WV delegation hungry for hot sauce plant - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV delegation hungry for hot sauce plant

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The citizens of Irwindale, Calif., have apparently developed distaste for Sriracha hot chili sauce.

That could very well be good news for industry-starved Mineral County.

“I saw the news reports last fall,” explained Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral. “I thought it was unusual.

“There are typically no issues with food products.”

It has been reported by multiple sources that David Tran, CEO of Huy Fong Foods, the most commonly known Sriracha producer in the United States, is considering moving its headquarters from Irwindale after a series of complaints from the town’s citizens about odor.

In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, Irwindale city officials are suing Huy Fong Foods in Los Angeles Superior Court. Tran fears the lawsuit alone could jeopardize a crop of peppers that’s worth millions.

After Irwindale officials approached Huy Fong Foods about the smell in 2013, the company installed carbon filters — twice.

Tran told the LA Times inspectors from the South Coast Air Quality Management District also have inspected the plant twice and issued no citations.

Keeping track of the drama being played out in California, Howell sent a letter to Huy Fong Foods, inviting it to consider relocating its hot sauce plant to Mineral County.

The Southern California plant currently has about 60 full-time employees and 200 part-time employees. About 200,000 bottles of hot sauce are packed each day.

“I got a really nice response back,” Howell said. “The city of Irwindale seems to be really going after them. It doesn’t seem right.”

Bringing potential factory jobs is attractive enough, but Howell points out farmers who produce peppers made in the production of hot sauce also could benefit the Mineral County area.

“We have a lot of advantages of other would-be suitors,” Howell said. “Apparently, the Potomac Highlands area is really good for growing peppers.

“There are farmers already growing and selling peppers, mostly to farmers markets and such. But the demand would obviously increase. We have an ideal growing climate.”

A location on the Eastern Seaboard also would be an advantage, Howell pointed out.

“We would have a great distribution advantage too,” he said. “We can ship to two-thirds of the U.S. population within one to three days.”

Howell has been recruiting others in his grassroots effort to bring the plant to his county.

“We have county, state and federal representatives all lending their support,” he said, adding that a delegation from West Virginia soon may visit the California plant to make its pitch in person.

West Virginia residents wouldn’t have an issue with odor, Howell said, adding that the Irwindale plant is in close proximity to a neighborhood, and only four homes are responsible for the 61 complaints.

“We have plenty of land available that is not near a subdivision,” said Howell. “It’s not going to be an issue here. In Irwindale, they didn’t have a complaint (about odor) for 30 years.”

A grassroots effort to attract Sriracha to the Mountain State has begun. A Facebook page has been established for updates on the quest. Search “Bring Huy Fong Foods maker of Sriracha to Mineral County, WV” within Facebook to find the page.

Even if the Irwindale facility doesn’t relocate to West Virginia, Howell said the company may need a second plant on the east coast.

“I think we have a shot,” Howell said.