The new Holmes Smokehouse facility in Lufkin has begun some operations, with the company creating 21 jobs so far, according a company official.

Rodney Roth, president and owner of the Houston-based smoked meats producer, said the facility, the former Loggins meat processing facility on Ellen Trout Drive in Lufkin, started operating May 5 with refurbished offices, test kitchens, quality control labs, packaging areas and refrigerated docks.

“We’ve got a lot of smiling faces helping us create this great platform and infrastructure that we hope to continue to grow for generations,” Roth said. “It’s a family-run business and we take that seriously.”

Roth made the comments after a check presentation before the Deep East Texas Council of Governments annual meeting at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center in Lufkin on Thursday. Holmes Smokehouse received a $338,000 check as part of a forgivable loan program administered by DETCOG and the Texas General Land Office, which made $5 million available for Deep East Texas businesses impacted by Hurricane Ike.

According to DETCOG officials, businesses receiving funds will have 50 percent of the loan value forgiven after showing proof of compliance for one year and will have 100 percent of the loan forgiven after compliance for two years.

Criteria used to determine eligibility for funds included for-profit businesses in Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties that would create or retain one job satisfying U.S. Housing and Urban Development low- to moderate-income objectives for every $50,000 of funds loaned.

“This is what we want to see happen after Hurricane Ike, and this is a part of that rebuilding,” said DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles.

“It’s a reinvestment not only in Lufkin, but in Angelina County and Deep East Texas. There were quite of few people unemployed who lined up for jobs. We’re certainly glad to see investment in jobs.”

Under the program, business owners could use loan funds for marketing, working capital, equipment or site improvements. A loan committee considered applicants on a comparative basis, with priority given to applicants with the highest cumulative impact on the economy, including job creation and retention.

Polk County Judge John Thompson, who serves as chairman of the Deep East Texas Regional Economic Development Committee, said it’s important for Deep East Texas be competitive in the state and the nation to attract business and industry opportunities.

“We’ve got to have good education,” Thompson said. “We’ve got to have good roads and these good things and be active in recruiting businesses. This one is in the Lufkin area, but we’re excited when they come anywhere in the 12-county area because it benefits all of us. The competition is furious, and we couldn’t do it without the 12 counties working together.”

Eligible applicants could be entities in business prior to or after the hurricane, including startup companies or other existing businesses that would create new qualified jobs that would offset area jobs lost as a result of the hurricane.

Roth said Holmes Smokehouse has started two lines of productions since opening and will add lines as the company properly trains and teaches employees the art of sausage-making.

“We want to walk before we run,” Roth said. “We’re teaching them food safety and all the proper ways of doing that. We want to put out our best. We’re taking our time. We’re continuing to add on people, add more shifts and more lines.”

Etech Inc., a Nacogdoches-based company offering inbound, outbound and web chat services from facilities, including Lufkin, will receive a $266,000 loan and Endura Products Inc., a Nacogdoches-based business suppling door sills, frames, components and accessories, will receive a $200,000 loan as part of the program for businesses in need of assistance to recover from both physical and economic damages resulting from the 2008 hurricane.

The Deep East Texas Council of Governments earlier this year made a request to the Texas General Land Office for additional funds under the program, but no future call for applications has been announced.

Holmes Smokehouse was founded in 1970 by Luvine Holmes in Rosenberg. Roth bought the company in 2000 and acquired Burton Sausage Company in 2008.

 The company has since expanded distribution into Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina.

Earlier this year, Lufkin City Council members, Angelina County commissioners and Angelina College trustees approved a 10-year abatement package for the company on new value of eligible property improvements on a 100, 100, 100, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20 percent schedule.

Steve Knight’s email address is sknight@lufkindailynews.com.