Chobani’s new $300 million Greek yogurt plant in Southern Idaho is not just churning out work for construction and production but also an extraordinary amount of jobs for the region’s dairy industry.
At nearly 1 million square feet, the Twin Falls facility is expected to be the world’s largest yogurt factory when production begins fall 2012. Landing the project over Nevada and California was a coup and happened primarily due to the quality and quantity of Southern Idaho’s milk production.
“We can't make yogurt fast enough,” Chobani’s Melissa Stagnaro says.
Chobani Expands Initial Investment
New York-based parent company Agro-Farma’s initial investment was announced at $128 million and 400 jobs. But Phase I quickly doubled in size and dollars, and will need a workforce of 500 as soon as 2013.
“We thought we had a hold of Jaws and in fact we had Moby Dick,” says Jan Rogers, executive director of Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization. “If we had known we were going after Moby Dick, we might have passed out halfway through the thing.”
The company has had yogurt on the shelves only five years, but has grown from five employees when it began in 2005 to 1,200. Even with a $250 million investment, the 90-year-old New York facility can’t match demand for the health-craze food with twice the protein of regular yogurt.
“lt’s like a dream to really be able to lay out the facility how we want it laid out, because we're always scrambling for capacity in New York," Stagnaro says. "This will give us the opportunity to really bring some innovations.”
Milk Producers' Prices Increase
It also brings Chobani’s western production to the No. 3 milk-producing state’s top-ranked region. The yogurt factory is projected to spur 3,165 total jobs and nearly a half-billion-dollar impact.
“The multiplier effect for this kind of business in our market is huge,” Rogers says. “It’s very high because they’re actually buying the raw product.”
Since Chobani’s choice, four to five more dairy-related companies are considering Southern Idaho. Herds can quickly be increased, production and processing can expand on the east, and population should grow, Rogers says.
“When you get a major processor in here that has that type of consumer brand recognition, it's ridiculous what it does for your exposure,” she says.
Yogurt manufacturing also is pushing up the price for dairy farmers, whose milk from Elsie usually brings lower costs to make cheese and powder.
Job Growth for Twin Falls
Local subcontractors including Gordon Paving have been getting a big payoff, with about 1,000 construction workers on site daily. Chobani is also already involved in community and charitable enterprises as well.
“This community is a little under 45,000 and it supports about 180,000 in the region,” Rogers says. “That's not even as big as a suburb of Dallas, but a $300 million capital-expansion project with 500 jobs is big anywhere.”
Chobani’s chose Twin Falls due to the “fresh, wholesome milk," the people fitting in with the “culture at Chobani, our nothing-but-good philosophy," and the community, Stagnaro says.
“All the other factors could have been right, but if this community wasn't a good fit, it wouldn’t have been a good place for us to come, and this is really just perfect,” she says.
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