IRWINDALE, California — Dallas-area State Rep. Jason Villalba led a team of state officials to California on Monday to meet with the owner of Sriracha hot sauce, which is considering moving after a high-profile backlash from local government.
Villalba, State Sen. Carlos Uresti, and State Rep. Hubert Vo — along with officials from the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office and the Texas Department of Agriculture — met with David Tran, owner of Huy Fong Foods, on Monday morning.
Rep. Villalba and state leaders then met privately with Tran to discuss possibilities of getting Huy Fong Foods to Texas.
Uresti and Villalba held a news conference after the visit to extol the virtues of doing business in their state.
"We're not here to offer any specific incentives, but just to let it be known there are incentives," Uresti said. He and Villalba noted Texas has no personal income tax, among other benefits.
Tran said Texas must prove it can grow chili peppers as hot as the hybrid jalapenos he gets from a farm that specifically developed them to make his Sriracha sauce the hottest possible.
"If there is not chili peppers, we cannot build the plant," he told reporters.
Although Tran had the Texas flag flying outside the facility on Monday, he said it was just meant to welcome his visitors. Inside the plant's employee parking lot, and out of public view, a large sign declared, "No Tear Gas Made Here."
Villalba had pushed for a meeting with Huy Fong Foods for several months.
The hot sauce maker is considering leaving California after neighbors there started complaining last fall that strong spicy fumes were making the plant a public nuisance.
In November, the city sued and won a temporary, partial shutdown.
On Wednesday, the Irwindale City Council will hold a hearing to decide whether to officially declare the Sriracha plant a public nuisance.
If city officials declare the factory a public nuisance, Huy Fong officials will have a set period of time to comply with the city's demands to address the odor issue, according to The Los Angeles Times.
It’s uncertain if Huy Fong Foods will actually move from its four-year-old factory, just east of Los Angeles but the company could expand operations, Villalba said, and build a new plant in Texas as the condiment becomes more popular.
The visit by the Texas delegation is getting extra attention in Southern California -- especially after Toyota announced it was moving its North America headquarters from Torrance, Calif. to Plano.
Though he represents North Texas, Villalba said San Antonio and cities in the Rio Grande Valley would likely be most suitable for Huy Fong Foods.
Gov. Rick Perry has made news traveling the country touting Texas’ business-friendly climate, but few other state leaders have done so – much less Villalba, a freshman legislator.
The Republican, representing District 114 in Dallas, has spent the last few months raising his profile.
Earlier this year, he reached out to the four candidates in his party running for lieutenant governor, asking them to tone down their immigration rhetoric worrying that it could have a backlash for the GOP. Villalba told WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics that he even spoke privately with Sen. Dan Patrick before his highly publicized immigration debate with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
Villalba has also spoken to conservative groups about the need to include more Latinos in the Republican Party.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.