What's at stake?
California's agricultural hub, the central San Joaquin Valley, stands to lose some corporate food business jobs due to difficulties recruiting "qualified people."
The country’s largest frozen Mexican food manufacturer, Ruiz Foods, has announced it is expanding operations in Texas — but will still have a “very strong” presence in the central San Joaquin Valley.
Ruiz Foods, which was founded in Tulare County nearly 60 years ago, announced this week that it will establish its sole corporate headquarters in the city of Frisco, located about 30 miles north of Dallas.
Just over a year ago, Ruiz Foods named Dinuba and Frisco as regional co-headquarters. Dinuba is also the location of its flagship manufacturing plant.
But Ruiz Food’s president and chief executive officer Dan Antonelli said in a news release on Monday that consolidating corporate operations in Texas made geographic sense for the company’s “growth journey.”
“As a national business with locations and customers throughout the U.S.,” he said, “being in the center of the country allows us same day access to each of our facilities, puts us closer to our customers, and provides us with a larger metropolitan market for talent recruitment.”
In an interview with The Bee on Tuesday afternoon, Antonelli said the company expects to add 125 jobs over the next 20 months at the Frisco headquarters.
He said it’s “easier” to recruit in Frisco compared to the Central Valley because there are “more qualified people available” in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, due to the large presence of food and consumer packaged goods companies.
There are over 200,000 residents in Frisco, and 7.7 million residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, according to census data.
Ruiz Foods will still have ‘strong’ presence in Central Valley
Ruiz Foods was founded in 1964 by father and son duo Louis and Fred Ruiz in Tulare. The company sells an assortment of enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, taquitos, tamales and quesadillas and has grown to employ over 4,000 people across California, Texas, and South Carolina, according to a 2022 corporate social responsibility report.
The company has an estimated annual sales of over $1 billion, Ruiz said during his 2021 UC Merced commencement speech.
Antonelli said Ruiz Foods will still maintain a “very strong presence” in the Central Valley, given there are 1,600 people employed at the Dinuba and Tulare manufacturing plants.
“I don’t think it will be a significant change,” he said.
He added that the Dinuba plant has people with “great experience” that have helped propel the company’s success over the last 60 years.
“We look at Dinuba as clearly our flagship plant. It’ is our most senior plant, we have the most history there,” he said. “It’ll continue to be our flagship plant in the United States.”
Ruiz and his wife, Mitzie, also have a strong philanthropic presence in the Central Valley. Last October, the couple announced a $15 million donation to UC Merced, which is one of the largest individual gifts ever made to the university.
The company’s Louis F. Ruiz Scholarship program has provided $535,000 in college scholarships to graduating high school seniors.
Some California employees could transfer to Texas
The relocation of the company’s headquarters could mean the loss of some local corporate staff.
Antonelli said the company is in the process of offering a number of Frisco-based positions to corporate personnel currently employed at the Dinuba headquarters, and he’s “hopeful” they will be able to make the move.
“We’d love to have them,” he said.
Dinuba city leaders noted there will be little impact to the flagship manufacturing plant and said they are “pleased” that Ruiz Foods continues to grow and expand.
“We understand that locating their headquarters (in Frisco, Texas) began over one year ago with no direct impact to the Dinuba facility,” Assistant City Manager Daniel James said on behalf of the city in a Wednesday email statement to The Bee. “We support and continue to work closely with Ruiz Foods as they focus on growing their operations.”
Frisco officials welcomed the news of the company’s growing presence in the region — calling it a “win” for Texas.
Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said the city was “thrilled to welcome the corporate headquarters of Ruiz Foods to Frisco.” Jason Ford, president of the Frisco Economic Development Corporation, called the move “a win for everyone — for Ruiz Foods, for Frisco and the state of Texas as it will bring even more jobs here.”