TWIN FALLS • Smitten.
Perhaps that’s the best way to describe how Clif Bar and Twin Falls feel about each other.
The two met in June.
They dated through August.
And on Thursday, the proposal became an engagement by signing a development deal that will help the famous energy food bar company break ground on a 300,000-square-foot bakery in April 2015.
“We’re excited,” said Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson shortly after a noon meeting of the Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency and city council. “We’ve come a long way from a garage to this — starting our own bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho.”
After approving the deal at a special meeting of the URA and council, city and Clif Bar officials gathered with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to mark the occasion at Twin Falls City Park.
“The Magic Valley continues to work its magic,” Otter said in an interview before the ceremony.
The production facility will be located in the Jayco Industrial Park, just south of the new Chobani yogurt plant. The deal would allow the city and URA to build millions of dollars of improvements on the 89-acre property.
The California-based Clif Bar hopes to have the bakery operational by the end of 2016. It hopes to invest a total of $160 million in the expansion — $90 million in its first phase.
About 250 full-time jobs are expected to be created initially; if market conditions allow, that number could swell to 450. Currently, the company employs 360 workers. Clif has several products in addition to its original bar, including the Builder’s Bar, Kid Z Bar, Luna Bar, Mojo Bar and Shot Energy Gels.
It will make its Clif bars and Kid Z Bars at the Twin Falls facility to be shipped across the nation. Clif Bar will start with two baking lines and, every two years, based on market demand, will consider adding additional lines. Six baking lines would grow the company’s investment to $160 million.
Erickson said he and wife/co-owner Kit Crawford felt they could live in the area, and that was a good sign.
“It’s the people. It’s a wonderful community. Everybody has been super nice to us, seems like everyone works well together,” Erickson said. “The outdoors is amazing. Within a stones throw you’ve got skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking — those are all of our sports. And, golf.
“And, we’re farmers, too. It all just fits.“
Twin Falls Mayor Greg Lanting, whose voice cracked with emotion as he spoke about the deal, called Clif Bar the “coolest company in America.” He said city officials pursued Clif Bar aggressively when they found out who the interested company was.
“Our people sold this,” Lanting said. “We can put on all the flashy displays and slideshows and talk to ’em. They come here and meet the people and everyone talks about how friendly everything is and how clean Twin Falls is. The community sells itself and makes it easier for us. This is a good one.“
In comparison to Clif Bar’s $160 million aspiration, Greek yogurt giant Chobani anticipated an initial investment of about $129 million, said Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler. Chobani’s investment has grown to $413 million, he said.
“We don’t believe this is going to grow proportionally like that,” Rothweiler said. “But I think that size of an investment is substantial in our community.“
Erickson said Chobani’s plant added to his and Crawford’s interest in the Magic Valley.
“That an exciting, growing company like that would choose to be here? That made us think twice — and twice was a good thing,” Erickson said.
Rothweiler said the city — which has been working with Clif Bar in secret since early summer — had to compete against several other communities for the opportunity. He said Twin Falls and Clif Bar are a good fit.
City officials had to find property with the right zoning and an existing “will serve” letter for wastewater capacity. The Jayco property was that property, he said.
“That means we made a commitment a long time ago to deliver water and sewer services to (the Jayco) property,” Rothweiler said. “… I stress that, because there is no hypocrisy. There is no double standard — we are following the same rules.“
Clif Bar’s construction schedule aligns well with the city’s wastewater facility upgrade schedule, Rothweiler said.
About $25 million will be invested in improving the property from the URA, city, state and other sources, according to a draft version of the development deal. The URA is expected to kick in $18.9 million in improvements through tax increment financing and an initial letter of credit from Clif Bar.
“This is a no-risk deal for any of the local entities,” Rothweiler said.
The state could award $1.8 million; $1 million of that would come from two community development block grants the city has been invited to apply for.
The Idaho Department of Labor could also provide $4 million in work force development training to develop the “skill sets needed from day one,” Rothweiler said.
Otter said he would be sure to brag about Twin Falls’ newest business at a coming Republican governors’ meeting.
“And the first guy I’m going to talk to about it will be Rick Perry because he always brags about all the companies coming into Texas,” Otter said.
The governor said he has been “wearing out my airplane” visiting the Magic Valley for ribbon cuttings and ground breakings. He said that’s a testament to the area’s governments, URA and economic development groups — “what’s happened in the last 14 months in this valley, it has been tremendous.“
“You folks have dazzled an awful lot of capital investment here and Clif Bar is actually the icing on the cake,” he said.