A Brazilian meat company is on the verge of expanding internationally by way of Tavares, with plans to re-purpose a former ice plant near the city for meat processing, for sale domestically and to new export markets, a principal with the company told GrowthSpotter.
Last September, The Gold Meat Company, an affiliate of beef and pork processor Cajuru Alimentos based in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, was working with Lake County planners to move into the former Reddy Ice production facility at 28536 Lake Industrial Blvd., near C.R. 448, the county landfill and the Blue Rhino plant.
The plan was later withdrawn from Lake County's planning review process, but has now resurfaced in Tavares.
The group has a request in to annex two neighboring parcels totaling 9.69 acres into Tavares city limits and rezone the property, said Jacques Skutt, Tavares planning director. The new user is seeking city water and sewer access. The request will be on the city's Planning and Zoning Board agenda April 21.
The company searched throughout Florida for a suitable facility to lease for its new operation, favored Orlando and honed in on Tavares because of the Reddy Ice building's ample cold storage space, Paulo Cesar Barao Candido, principal with Gold Meat, said Tuesday.
Gold Meat produces 125 beef and pork products in Brazil, a country that's one of the world's leaders in exports of both meats. But Brazil's prolonged economic recession has limited growth potential, Barao Candido said.
Expansion to the U.S. gives the company an opportunity to sell within the U.S., a market that most Brazilian meat exports currently can't enter. Gold Meat can also take advantage of the "Made in USA" label to export tariff-free from Tavares to many countries that the U.S. has free trade agreements with, and Brazil does not.
"We expect to open in May or June, and will start here with just 20 products," Barao Candido said. "We'll buy our raw materials from local suppliers, and produce our own brand, and private label supermarket brands."
Gold Meat has signed a five-year lease agreement with option to buy the 9.69 acres from owner LD Plante Inc., affiliate of Altamonte Springs-based Travel Country.
Michael Plante, owner of Travel Country, affirmed on Tuesday the Brazilian group would rent the property if zoning and annexation are approved, and will need to make alterations to the building to suit their needs.
Barao Candido estimates his company will invest $15 million over the first five years in Tavares, between building renovation costs, new equipment and materials. The group is financing buildout of the new plant with its own capital, but could seek financing options in the future for more expansion, or acquisition of the property, he said.
Barao Candido and the company's local real estate consultant, Tim Lambert, are in the process of searching for subcontractors for renovation of the property. Specialists in all forms of industrial renovation work will be hired.
The site features 42,000 square feet of buildings, including office space, warehouses, and a lot of freezer space on the land, according to county property appraiser records. The property has its own wells and septic system, which would be transferred to Tavares' sewer and water system at annexation.
The earlier county application said the previous tenant on the property produced 160 tons of ice (32,000 10-pound bags) on peak production days. The automatic bagging and ice producing equipment was removed. However, the freezer building remains with a running temperature of 10 degrees.