Record investment: Rich’s says expansion will create about 58 jobs

A multinational food manufacturing and distribution company with operations in Brownsville is proposing an investment of $116.5 million to expand its manufacturing and warehouse capacity in the city.

Their initiative to expand their plant here in Brownsville will help create more product, made in Brownsville, and more employment opportunities for members of our community.

Rich Products Corporation, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., opened its current Brownsville facility in 1993, occupying a 120,000-square-foot space at 3555 E. 14th St. The new investment would expand the facility to 159,000 square feet, adding production, freezer, dry storage, office and ancillary space, according to the city, which said it may be the largest capital investment in Brownsville’s recent history. Rich Products, also known as Rich’s, was founded in 1945.

Brownsville Plant Manager Eddie De La Rosa said Rich Products came to Brownsville in 1976 when it purchased SeaPak, then located on Boca Chica in a building that eventually became Target, which itself closed several years ago.

“That used to be our plant, and we were there for over 50 years,” he said.

Breaded cheese sticks are inspected by Rich Products Corporation employees along a food conveyor in Brownsville, Monday afternoon, Feb. 13, 2023. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

De La Rosa said the expansion is set to begin in late March or early April with a new frozen storage warehouse, and that all phases should be complete by March 2025.

“This is the largest capital project Rich Products has done,” he said.

The company said the expansion project would add around 58 production and warehouse positions to its current workforce of 435. In support of the expansion proposal, the Brownsville City Commission on Feb. 7 approved a resolution nominating the company for Enterprise Zone Project (EZP) designation under the Texas Enterprise Zone Act, a state sales-tax and use-tax refund program meant to encourage private investment and job creation in economically distressed parts of the state.

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez called the proposed expansion “a major win.”

“The city is currently experiencing sustainability in jobs and job creation,” he said. “Rich Products’ proposed investment is a testament to that. Their initiative to expand their plant here in Brownsville will help create more product, made in Brownsville, and more employment opportunities for members of our community. This is what city leaders work towards in our respective efforts to support our local businesses.”

Virginia Hamby, the company’s Brownsville facility controller, said Rich Products has had a “strong history of partnership” with the city since 1993 and that the company is honored by the EZP designation.

Popcorn shrimp drops from a conveyor belt at Rich Products Corporation in Brownsville Monday afternoon, Feb. 13, 2023, as a proposed million dollar plus investment to expand the facilities current manufacturing capacity and warehouse space. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

“The designation will help offset the significant upfront costs of the expansion, as well as aid in achieving our job creation goals in a timely manner,” she said. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the city of Brownsville to support the growth of our local operations and the economic vitality of the community.”

Rich Products is considered the founder of the non-dairy frozen food industry. The company sells over 2,000 products in over 112 countries and has more than 12,500 employees worldwide. The Brownsville location distributes products all over the United States, with the Northeast and East Coast among its biggest markets. The company’s products are also available locally at most major grocery chains.

Brownsville City Manager Helen Ramirez said the expansion represents “the type of large-scale economic investment that every city aims to achieve” and that the commission’s nomination of Rich Products for EZP status demonstrates city leaders’ “pro-business focus as well as their commitment and support of local company expansion efforts in Brownsville.”

Rich Products is well deserving of EZP status, she said, noting that the company sends many of its employees from around the country to Brownsville for training.

“It just speaks to the workforce that we have here in Brownsville,” she said. “We want to see (the company) succeed in our city. I’m proud to have them here.”