Ruiz Foods seeks new recruitment opportunities at new HQ

Shot of the road sign on Alta Ave. from left view.(Kenny Goodman)

Locally-established corporation Ruiz Foods sets up its sole headquarters in Texas to address leadership role shortage among other variables

DINUBA – Instead of continuing to split its regional headquarters between two locations, Ruiz Foods has opted to close up its headquarters in Dinuba and establish it solely in Frisco, Texas; centralizing the company between all its locations while opening the door to easier recruitment closer to their new home.

The determination became official with the corporation’s announcement on May 23. However, president and CEO Dan Antonelli assured the company’s strategic direction will not change as it continues to grow its core business in the retail and food service channels.

“The most important thing is the Dinuba manufacturing facility will continue to be our flagship facility in Ruiz Foods,” Antonelli said.

On the determining factors behind the move, Antonelli confirmed there was more than one reason. Not only will the headquarters be in a centralized location between all of its facilities, which branch across California, Texas and South Carolina, but with the Dallas and Fort Worth metroplex so close by, the corporation will have an easier time recruiting employees.

“Dallas, Fort Worth is a very large market that has many food companies and consumer packaged goods companies,” Antonelli said. “The availability of talent is just a very strong plus that we fully expect to take advantage of in the years ahead.”

By having its corporate headquarters based solely in Frisco, Ruiz Foods is adding an excess of 125 positions to Texas. Antonelli said Ruiz Foods already has just over 40 corporate members at its Frisco location, and is currently expecting to bring in about 85 more; however, this is dependent on how many Dinuba team members are able to make the transition.

Ruiz Foods is hoping to relocate some of their corporate Dinuba personnel with this overall move as well. Assuming every corporate employee is able to make the adjustment, Antonelli said the company is looking at potentially relocating about 50 employees.

“It really depends on their individual circumstances and whether they can make the move, but we will encourage as many of those as possible to consider making Frisco their new home,” Antonelli said.

If a staff member cannot accommodate that move, however, and decides not to go back into the Dinuba plant’s manufacturing environment – or cannot, for any reason – then Antonelli said there will be a generous severance arrangement put in place for them.

According to Antonelli, this process started just over a year ago after Ruiz Foods announced its headquarters would be split between Dinuba and Frisco. What the company discovered within that year was that having its regional headquarters based in Texas was working better and proved more beneficial for the company overall.

“That led to the conclusion that we’d be better off having one fully integrated head office in Frisco,” Antonelli said.

Throughout that year, Antonelli said many members of the Dinuba team visited the Frisco office for meetings and the interaction between them with the Frisco team was as positive as it was strong. He said this sparked the idea to consolidate the corporation’s headquarters, since multiple benefits of interaction were observed through those in-person meetings.

As for the city of Dinuba, the city is not anticipating any direct impacts within itself as a result of this change, according to assistant city manager Daniel James. In a statement, the city assured it is pleased that Ruiz Foods continues to grow and expand its operations and that it will continue to support and work closely with Ruiz Foods as it focuses on growing its operations.

“The Dinuba facility will continue to serve as the company’s flagship production facility on the west coast for their popular frozen Mexican food products,” the city of Dinuba said via statement.

Antonelli noted that Dinuba’s facility is Ruiz Foods’ largest manufacturing presence, with over 1,600 team members. Fully aware of that factor, he said the company will continue to focus on strengthening its opportunities for the Dinuba-based facility.

“If there are ways to add to the manufacturing over time, we will look at that as well,” Antonelli said. “We haven’t made any decisions, but we clearly are interested in continuing to reinvest in the Dinuba plant.”

Filling in the management gaps

By expanding its hiring pool with this move to Frisco, Texas, Ruiz Foods is also expanding the talent reservoir at the management and corporate level – remedying a problem being felt across the nation.

“It’s much larger than the Central Valley,” Antonelli said. “Sometimes we were able to recruit there nationally, but the issue with recruiting nationally is you have to go farther in order to bring some people in for select jobs.”

Through studies conducted by Ruiz Foods over the last few years – which took a look at all major metropolitan areas in the U.S. – Dallas, Texas was determined as the best business location for the corporation; so it made sense for the company to centralize its headquarters closer to it, as it is just under 30 miles away from Dallas.

With that, Antonelli said the company could have an easier time filling those leadership roles at a faster pace through the local market in Texas instead of going national.

Heathe Jones, president and CEO of the Dinuba Chamber of Commerce, noted it’s not uncommon for companies to face challenges when it comes to finding qualified managers and corporate leaders, regardless of the location. This is because the availability of qualified candidates varies depending on things like the size of the talent pool, industry specialization and competition from other candidates.

“With a larger population, Frisco likely has a larger talent pool to draw from,” Jones said. “More people means a greater number of potential candidates for job openings, increasing the chances of finding individuals with the desired qualifications and skills.”

According to Jones, companies all across the nation are experiencing skilled labor shortage. While she noted that specific criteria, requirements and observations for leadership roles vary depending on each individual company, she also pointed out that the shifting of generations can result in a shortage of skilled workers when it comes to replacing the retiring workforce.

“The retirement of baby boomers, who make up a significant portion of the workforce, has led to a loss of experienced professionals in certain industries,” Jones said.

From the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, president and CEO Gail Zurek echoed a similar concept. She noted that when a generational shift happens, realignment is not a walk in the park; however, she said it is a necessary part of the growth process for any company.

“For many businesses, they are having to redefine what positions look like,” Zurek said.

For a company, models that may have worked well in 1985 may not work with what an employee would expect for 2023; according to Zurek, the generational shift is radically different. As the pandemic led to businesses pivoting and readdressing their business models, the slow part of it is designing positions that are more responsive to the needs of the workforce.

On the generational shift, Zurek pointed out that the priorities between generations like retiring baby boomers and the developing Generation Z are quite different. The values that were established by prior generations are not the same values expected today.

“Closeness to family, work-life balance issues – those things are really important, whereas they were a different level of importance even as soon as five years ago,” Zurek said.

Jones noted some steps that are being taken within Dinuba in an effort to remedy the management and leadership at the local level. Dinuba High School actively collaborates with local educational partners, colleges and vocational training centers to develop programs that align with industry needs to produce a skilled workforce for managerial positions as well as other workforce positions.

“Our chamber is actively involved with workplace readiness programming at the high school level and is expanding programming to elementary schools next year,” Jones said.

According to Jones, collaboration between businesses and educational institutions can help align curriculum and training programs with the specific needs of industries in the Central Valley. She noted this can be achieved through partnerships, internships, apprenticeships and work-study programs that provide practical experience and bridge the gap between academic knowledge and real-world skills for specific partners.

“This is something that we hope to achieve through our work within the school district and with the support of our industry partners,” Jones said.

However, as noted by Zurek, developing those talents at the local level is – in a sense – a double edged sword. A fear that comes with developing talents in the Valley is that the talent will search for somewhere else to put their skills to use – and corporations relocating to remedy their own issues of labor shortages, especially in search of more qualified workers, isn’t something that helps the situation.

When it comes to the transferring of headquarters for Ruiz Foods, Zurek described that as a loss, because local chambers take such pride in the Central Valley. Especially since the corporation’s roots are tied to the Valley as a local family-owned company, as founder Fred Ruiz started it in 1964 after learning a family-grown recipe from his father.

“I know that as a corporation, this decision was not made lightly or easily,” Zurek said.

Whether a business be a large corporation or a local mom and pop shop, Zurek assured that local chamber of commerce’s are in place to help serve as a resource when it comes to making large-scale decisions like this; even small-scale ones, if need be.

“We’ve helped many businesses make decisions that help them evaluate how they move forward, and we’re here to provide that resource for them,” Zurek said.

In the spirit of moving forward and looking ahead, Jones noted that, as a general community, work must go into preparing the successors of retiring generations. Because, in her words: good leaders make way for the next generation.

Hopefully, through mentorship programming, we can overcome that,” Jones said.

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