Chobani: No moo, no movement

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It was the cows.

Or, specifically, it is the lack of cows in Nevada that cost Carson City a new yogurt manufacturing plant that could have resulted in a 1,000 new jobs, according to the Northern Nevada Development Authority's executive director, Robert C. Hooper.

Chobani, a maker of Greek yogurt, announced last week that it will invest more than $100 million to build a "state-of-the-art, high capacity" production facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, and bring with it 400 new jobs.

Carson City also had been working toward being the New York-based company's new Western home but ultimately fell short.

"We visited numerous possible sites over the past several months and met a lot of great people along the way," said Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO and founder of Chobani, in a press release. "It was a hard decision to make, but in the end we chose Twin Falls due to its abundant milk supply, skilled labor force and tight knit local community."

A spokesman for Chobani did not return a message Monday asking why Carson City fell to Twin Falls. But for Hooper, it was Twin Falls' "abundant milk supply."

Hooper said Chobani needed 100,000 cows to provide for its daily needs, and the entire state of Nevada has only 20,000. He said that doesn't account for Nevada's close relationship to California dairy producers.

"Quite frankly, from my point of view, we could have supplied the milk because there would have been a very fast flow of milk trucks coming up over the Sierra from California," Hooper said.

He said he thinks Carson City was leading the Idaho city in all other categories: Transportation, workforce, available land, water rates and "everything else."

"We were right there, right until the very end, and Chobani made the decision that they thought was best for them, which is the way it should be," Hooper said.

The city of Twin Falls also offered Chobani some deals for coming to the area, with a total estimated cost to the city of about $29 million, according to the Twin Falls Times-News.

Hooper characterized cash-based incentives as "bribe money" that Carson City would not have been able to match. But the lack of state income tax would have made Carson City a better economic deal for the company in the long run, he said.

But there is a silver lining to the ordeal, he said: It put Carson City on the map for similar companies that don't have quite the milk needs of Chobani, and it prompted the city and NNDA to gather all the information necessary to pitch the area to them.

He said they've been speaking with those other companies and, while there are no definite plans, there could be an announcement in the next couple of weeks.


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