TWIN FALLS — Nature meets technology inside Clif Bar’s Twin Falls bakery.
Go into the lobby and you’ll discover wooden pillars, decorative walls of Idaho rock and handrails of reclaimed wood. Atriums, windows and skylights bring natural light into the building.
In the production room, however, the industrial environment is more apparent. Robotic arms continuously move product as employees monitor systems over a polished concrete floor. The packaged bars are taken overhead into the palletizer room, where forklift operators organize pallets by date in the warehouse. A day-and-a-half later, the bars are shipped out.
It’s been less than a year since Clif Bar opened its Twin Falls bakery. And with well over $100 million put into the facility, it isn’t stopping there.
Having put its third production line into operation at the end of January, the company expects to soon reach 290 employees, complete an employee gymnasium and install solar panels.
“It’s pretty critical for the company,” General Manager Dale Ducommun said about the bakery. “Obviously, we needed the capacity here to meet demand for our organic energy bars. Hopefully it’s been a good thing for Twin Falls, too.”
Clif Bar’s growth has exceeded its own expectations.
“When we originally started last May, the plan was just to start with two lines and then add a third as we needed to,” Ducommun said. “We just needed to have a third a little sooner than we originally anticipated to meet demand.”
Construction began last fall on the third line. Clif Bar now employs about 265 people in Twin Falls, but is still hiring for the last of the 75 new positions the line created.
So far, the new line is just producing all Clif Bar flavors — not the Clif Kid ZBars — but running at full capacity, it can even produce more bars than either of the other two production lines.
“Right now we’re third in the bar category and pretty soon we should be second. We’ve continued to grow every year,” Ducommun said.
The company already has enough wastewater treatment capacity for up to six production lines, he said, so there’s opportunity for more expansion when it’s needed.
Maintenance technicians are among the positions the company still needs to fill. But Clif Bar isn’t the only one trying to recruit them.
“Everybody is looking for good maintenance techs in the area,” Ducommun said.
Most of Clif Bar’s employees were already living in the Magic Valley when they were hired. Ducommun believes the company is competitive with its wages and benefits.
“We do have extremely good benefits,” he said. “We have a full gym here now, too.”
The gymnasium opened in January, but Clif Bar wants to bring in more equipment. The gym already has trainers, and employees can take yoga and Zumba classes. Employees receive a paid half hour to exercise each work day, Ducommun said.
As people are also drawn to the company because of its values, he said, Clif Bar shows its commitment to sustainability by offering incentives. The Cool Commute benefit offers $6,500 toward the purchase of a vehicle that gets high gas mileage.
“We’ve had over 40 team members take advantage of that so far,” Ducommun said.
And Clif Bar offers employees $500 toward the purchase of a bicycle.
“Employee retention is very high,” he said. “I think our turnover is less than 5 percent. … I think we’ve really attracted people who are drawn to the Clif Bar culture.”
But also key are its wages, which had to be above a certain level for the company to receive Urban Renewal Agency funding for infrastructure.
“Hopefully it raises the bar for everybody out there,” Ducommun said. “I just think that it’s important to value your employees and to make sure they’re able to have a good job where they can sustain their families and have good benefits.”
The Magic Valley has reported increased wages in manufacturing positions over the past year, Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Jan Roeser said.
“I think it’s just time wages finally moved,” she said. “Definitely having the competition out there helps, especially with these highly skilled positions.”
Clif Bar’s aspirations include things like being good stewards of the community and the planet. Ducommun takes these seriously.
Last year, the company paid employees for 3,725 hours of volunteer service in the area.
“We’re just really proud of the employees here at our bakery,” company spokesman Alfred Torres III said. “They’re being good stewards of the community.”
While continuing that initiative, Clif Bar has plans to install solar panels on site, possibly this year. And it’s already got the ball rolling to help area farmers begin the shift to organic. That’s about a three-year transition, but eventually could lead to the company buying locally.
However, Ducommun noted, there is also a need for facilities in the Magic Valley that could process that grain into usable ingredients.
In the meantime, Clif Bar relies on the area’s resources for another purpose: to give employees the environment they want to live in.
“We have a culture at Clif,” Torres said. “But we want to make sure that culture is uniquely Idaho.”