SANTA ROSA -- In 1977, La Tortilla Factory opened with $75,000 -- including a $50,000 loan through the Small Business Administration.

Almost 35 years later, the 300-employee business has been named Small Business of the Year by the SBA for the Northern California region.

The “loan back in 1977 allowed us to start the business,” said Carlos Tamayo, a second-generation family owner and company chairman. “That was quite a momentous occasion because my father had been talking about going into business for years.”

The tortilla plant has grown from making 300 tortillas a day to more than one million a day. Last year, the company received another SBA loan toward the purchase of $2.5 million in new equipment.

“We bought new state of the art flour tortilla production line,” said Mr. Tamayo. “It came with computerized product imaging. We used to have a person watching for irregular tortillas, and now it is now done with computers.”

The business now is being run by the third generation of family. When they thought of selling the business, an important step for the Tamayo family members was to determine what everybody wanted for their legacy, which is how they ended up deciding to keep it in the family.

“We have always been a company that promotes learning and knowledge as part of our culture,” said Mr. Tamayo. “Our strategic culture is being a learning organization.”

Mr. Tamayo said that 90 percent of the 300 employees nationwide are based in Sonoma County.

“The best part of what we are doing is being able to provide long term employment for so many people,” Mr. Tamayo said.