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The Oakland '09ers

How several young tastemakers waded into the Great Recession, scored hip followings, and now have even more in store.


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So call him crazy if you must. But make sure you call him — and the rest of The Oakland '09ers — crazy about Oakland, too.

Distant Local Love

The job Tom Henderson has given himself is jobs — for as many people in Oakland as possible.

Almost exactly a year ago he bought the city's most iconic edifice, The Tribune Tower, with that in mind. He plans to employ as many as 2,000 people at the CallSocket call center it houses.

"We will create the most new jobs in Oakland over the next few years," Henderson said.

His fierce belief in the East Bay is in line with the local loyalty of his 5 Terraces partners, Temoor Noor and Chris Pastena. That the new restaurants he's helping fund — Lungomare, Tribune Tavern, and an as-yet-unnamed project in Uptown — employ scores of people only sweetens the cannoli.

"He's creating three hundred or four hundred jobs in next couple months," Pastena said. "Beyond that, the sky's the limit. That's inspiring me, knowing that I'm part of that."

Ironically, though, in order to do well by his strict local spirit, Henderson, a third-generation local, has to deal with faraway forces — but maybe that's only appropriate for a man who made his mint importing things like tiger shrimp for Avalon Bay Foods Inc. A big chunk of his investment capital comes from a largely unknown Immigrant Investor Program known as EB-5. In it, wealthy prospective immigrants must soak $1 million or more in US communities with low employment rates to earn a US visa, which in turn can help qualify immigrants for a green card. In communities as hard up for jobs as Oakland, qualifying investments start lower, at $500,000.

Henderson's ample contacts in China from his importing past, paired with his extensive local network, acts as an ideal conduit to finding places that can benefit from those regulated investments best.

In other words, he's just the man for the job(s).


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