird by the City of Sisters on December 22, 2016. The Sisters City Council decision to grant the forgivable loan followed a recommendation from the EDCO (Economic Development for Central Oregon) due diligence committee and Sisters EDCO representative Caprielle Lewis.

Laird SuperFood is a manufacturer and distributor of "superfood" products including premium coffee, dairy-free coffee creamers, sweeteners like coconut sugar, and dairy-free cocoa. Superfood is a marketing term used to describe foods with purported health benefits. Founded by Laird Hamilton, a world-famous surfer and innovator, Laird SuperFood is one of his four brands, including Golfboards (based in Bend), Laird Apparel and XPT.

The company opened in Sisters in November 2015 in the former Metabolic Maintenance building on North Pine Street. When they opened their doors, Paul Hodge, one of the owners of the company, and two employees were the only staff. In December 2016 there were four, and currently there are 17 employees in Sisters and one sales representative in New York. Their estimate for a full workforce has increased from 30 to 45 by next summer, creating more employment opportunities for residents of Sisters.

The employee positions include mixing, manufacturing, and packaging. There will be one compliance officer to ensure that Laird is meeting the food safety standards of the Food and Drug Administration. There are also positions in sales and customer service.

Laird plans to be breaking ground in Sisters' light industrial zone in August 2017 for the construction of two buildings - one 15,000 square feet and one 8,000 square feet. The planning process is already underway with the City. If all goes well, Hodge said they plan to move quickly and anticipate moving into the new facility in December 2017.

"Our long-term goal for the company is to become a well-known trusted food source, similar to the Newman's Own line of products," said Hodge.

They want to be known for providing clean, nutrient-dense products, free of all preservatives and chemicals. Their powdered non-dairy creamer is the only healthy one on the market. All the others contain unhealthy hydrogenated oil.

Laird SuperFood is available here in Sisters at Melvin's Fir Street Market. Hodge said everything is selling so well that he is making deliveries every other day to Melvin's. They are also in 160 grocery stores around the country. However, for the next two to three years, most of their product will be sold online, allowing them to sell at full retail price until they are really well-established.

Laird is currently creating single-serve packets mainly for the hotel market. The hotel at Tetherow in Bend has served as a six-month test model. Further down the road, the possibility of providing product for the food-service industry will be explored.

After accepting both the symbolic and the actual check, Hodge offered his thanks.

"It is great that a small town like Sisters is willing to do something above and beyond to bring new business to town," he said.

Laird had investigated other locations and even found an existing building in Redmond, close to the airport, but they were really committed to building their business in Sisters. The forgivable loan program helped solidify their decision.

"We appreciate all the support we have received from the City of Sisters," Hodge concluded.

The process involved in the forgivable loan program follows a particular format. If a traded-sector business is approved for a loan and a contract signed between the City and the business, the loan is funded. The contract states the number of employees expected to be hired and maintained by the end of the loan period. That number of employees is the base on which the loan is formulated.

At the conclusion of the loan period, if that number has not been reached or not maintained, then the company will be required to repay the loan, plus interest, to the City. If they do attain their projected employment numbers and maintain those jobs for the specified number of years, the loan is forgiven. The program was developed as a way to attract businesses providing family-wage jobs to Sisters.

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