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FREEZER FIESTA
Monday, July 12, 2010

Ruiz Foods, known to most by the brand name "El Monterey" in grocery store freezer sections, will be the area's newest industry, bringing hundreds of jobs to Denison by locating in the former Pillsbury plant.

Confirmed Wednesday afternoon, Ruiz Foods will hold the formal announcement ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the plant site on State Highway 84, north of Denison. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to appear and congratulate the area on another large industrial expansion. The number of jobs coming with the new resident is said to be more than Pillsbury had.

Ruiz Foods, according to it's Web site, is a multi-million-dollar company with more than 1,800 employees and a place in the Small Business Administration's Hall of Fame.

That information shows that the company was formed in 1964 by Louis Ruiz and his son, Fred, who "began living out their dream of selling frozen authentic Mexican food." The company began in a small warehouse, and the current facility in Dinuba, Calif., covers nearly 300,000 square feet.

Situated on 43 acres in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, the Ruiz Foods facility has the ability to manufacture more than 185 different products under their signature El Monterey brand. The company's focus continues to be authentic Mexican food, based on the Mexican-inspired recipes of Fred's mother, it is stated on the Web site.

The company is one of the largest producers of frozen food in America, and supplies the world's largest discount stores with its products. Ruiz Foods is still in the Ruiz family more than 40 years after its founding. It is now under the leadership of the founder's grandchildren, Kim and Bryce.

The plant in Denison, which reportedly will be working toward opening in October, will be the first expansion for Ruiz outside of its California operation and will go a long way to soothe broken hearts in this area, casualties of the closing of the Pillsbury plant about two years ago.

Since that closing, the team at the Denison Development Alliance has been working to find a business to re-open the plant. In this project, DDA President Tony Kaai said TXU Electric Delivery is largely responsible for steering the company to Denison in its search for an expansion site. He added that David Sours rounded out the team in his position as broker.

Director of Economic Development for TXU Mike McKinney said his department is interested in seeing its service areas prosper and grow. "We have facilities out there, sitting idle, and it's worth it to our customers if we have kilowatt hours flow through those wires," he said. "I've been involved in it, but Todd Thompson, senior project manager, has, more or less, lived with this project for the past three months."

While McKinney stopped short of actually naming the Ruiz company as the plant occupant, the Herald Democrat was given confirmation on the name of the company through other independent sources.

McKinney and Thompson have offices at the corporate headquarters for TXU in Dallas and learned a prospect was looking for a location in Texas. Thompson started working with the lead and knew there was a vacant building in Denison that would fit the company's needs. He said it was a perfect fit from the start.

McKinney agreed that a three-month period is an unusually short time to see a deal like this come together. He said Perry was instrumental in getting the deal done. He said Perry established an Enterprise Fund a couple of years ago to help close the gap between Texas and what other states were offering so Texas could have good jobs.

"They didn't have to come to Texas," McKinney said. "There were some other states around that had significant offers on the table." He said the Enterprise Fund was an integral part of closing the deal. "It's a deal-closing fund and that's what it did in this case," McKinney said.

McKinney took a moment to comment on the activities of today's economic developers. "What we're seeing now in economic development is that 75 percent of the companies making a change or deciding to bring new facilities on line are looking for existing buildings," he said. "Often, they need product in a hurry and, if they can find existing facilities, they can cut a year off the lead time."

McKinney said he wanted to brag on Denison and specifically named Kaai, the DDA board of directors and the city of Denison. "Companies enjoy looking at communities that have their act together," he said. "It's good that Denison has got a team put together and a city government that recognizes the need for economic growth in the city and surrounding parts. It's easy for us to help escort a prospect, such as this one, through the community and it makes it an easier sale."

McKinney added "The competition is fierce out there."