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Chobani maker gears up for expansion projects

By Journal Staff


SOUTH EDMESTON — Agro Farma, Inc., maker of Chobani yogurt, ended 2011 with a bang.

On Dec. 16, the company announced it had cemented plans to expand its production plant in South Edmeston, and just days later on Dec. 19, the company broke ground on a new 940,000-square-foot, high-capacity production facility in Twin Falls, Idaho.

In New York state, Agro Farma will invest $134 million in its South Edmeston facility, a move that should translate into new jobs and increased tax revenue for the surrounding communities.

“This project is a good thing not only for our company, but our employees and the community as well,” company founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said in a news release.

The expansion project includes the construction of two four-story structures and a 300-space parking lot, along with new receiving bays that will reduce the number of tanker trucks idling at the facility. A new truck-staging area in the new parking lot will reduce the total number of tractor trailers that park along the road.

That parking lot, along with a new employee entrance in the new wellness building — one of the two new structures going up — will reduce the number of pedestrians crossing the roadway.

Agro Farma has hired a number of local contractors to work on the project including Taggart Electric, Burrell’s Excavating, Tuller Septic, Eastman Construction, S&H Mechanical, and Delaware Engineering. The project will create between 30 and 40 new construction jobs.

Agro Farma received a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement from the Chenango County Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA), but the project will still generate an increase in tax revenue for the county ($138,555), the town of Columbus ($119,700), and the Unadilla Valley School District ($203,041) over the life of the PILOT, company officials said. The CCIDA also granted sales and use tax exemptions on construction materials and equipment rented during the construction for goods and services purchased in New York.

Once the project is complete, Agro Farm expects to add 106 new full-time jobs, bumping the company’s $30 million annual payroll by an additional $4.2 million.

In Idaho, work is under way on the new production facility, located on 200 acres.

“This is the next chapter in our four-year history,” Ulukaya said. “We feel the potential for good-tasting, healthy food in America is limitless.”

Production at the new plant should start in the second half of 2012. The plant will employ about 400 people and feature an onsite 45,000-square-foot employee facility featuring an open-office plan, natural light, a wellness area, a cafeteria, lounge areas, training facilities, a daycare center, and conference rooms.

The new facility will help support the region’s agricultural community as Agro Farma needs a reliable supply of milk, Idaho governor C.L. Otter said.

The Twin Falls facility will boost Agro Farma’s distribution of Chobani to the western United States.

Earlier in 2011, Agro Farma expanded its Chobani ( brand into Australia through the acquisition of Bead Foods Pty Ltd. Chobani now sells seven flavors in Woolworths stores throughout New South Wales. Chobani also sells five flavors at Loblaw stores in the greater Toronto area and Hamilton in Canada.                  

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