California Grown Exporters
Shortly after David Tran, CEO and founder of Huy Fong Foods, immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1979, he decided to continue making the hot sauce that he produced in his native country. When he found out that chili peppers were available in Los Angeles, he moved there from Boston to start his business.
Southern California is perhaps not best known for food processing and exporting but it makes sense when you think about it. California produces massive quantities of agricultural products. It’s natural to locate facilities near those sources and the infrastructure which enables them to be distributed.
“It took us 35 years to grow from a 5,000-square-foot building in Los Angeles to our 650,000-square-foot custom facility in Irwindale,” in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, says Donna Lam, the company’s executive operations officer. “Currently, we manufacture three different hot sauces which are distributed nationwide and to various countries by our distributors.”
Two-hundred miles north of Irwindale is Tulare County, a dairy center. California Dairies, Inc. (CDI) recently announced the expansion of its facilities in Visalia, with the addition of a third evaporator.
That investment “moves CDI’s export powder portfolio up the value chain,” says Andrei Mikhalevsky, the company’s CEO. “The expansion increases CDI’s presence in the global marketplace by producing the value-added and specialty dairy products the world prefers.”
Besides the proximity to sources of milk, dairy companies are attracted to Tulare County by local incentives.
“One unique thing we do is to pay for the cost of environmental studies and regulatory experts,” says Paul Saldana, president of the Tulare Economic Development Corporation.
Kelly Cheese, which is building a large processing facility in Tulare, recently benefitted from incentives that defrayed the costs of biomedical and air quality reviews. “Besides money, it also saves time in finding an expert to navigate through that process,” says Saldana.
In Los Angeles County there are dozens of locally-based incentive programs, many of them focused on investing in clean energy technologies.
Companies locate in Los Angeles to become part of a major international trading community. That’s why China Fisheries, one of the world’s largest seafood distributors, built a distribution center there, according to Stephen Cheung, president of World Trade Center Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex is the biggest in the country, taking in 40 percent of incoming cargo. “The rail and trucking infrastructures are also advanced,” notes Cheung. “Over 100 trains come in and out every day. There are 1.2 billion feet of distribution space located within 80 miles of the ports. Los Angeles International Airport handled $91 billion worth of cargo last year.”
But for Huy Fong, it’s all about the chili peppers. “As long as there is a demand for our products,” says Lam, “we will continue to make our hot sauces with fresh chili peppers grown under the California sun.”
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