The manufacturing sector of San Antonio's economy has been growing for several years, spurred by lower cost natural gas and an increasingly lower price advantage to having factories in uncertain parts of the world.


  And the latest thing Bexar County is manufacturing is Raman noodles.


  Maruchan Incorporated, through its unit Maruchan Texas, today opened a $300 million, 510,000 square foot factor at I-35 and Fischer Road in southwest Bexar County dedicated to turning out tons of the high protein 'poverty food,' favored by struggling college students and young people.


  "Texas is a good market for us, we have a good share of our market here in Texas," said Mark Horikawa, who is the plant manager.


  The plant is employing about 200 people today and expects to employ some 600 in the coming 18 months.


  Mutsuhiko Oda, who introduced ramen noodles to the U.S. market in 1977, says the plant is testament to the success of the product.


  "We are excited to be in San Antonio with such an extraordinary facility," said Odo, who is president of Maruchan, Inc.


  Horikawa says the company hopes that products made in the new plant will expand the ramen noodle market in Mexico.


  "This is a manufacturing facility, so we will be starting out with two lines, and eventually going to six total," he said.


  Maruchan praised Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff as well as the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation for making the plant a reality.


  Ramen noodles originated in China, but Maruchan is based in Japan.  The company says the largest market for ramen noodles today is South Korea.