A Mexican food and snack products maker will invest $55 million and create 500 jobs in Florence County as it sets up an East Coast distribution hub over the next few years.

California-based Ruiz Food Products will renovate the former Heinz facility in Pee Dee Touchstone Energy Commerce Park and begin making a variety of its nationally distributed El Monterey and Tornados products in 2015.

The facility will be Ruiz's first on the East Coast as it expands into the Southeast. The company's name is pronounced "Reese."

El Monterey is the flagship frozen Mexican food brand for the privately held company and the No. 1 selling brand of frozen Mexican food in the United States. Products include burritos, tamales, breakfast burritos and Mexican snacks. Tornados is a top-selling snack available at convenience stores.

Job opportunities will include positions in plant management, building and manufacturing equipment maintenance, facilities management, cold storage, food preparation and assembly, quality assurance, mechanical and electrical maintenance and repair, stocking and inventory, shipping and receiving, accounting, clerical, administrative and janitorial. Jobs through the company will be listed online later this year.

Ruiz Foods also operates manufacturing facilities in California and Texas and currently employs about 2,400 people in the U.S.

"Our products are in high demand with significant growth on the East Coast, and for us at Ruiz Foods, it's all about customer service," said Rachel P. Cullen, president and CEO of Ruiz Food Products. "After conducting an initial search, we quickly narrowed our choice to this facility in Florence."

Kim Ruiz Beck, chairwoman of Ruiz and daughter of co-founder Fred Ruiz, said the company has a tradition of community involvement.

"Our corporate culture promotes an open-door policy, regular communication meetings, on-site and off-site training, a birthday club, opportunities for internal advancement, competitive wages and benefits, community involvement - a family environment," Beck said. "Our core values include safety, integrity, respect, quality, innovation and teamwork."

Gov. Nikki Haley will will join company officials and local economic development representatives for a formal announcement in Florence on June 17.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.