A new shrimp-processing operation is coming to north Baton Rouge, creating 38 new jobs for the area.

Baton Rouge Shrimp Co. Inc. announced plans to convert a 50,000-square-foot warehouse space into a $2.2 million shrimp-processing facility, capable of holding 1 million pounds of seafood.

Baton Rouge Shrimp Co. expects to be open for initial operations in six weeks, with full-scale operations by Dec. 1, said Tommy Lusco, the company’s president and CEO. Employment is expected to grow to about 60 employees by the end of the second year, he added.

“It just seemed like an opportune time, because the state is starting to promote regulations like certification and origin traceability,” Lusco said in a statement, commenting on his decision to create the company.

“Most of the foreign shrimp are farm-raised and they’re not a premium crop like we produce in the Gulf. We have one of the remaining sustainable fisheries in the country — producing more than $1 billion in shrimp per year — and that’s a big deal. Louisiana is the place to be if you’re in the seafood business.”

Another reason for locating the business in Baton Rouge, said Lusco, is he owns the building space.

“It was a dry warehouse,” he explained. “But at one point it was a food distribution center.”

Annual salaries for the processing plant workers will be about $26,000 a year, based on reports by company officials of an annual payroll of $1 million a year. However, Lusco noted “$26,000 is probably low,” adding some jobs in areas like sales and marketing or accounting would likely pay more.

The Baton Rouge Shrimp Co. will purchase wild-caught shrimp from Gulf of Mexico providers, and process the seafood for domestic and international use. The company intends to deal in headless and heads-on shrimp, Lusco said, noting the company may consider peeling shrimp at a later date.

“I’m working on an agreement right now with Purina Foods, to freeze it (shrimp heads) in 50-pound blocks and sell it to Purina to be ground up as fish food,” Lusco said.

The company would also like to explore international markets like Australia, Africa and Europe.

City officials have worked to develop international export relations, Mayor-President Kip Holden said in a news conference.

“So now, we are starting to market our products internationally,” he said. “If you want diversity, you just can’t stay within the walls and the boundaries of the United States. So now this is taking off to a new level.”

The company will participate in three incentive programs provided by the Louisiana Department of Economic Development: Quality Jobs program, which allows for salary rebates or investment tax credits if Baton Rouge Shrimp Co. meets specific job-creation goals; and the Industrial Tax Exemption program, which provides a 100 percent property tax abatement for up to 10 years for new capital investments made on the property. The company will also participate in the Enterprise Zone incentive program, which structures incentives around how many jobs a project creates.

The incentives can come in the form of several different types of tax credits, if at least 35 percent of new hires come from four targeted groups, such as hiring someone lacking basic skills or hiring someone on public assistance.

Lusco has been associated with processing and marketing seafood on the wholesale and retail level for more than 25 years. He started Louisiana Seafood Exchange in 1988 and grew the company to $16 million a year in sales by 2000, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber reported. Lusco sold the company in 2001 to his management team and retired.

“Baton Rouge Shrimp will create jobs in the Capital Region using our state’s seafood resources,” Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC, said in a statement. “As a sector, food processing has a long history in Louisiana, and our area is a competitive location for distribution of their products to national and international markets.”