TWIN FALLS • Chobani has invested nearly $750 million into its Twin Falls plant, but the company isn’t stopping there, CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said.
At a celebration Thursday, Ulukaya welcomed the governor, state dignitaries, city and company officials and economic development partners to commemorate the factory’s latest project — a nearly $100 million expansion already under construction.
Just three years after opening the world’s largest yogurt factory in Twin Falls, the company is adding new production lines and building an office headquarters for its global research and development team.
For Ulukaya, investing in Twin Falls and Idaho was the right decision.
“I thought I made the right choice the minute I arrived here,” he said.
The addition and new production lines are expected to be complete and operational later this year. The new offices will be ready by the middle of next year.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter commended the company’s founder on his confidence in the state, which he said has resulted in other companies making the same choice to come here.
“You’ve been a tremendous source of pride for me,” Otter said. “… Every day is a great day when you invest $100 million in Idaho.”
To commemorate the event, representatives from various groups were invited to sign their names on a beam to be placed inside the new addition.
The original factory opened in 2013 with just a few hundred workers. Recently, the company announced it would hire an additional 100 employees in the first half of this year, pushing its total local employment to more than 1,000 workers.
“We needed the jobs even separate from this expansion,” company spokesman Michael Gonda said. “We needed jobs to produce more food.”
Twin Falls has been the birthplace of several new Chobani products already, Otter said. These include Chobani’s popular Flips line and its Meze Dips and yogurt drinks launching this summer. Other products now being formulated will also be produced at the Twin Falls factory, the company said.
“This is just a celebration of the first phase,” Ulukaya said. “I’m so happy. I’m so honored.”
Chobani’s three building permits recently filed with the city call for 72,677 square feet of expansion.
“The growth of Chobani here has been the gift that keeps on giving,” Mayor Shawn Barigar told reporters, referencing other businesses that have relocated to the Magic Valley in the wake of Chobani’s success.
That includes Fabri-Kal, Otter noted, which opened in Burley last year. The company supplies millions of the yogurt producer’s single-serve cups.
And it’s not just the corporations that are benefiting. Chobani and other new companies are helping to drive up regional wages and benefits packages as they compete for employers.
As more locals find better and higher-paying jobs, some economic analysts are beginning to worry the area’s labor pool is too shallow. Economic development organizations are diversifying their strategies with college and high school programming, and even reaching out to tourism organizations for external marketing, Barigar said.
Those efforts, in turn, are helping Chobani fill jobs almost as fast as they create them.
“We have been privileged over the past few years to have an incredible network of support in this community,” Gonda said.
Ulukaya considers himself and his company representatives to be among Idaho’s biggest cheerleaders. He tells his business colleagues: “Invest in Idaho — you’ll never be sorry.”