When New York yogurt maker Chobani looked west for a home for a new manufacturing plant, it found just what it was looking for in Twin Falls, Idaho.

The company needed an adequate milk supply and a viable workforce, but also wanted community support and space enough to build its own state-of-the-art yogurt plant, said Nicki Briggs, Chobani's director of communications.

"The Twin Falls community as a whole has been very welcoming and has proved they're going to be a fabulous partner," she said.

Chobani worked closely with the Twin Falls Urban Renewal Agency and other government agencies, she said. In all, the company was offered about $31.5 million in economic incentives.

While dairy industry representatives are pleased with Chobani's decision to locate in the Magic Valley, they also recognize the irony in citizens' and government agencies' strong support.

Dairymen have been challenged by public sentiment and county zoning laws to limit growth, several said.

"Five or six years ago, the last thing Twin Falls County wanted was more dairies," said Jeff Williams, CEO of Glanbia Foods.

"They've done a 180. We've gone from a pariah industry to king of the hill."

That's water under the bridge, and several dairymen said they would rather focus on the positive: a seemingly better appreciation of dairymen.

"We're not hearing those complaints against dairies the last few years," said John Brubaker, a Buhl producer.

-- Carol Ryan Dumas

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