TWIN FALLS • Employees at Chobani’s Twin Falls plant got a visit from founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya on Thursday announcing their share in the company’s future.

The company said earlier this week it would give all of its roughly 2,000 full-time employees an ownership stake — 10 percent of Chobani’s future value if it sells or goes public. The amount each employee receives is based on time at the company, but the average is likely to be about $150,000.

Stakes for the earliest employees could be worth more than $1 million.

Local Chobani employees said they were surprised by the announcement. Having ownership stake in the company makes the business feel more like a family working together, they said.

They met privately with Ulukaya at the Twin Falls plant, the largest yogurt factory in the world, early Thursday morning.

“He was talking about basically our future as a family,” said Julio Montenegro, production lead for Chobani Kids products. “He doesn’t separate us, it’s all one family. We’re here together and we’re going to move forward together.”

The speech was also a reflection of what Chobani has come through to get where it is today, he said.

“It means a lot to me and my family,” Montenegro said.

“I have a future for my kids. I can provide my family with the dream that they want.”

Area Manager for Flips and Kids products Justin Sorenson said the announcement reinforced his belief that hard work pays off.

“We’ve all worked really hard together,” Sorenson said.

Both Montenegro and Sorenson have worked for Chobani for about three-and-a-half years. Chobani has employees that came to Twin Falls from a lot of different countries, Montenegro said.

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“We’re here to do one thing,” he said, “which is to provide good product to the community and our people out there.”

While the announcement this week was “unreal” and “a dream come true,” Sorenson said, it was also consistent with how the CEO has always run the business, and his generosity with employees.

In person, Ulukaya is a “humbling, loving person just like anybody else. He’s there for you,” Montenegro said.

Sorenson agreed, saying the CEO has come to the plant several times and will stop and talk to employees.

The process to give employees a share in Chobani took about two years, a company spokesman said.

About half of the company’s employees work in Twin Falls.

“We’ve got our bearings and now we keep going forward and we have a path of where we’re going and how we’re going to get there,” Sorenson said. “There’s always been an investment by the employees, and that’s how we got here.”

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