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Second time's the charm: Ruiz Foods expanding Florence facility again
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Second time's the charm: Ruiz Foods expanding Florence facility again

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FLORENCE, S.C. — Ruiz Foods will soon be expanding its Florence facility for the second time. 

On Thursday, the Florence County Council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance authorizing an amendment to a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement with the company and its South Carolina subsidiary.

The ordinance notes the project will be a $40 million expansion of the facility on the Touchtone Energy Pee Dee Commerce Park off Exit 170 on Interstate 95. 

The information provided to the council does not indicate how many jobs would be added. 

Florence County Administrator K.G. "Rusty" Smith Jr. called the expansion an outstanding example of the county's success in economic development. He called Ruiz Foods and its South Carolina subsidiary "wonderful corporate citizens" and added that the county was fortunate to have them. 

"This is certainly a good move for the county," Council Chairman Willard Dorriety Jr. said. "It shows that when a company comes here they really like what they receive in Florence County and then they want to remain in Florence County." 

Dorriety said he thought it showed the county was progressing in trying to lure additional companies to Florence. 

"It's a wonderful thing when you get them and it only makes our county better," Dorriety said. 

The expansion was previously designated Project Horseshoe Falls to the council.

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The fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement was signed on June 15, 2017, according to the amendment provided to the council. At that time, Ruiz announced a $79 million, 705-job expansion to take place over seven years. 

This expansion was designated Project Horseshoe. 

The agreement called for a 6% assessment ratio with a millage rate of 348.1 mills and special source revenue credits of 50% of the fee-in-lieu payments for years 1-10 of the expansion and 25% for years 11-30. 

The ordinance currently before the council modifies the agreement to include special source revenue credits of 33.33% for investments placed in service during the company's 2019 tax year for the first 10 years of the agreement

The ordinance also calls for special source revenue credits of 37.5% for investments placed in service during the company's 2020 tax year for the first 10 years of the agreement and special source revenue credits of 12.5% for years 11-30 of the agreement. 

Smith said the company has invested $162 million into Florence County since it came to Florence in July 2014. It  is located in the former H.J. Heinz facility. 

El Monterey is the flagship frozen Mexican food brand for Ruiz Foods and the top-selling brand of frozen Mexican food in the nation.

The El Monterey brand includes retail products such as burritos, tamales and empanadas.

Tornados, also distributed nationally, is the company’s snack brand and a leader on convenience store roller grills.

While producing Mexican cuisine, Ruiz Foods also concentrates on public service and contributing to surrounding communities. In the Florence area, programs such as Ruiz 4 Kids and Ruiz Cares allow the company to support local residents.

Ruiz Foods started in 1964 as a family-owned business in California and has now grown to be the nation’s leading distributor of frozen Mexican food. 

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Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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