Financing slows plan for Peluso expansion

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 3, 2013 

Though planning is a little behind schedule, Peluso Cheese continues its route to expansion.

"We're waiting on some financing from one of the banks," said General Manager Ray Alvarado.

The cheesemaking plant will likely double its output of 18,000 to 20,000 pounds of cheese daily after expansion, Alvarado said. Employees process blocks of panela, cotija, chontaleño and queso fresco cheese, to name a few.

Peluso Cheese, a subsidiary of Romalv Group LLC, is waiting to move forward on expanding its 20,000-square-foot plant on H Street to 29,000 square feet. Alvarado said he feels good about the plant's progress, but he would not speculate on when construction would begin.

"It should (start) as soon as we get funds," Alvarado said.

Adding an estimated 40 jobs would nearly double the plant's workforce of 46. That could improve Los Banos' 15.7 percent unemployment rate and be good news for any of the city's unemployed workers who have lab, pasteurization or other cheesemaking skills.

Alvarado said he's been keeping his eye on the suspension of Regional Transportation Impact Fees, which sunsets March 2 if City Council takes no action. He said with or without the regional fee, Peluso would move forward with the expansion.

"What can we do?" Alvarado said. "We need more space."

Alvarado may not need to fret, as City Council voted Wednesday to draft an extension on the year-long suspension.

Community Development Director Paula Fitzgerald said she hasn't received any official plans from Peluso Cheese, but has worked with the company to find state grants to train employees.

Fitzgerald said results from the grant search won't be known until later this month.

The cheese plant ships Hispanic cheeses out of the area, particularly to Southern California counties Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and others. Bay Area chains like Mi Pueblo Foods and La Esperanza Market, and Sacramento-based La Superior Supermercados carry it, as well as markets in Los Banos.

The Romalv Group has two plants in Los Angeles. The Peluso Cheese plant has been in business since 1917.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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