Chobani's rise to international fame: 'There is no finish line'

Giving back is a core value of Chobani. In 2016, the company and employees gave out more than 525,000 cases of free yogurt and logged more than 3,500 employee volunteer hours in the process.

Doug Knudsen knows the production lines inside and out at the Chobani plant.

"We're doing Peanut Butter Dream, it looks like," he said inside the plant. "So it comes down here and puts the cases right here."

Recently out of work and eager to find employment, Knudsen joined Chobani last year, hired for his maintenance skills.

And he's quickly risen to his shift's lead.

"This is one of the priority lines," he explained. "This is one of the more complicated, as you can see, with all of the moving parts."

Every day, the company's products move through a maze of automated machines.

Each one assigned to a specific task with one common goal: create the world's best tasting yogurt.

"And we take a spoon see how the fruit's on the bottom?" said Joshua Chocker, inside the plant by a yogurt production line.

Joshua Chocker started as a temporary employee five years ago and has risen to production lead.

The Twin Falls native has his sights on becoming a supervisor and strongly believes in the company's mission.

"We make one cup at a time and we make sure it's a good product for us, our consumers, everybody out there," he said.

Chobani's million square-foot facility sits in the middle of farm fields on the city's south side.

Since the plant opened in December of 2012, the company is credited with contributing more than $339 million in labor income in the Gem State.

City leaders also say the region's unemployment has dropped 53 percent in the first four years of the company's move to Idaho.

"If you think about the tail end of 2013 and 2014, really when they started to build the plant and open it, that was really the tail end of the recession for us here in the Twin Falls area," said city spokesman Josh Palmer.

Palmer said despite hard times, the city secured $30 million in tax increment financing to help Chobani with initial utility connections and another $8 million in city and state funds to train local employees - and investment he says has already paid off.

"They guaranteed to the community they would create up to 600 jobs and they ended up surpassing it, and they would build a $450 million plant," he said.

Anyone who makes the drive to Twin Falls will see recent years have proven to be a tale of two cities.

By the interstate and the Perrine Bridge, national retailers and big box stores are popping up left and right. But on the old, historic side of town, you'll find business is also booming.

Retailers credit the arrival of Chobani and they also say what's old is new again.

"I think anybody who comes into town and helps us grow as a community is always a positive thing," said Keyene Wood.

Wood manages The Cookie Basket on Main.

She said Chobani is more than just a business - the company is a member of the community - led by the company's CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, who was recently featured on '60 Minutes.'

"When he comes to town, he likes to frequent some of the local businesses," she said, proudly noting that he's visited the store and enjoyed the cookies.

Chobani officials chose the Magic Valley for its high milk production, and to this day, continues to buy local milk for its yogurt production.

"When this company came in, they gave us jobs," Chocker said. "They gave us an uprise."

Especially for folks like Knudsen, who left another Magic Valley plant after 20 years of employment when it shut down operations last year, leaving his family wondering what was next.

"Possibly may have had to move I don't know," Knudsen said.

It's now life in the fast lane, where employees at Chobani are glad to say, it's full speed ahead.

"What Hamdi's told us, there is no finish line," Knudsen said. "It's a thing that's going to keep going."