clear
Sunday November 19th, 2017 7:02PM
8:34AM ( 10 hours ago ) Weather Alert

Chobani grows in 'Silicon Valley of food' despite turmoil

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The founder and CEO of Chobani has no regrets about moving his Greek yogurt company to south-central Idaho, a region embroiled in the national debate over refugee resettlement that spread to company boycotts by far-right bloggers and conspiracy theorists.

"I hear the conversations here and there, but it's a peaceful community that we all love," said Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant. "It's the home of Chobani."

Ulukaya spoke to The Associated Press before a Thursday announcement of a $20 million expansion of the company's facility in the city of Twin Falls — the world's largest yogurt plant — to serve as its global research and development center tackling how yogurt is made and consumed.

It's a project Ulukaya says he's been planning for several years. As to what innovations the company plans for the 70,000-square-foot facility, Ulukaya isn't sharing yet. He said the focus will be on offering natural and non-synthetic products.

The project follows a series of expansion efforts by Chobani since opening its Idaho plant in 2012. The $450 million, 1 million-square-foot plant is the company's second after Ulukaya started Chobani in New York. The company employs 2,000 workers, including 300 refugees.

However, Chobani's time in Idaho also has taken a darker turn as anti-immigrant advocates have seized on the company's open stance on refugees. Fringe websites have falsely claimed that Ulukaya wanted to "drown the United States in Muslims." Other websites, like Breitbart News, falsely attempted to link Chobani's hiring of refugees to an uptick in tuberculosis cases in Idaho.

To counteract the hateful rhetoric, Chobani sued right-wing radio host Alex Jones earlier this year, saying that Jones and his InfoWars website posted fabricated stories linking Ulukaya and the company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children in Twin Falls. Jones originally promised to never back down in his fight against the yogurt giant but eventually retracted his statements in a settlement.

Ulukaya declined to comment on the Jones lawsuit but said the rise in anti-refugee sentiment has never delayed a project he wanted to pursue. And he says he is committed to being a welcoming company.

"Don't leave anyone out," he said. "At Chobani, we believe in second chances."

During Thursday's expansion launch, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter praised Chobani's impact on the community.

"This new investment in Twin Falls reflects Chobani's commitment to Idaho and to the people who have responded so positively to its corporate citizenship," Otter said in a prepared statement. "Congratulations to all those who are contributing to Chobani's growth, just as Chobani is contributing to ours."

Strong economic growth in south-central Idaho — an agriculture-dominant area dubbed the Magic Valley — led Ulukaya to describe the region as the "Silicon Valley of food," pointing to the wide range of food manufacturing plants that have invested in food science since Chobani moved to the state.

"It's an ecosystem generated for food making," he said. "There's now a general knowledge around food science that wasn't there 10 years ago."

The boon extends to Chobani's Idaho workers, who earn an average of $15 an hour, more than twice the minimum wage of $7.25.

The company's new facility will be open for employees to enjoy, featuring sweeping windows to overlook the rural farm landscape and Sawtooth Mountains, complete with an exercise room, kitchen and visitors center.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Agriculture, AP Business - Small Business, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Chobani grows in 'Silicon Valley of food' despite turmoil
Greek yogurt giant Chobani has announced a $20 million expansion of the world's largest yogurt plant in south-central Idaho to serve as the company's global research and development center
8:10PM ( 5 minutes ago )
The Latest: FX says it is reviewing Louis C.K. allegations
The Latest: FX says it is reviewing Louis C.K. allegations but has no record of any complaints against him.
7:49PM ( 26 minutes ago )
GOP leaders bolt from Senate candidate Moore after sex claim
GOP leaders bolt from Senate candidate Roy Moore after the former Alabama judge is accused of having sexual contact decades ago with a girl of 14
7:47PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: LA DA creates Hollywood sex abuse task force
The Latest: Los Angeles prosecutors say they've launched a task force to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry
6:57PM ( 1 hour ago )
Only if it serves the state: North Korea's online experience
For Kim Jong Un, North Korea's first leader to come of age with the Internet, the idea of a more wired nation is both dangerous and irresistible
6:15PM ( 2 hours ago )
Disney hopes for its next blockbuster in newest 'Star Wars'
Disney's $4 billion deal for Lucasfilm and "Star Wars" just keeps getting better for the House of Mouse
6:15PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Senate GOP tax bill would delay biz cut, undo deductions
The Senate unveils its version of the Republicans' high-stakes tax overhaul with billions in tax cuts for people and corporations and repeal of the federal deduction for state and local taxes.
5:21PM ( 2 hours ago )
Industrial and tech stocks fall on potential tax cut delay
US stocks slide after Senate Republicans propose delaying a cut in corporate tax rates for a year
4:58PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: White House hails 'important step' on tax bill
The White House is praising the House Ways and Means Committee for approving the Republican Party's tax cut package
4:12PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Scores more Saudis detained in $100 billion corruption sweep
Saudi Arabia says 201 people detained in sweep over suspected $100 billion in embezzlement and corruption
3:06PM ( 5 hours ago )
CEO of yogurt giant Chobani expands in Idaho despite turmoil
Greek yogurt giant Chobani has announced a $20 million expansion of the world's largest yogurt plant in south-central Idaho to serve as the company's global research and development center
1:44PM ( 6 hours ago )
Jerome Powell's hearing for Fed chairman set for Nov. 28
Senate Banking Committee sets hearing for Powell's nomination as Fed chairman for Nov. 28
12:03PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
China's largest online retailer to buy Montana beef
China's largest online retailer has signed a deal with the Montana Stockgrowers Association to buy $200 million worth of Montana beef over the next three years and to build a $100 million slaughterhouse in the state
8:07PM ( 1 day ago )
Bill introduced allowing Hawaii's foreign fishermen onshore
Hawaii's lawmakers in DC introduce bill that would allow the 700 foreign fishermen to come onshore when boats are docked
8:00PM ( 1 week ago )
Drought may have aided storm that walloped Maine, Northeast
Drought conditions, recent rainfall and an unusual storm path in Maine may have contributed to the large numbers of trees that toppled during a storm that walloped the Northeast this week
8:27PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Business - Agriculture
Zuckerberg nears end of US tour, wants to boost small biz
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg toured the US, to discover that he wants to help out small businesses
4:08PM ( 4 hours ago )
Developers denied height near Grand Canyon but not deterred
Residents of a small town outside the Grand Canyon's South Rim have rejected a building height increase, but it won't stop developers from pursuing an expanse of retail shops, open space and lodging at the edge of town
12:22AM ( 19 hours ago )
FEMA rethinking ban on disaster aid to church buildings
The federal disaster agency is rethinking its policy that routinely denies aid to religious institutions if the money will be used to rebuild sanctuaries damaged or destroyed in natural disasters
6:36PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Small Business
Sheriff: Wildfires point to usefulness of old technology
The sheriff in a remote California county says wildfires last month crippled modern technology including cellphones, land lines and internet
6:01PM ( 2 hours ago )
Selfies and surveillance: North Korea's new connectivity
For Kim Jong Un, North Korea's first leader to come of age with the Internet, the idea of a more wired nation is both dangerous and irresistible
3:33PM ( 4 hours ago )
Kindle with your kale? Amazon to open shops in Whole Foods
Amazon, already selling its voice-activated Echos at Whole Foods, will start to sell Kindles, Fire tablets and other devices at its grocery stores
2:05PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Technology News
The Latest: FX says it is reviewing Louis C.K. allegations
The Latest: FX says it is reviewing Louis C.K. allegations but has no record of any complaints against him.
7:49PM ( 26 minutes ago )
GOP leaders bolt from Senate candidate Moore after sex claim
GOP leaders bolt from Senate candidate Roy Moore after the former Alabama judge is accused of having sexual contact decades ago with a girl of 14
7:47PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Trump thinks US, China could jointly solve world's problems
President Donald Trump has set aside his blistering rhetoric in favor of friendly overtures to China as he winds down a two-day visit to Beijing
7:41PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Fox's Smith avoids story covered heavily by colleagues
Fox News spent nearly 12 hours talking about Hillary Clinton and a seven-year-old uranium deal the past few weeks, but anchor Shepard Smith avoided the topic entirely
7:39PM ( 37 minutes ago )
Report: 5 women accuse Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct
Comedian Louis C.K. is accused of sexual misconduct, including masturbating in front of them, in a New York Times report
7:25PM ( 51 minutes ago )