May 19, 2014

Ballpark nacho innovator opens Arlington plant

Ricos Products invested about $8 million in a vacant Great Southwest Industrial District building.

Nearly 40 years after serving up the first gooey tray of nachos during a Texas Rangers home game, Ricos Products has returned to Arlington to manufacture its international line of tortilla chip and popcorn products.

Ricos Products, which originated concession nachos in 1976 at what was then known as Arlington Stadium, decided to relocate to Arlington last year after outgrowing its Lewisville production facility, President Tony Liberto said. On Monday, city officials joined Liberto and other leaders of the family-owned company in celebrating Ricos’ $8 million investment in the Great Southwest Industrial District.

“We were out of space where we were in Lewisville. All of the tenants near us weren’t leaving any time soon. We had to go out and look for opportunities,” said Liberto, who said the company’s production lines at the newly renovated 100,100-square-foot production plant on Pinewood Drive started rolling in January. “We are coming back home.”

The Arlington site, which has about 70 full-time employees, currently produces popcorn and restaurant-style tortilla chips in a variety of sizes and flavors under its brand name and other private labels, such as On the Border. Liberto said the company, which now has twice the capacity, is already working to expand its product line with new popcorn and tortilla chip flavors. Ricos Products ships to 57 countries, including Korea, he said.

The Arlington City Council approved some economic incentives in August for Ricos for its investment in the industrial district building, which had been vacant for about three years. Under the deal, the city will abate 60 percent of at least $2.5 million worth of real and business personal property for seven years. The city estimates that would save Ricos about $70,000 in taxes over the abatement period. The company can earn an additional 10 percent abatement if its employee wages exceed Arlington’s median wage.

“We do everything we can do if a tenant is interested in taking a building like that and upgrading it and putting it back in service. That is the definition of keeping the Great Southwest Industrial District viable,” Economic Development Manager Bruce Payne said. “They are a great tenant. They saw the vision. They saw what they could do with it. We responded to their vision.”

Economic Development Specialist Andrea Roy said the city is seeking other companies like Ricos Products to bring new life to vacant buildings in the east Arlington industrial park. The park has about a 5 percent vacancy rate, Roy said.

“They are a great midsize, growing business that has really invested in the building,” Roy said. “You hear about the GMs of the world. This company is the backbone of what the park and the city is about.”

Arlington resident Richard Weber was the only person who publicly opposed the incentives during the council meeting last August.

“The problem is that your economic development formula should probably double what you are choosing for the average salary of Arlington to decide these awards,” Weber said. “In order to make Arlington better, you need to get better jobs, not just more jobs. You need more higher-paying jobs.”

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