TWIN FALLS • Idaho ended 2015 as the fastest-growing state in the nation for jobs. Some Magic Valley industries saw growth reflected at the local level.
December estimates for Twin Falls and Jerome counties showed a 3.3 percent increase from the previous year, an increase of 1,400 jobs, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. The annual average increased by 1.9 percent year-over-year, or 780 jobs. Employment numbers were up almost across the board.
“Pretty much all of our industries are expanding a little bit,” said Jan Roeser, a regional economist with the Idaho Department of Labor.
Food manufacturing in particular saw a 5.5 percent year-over-year increase in December, an additional 190 jobs.
Chobani and Glanbia both say they had growth in 2015.
“We’re all excited by the energy in Twin Falls right now,” said Michael Gonda, vice president of corporate communications for Chobani.
In June 2015, the company experienced a 300 percent year-over-year increase in sales for its Flip product, he said. The product was first introduced in Twin Falls in 2013.
Chobani has about 1,000 employees in the Twin Falls area and has launched a number of new products.
Glanbia also saw growth in Magic Valley because of a number of capital-intensive projects that brought on about 40 employees, said Chief Communications Officer Wilf Costello.
“We’re continuing to grow and add on,” Costello said.
Loren Ward, director of Glanbia’s research and development facility in Twin Falls, said he’s seen steady growth each year since he arrived in 1998.
“We’ve added several scientists in the past year or so,” Ward said.
When he started, the research group had five or six people, and has grown to almost 30 at the site, he said.
Glanbia’s research and development center tests products and helps customers understand how different ingredients change food and can be altered. The ingredients are used in products in 130 countries worldwide, he said.
Chobani and Glanbia have been working to recruit employees from both in and outside the area.
In the past few years, there has been a “tremendous influx of both businesses and individuals” to the area, Gonda said, as other companies begin to see what Chobani’s founder did.
“Jobs are growing, we are growing, businesses are growing in Twin Falls and at the same time, a skilled labor force will be growing as well,” Gonda said.
Glanbia’s recruitment strategy has included being a part an educational campaign to nurture future leaders, Costello said.
“We’re trying to get potential employees at a young age to realize you don’t have to go outside the Magic Valley or out-of-state for jobs,” Costello said.
Social media and word-of-mouth are also important platforms, he said. Glanbia has about 750 employees in the area and plans to ramp up its investment in the future.
“It’s full steam ahead here,” Costello said. “We’re always looking for growth opportunities.”
The estimates reported for nonfarm employment were not seasonally adjusted, Roeser said. Other industries that saw considerable growth were professional and business services, which shows an 8.8 percent increase from December 2014. State government jobs also rose in the area by 38 percent — 190 jobs — and by more than 30 percent for the annual average.
“There were some cuts during the Recession,” Roeser said. “So some of these government agencies are trying to get back to the level of staffing (they had).”
Despite new credit unions opening in Twin Falls, jobs in financial businesses fell 2 percent year-over-year. Roeser said this may be attributed to more automation changing the industry.
Leisure and hospitality jobs increased 4.9 percent in the area.
The state reported 4.4 percent over-the-year seasonally adjusted nonfarm job growth in December, the largest gain Idaho had seen since 2005. Statewide, most gains appeared in construction, manufacturing in real estate, while declines were reported in mining and logging, information and state government.