Chobani, Monsanto, McCain, and other big food firms are putting down roots in southern Idaho.
In just 10 months, Southern Idaho has welcomed seven different food processing projects, with a total worth of nearly $800m. The Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization reports the projects will bring as many as 5,000 new jobs to the area.
“For our region of 200,000 people to open or announce seven new projects in a 10-month timeframe is pretty phenomenal,” said Jan Rogers, SIEDO executive director. “Southern Idaho, blessed with agricultural diversity, is now becoming the country’s center for food production, food processing and food science.”
Yogurt giant Chobini kicked off the growth spurt in December 2012, opening the largest yogurt plant on the planet (worth $450m). Another notable investment: Portuguese fruit processor Frulact Group, Idaho’s first-ever manufacturing foreign direct investment, announced plans for a $30m+ facility.
Other high-dollar projects include Monsanto’s planned Wheat Technology Center (worth $9.2m); Clif Bar’s upcoming organic/natural foods plant ($160m); Glanbia Foods’ headquarters and Cheese Innovation Center, opened last year ($15m). Also, potato processor McCain Foods will plunk down $100m to expand its Idaho facility this year, and the Calva/Brewster Partnership intends to construct an infant animal formula plant ($9m).
Southern Idaho appeals as a food processing center due to its status as a diverse agricultural center. Commodities grown in the region include sugar beets, potatoes, barley, winter/summer wheat, oats, seed, pork, cattle/calves, and dairy; it also holds significance R&D resources.
Idaho ranks among the top US states in terms of food processing, with the southern part of the state’s agribusiness activity accounting for more than half of the state’s total in 2013. The SIEDO leadership also credits the region’s transportation infrastructure as a contributing factor to its food business success.