hispanic

The La Tortilleria facility in Winston-Salem has 186 local employees. The company is one of the top Hispanic food distributors on the East Coast.

The Winston-Salem City Council has set a public hearing on a $203,904 economic incentives request from a company that is one of the top Hispanic food distributors on the East Coast.

La Tortilleria LLC, founded in 1995, operates out of a 100,000-square-foot warehouse and office facility at 2900 Lowery St. It serves the Carolinas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Virginia, and has 186 local employees.

Council will address the performance-based incentive request at 7 p.m. Monday at Benton Convention Center, 301 W. Fifth St.

According to the council’s incentives report, it is likely the Forsyth County Board of Commissioner also will consider providing incentives. The N.C. Commerce Department tends to offer One North Carolina grant funds for economic projects involving matching city and county packages.

The company is applying under the legal name of Purple Crow/La Tortilleria LLC.

La Tortilleria makes Mexican tortillas and serves as a distributor of more than 3,000 snacks, meats and dairy products made in Latin America. Purple Crow is the distribution arm to wholesalers and stores.

The company would be eligible to receive an average $40,780 annually over five years.

La Tortilleria plans to spend $13.3 million on capital investment over five years to expand its local operations. The investment primarily would involve machinery and equipment.

The company said the incentive funds would be used to help offset “substantial unanticipated costs associated with the relocation of public infrastructure required to provide the expanded facility with the appropriate fire protection.”

Although the company did not cite a specific hiring goal, council’s legal notice mentioned “creation and retention of a significant number of jobs in the city.”

On Jan. 8, the company announced it had entered into an alliance with private investors to help finance its expansion.

The private investors include: billionaire Ken Langone, a co-founder of The Home Depot and founder and chief executive of Invemed Associates LLC; Thomas Teague, president and chief executive of Salem Corp. of Winston-Salem and a partner in Invemed; and Al Carey, executive chairman of Unifi Inc. and a former chief executive of PepsiCo North America.

Invemed says it “focuses on supporting growth-oriented companies in a wide range of industries.” Terms of the investment, including the funding commitment, were not disclosed.

The company said in January the new investment would assist with doubling its warehousing operations, as well as opening facilities in other markets.

“They bring enormous financial capital to the table, and we will put it to work,” said Dan Calhoun, chief executive and president of La Tortilleria and the publisher of Abasto Media, a sister company.

“But it’s the human capital that will propel this business into something that maybe now we can dream about it,” Calhoun said.

The investors have experience in financial investment, banking, transportation and business management.

Dan Calhoun and his brothers, Nat and Phil, grew up in Mexico as sons of missionary parents. They have worked together for 34 years in many successful businesses, with Nat serving as the director of operations for La Tortilleria and Phil as business development director.

Teague served as a conduit for the investment after meeting Calhoun in 2018.

“(Dan) knew the business really well, and he knew the opportunities,” Teague said. “They understand the Latino culture; they know it better than anyone I’ve ever met, and that’s why they impress me so much.”

Langone said his involvement sprang out of “the economics of what they are doing is fabulous.”

“It’s a growing market; it’s in the right part of the United States,” he said.

Carey said that from his PepsiCo experience “I have seen the growth of the Latino community, as well as the Latino food business.”

“I believe the possibilities to take advantage of the growth and expansion opportunities with La Tortilleria are great,” he said.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

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@rcraverWSJ

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