Chobani is deepening its commitment in Idaho with a 70,000-square-foot innovation and community center. The $20 million investment is the latest in a series of expansions the company has undertaken since building the nearly 1 million-square-foot yogurt plant in 2012.
The building is scheduled for completion next summer.
The new construction will house a 15,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art global research and development center, as well as a food incubator to help start-up companies.
The innovation coming out of the new center is “going to be amazing,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani CEO and founder, during groundbreaking ceremonies last week.
He’s hoping it will be a “good education center for our kids,” inspiring innovation and entrepreneurship in elementary and high-school students, he said.
The center was designed with people in mind, Chobani’s employees and families and the community. In addition to a fitness center and wellness rooms for new mothers, the center also has a large gathering place for employees and the public with a designated entrance for visitors.
The energy-efficient center will have an expansive skylight and wrap-around windows to let the outdoors in and provide a welcoming ambiance for visitors.
“There’s nothing to hide and a lot to see,” Ulukaya said.
The new center brings Chobani’s investment in Idaho to $750 million.
Ulukaya’s decision to build in Idaho when he wanted to expand his New York-based operation came from finding a community his company could align with to build something amazing, he said.
“I found a gold mine in this community. The gold mine is the human spirit,” he said.
He thanked “Governor Butch” Otter and Twin Falls “Mayor Shawn” Barigar for their support from the start and said Chobani has felt the support of the community all these years. He also thanked “our farmers” and the commitment they made to supply milk to Chobani and the College of Southern Idaho for its partnership in workforce training.
Otter said Chobani’s new center is “epic for Idaho” and represents permanence, with its research and development team and others moving from temporary trailers to a permanent structure.
“There is no more question — if there ever was a question,” he said.
He said Ulukaya and Chobani represent the three things everybody wants in a business partner — trust, commitment and caring about people.
Barigar thanked Ulukaya for the opportunity for the community to grow with Chobani.
“Chobani has made an incredible financial investment in our community; it’s the gift that keeps giving,” he said.
In 2016, Chobani announced a $100 million expansion in Twin Falls to invest in new production lines and products and to support distribution to international markets. The Twin Falls operation employs 1,000 people.
The company receives up to 5.5 million pounds of milk daily from local farmers in New York and Idaho and employs a total of 2,000 people. It has dedicated more than $1 billion in capital investment over the past three years across its plants in Twin Falls, upstate New York and South Victoria, Australia.