Eight manufacturing expansions underway in the Magic Valley

October 9, 2018

A twin box splitter machine operates last week at Kapstone Container Corporation in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — With a max speed of 1,500 feet per minute, a $12 million corrugator is Kapstone’s newest piece of equipment — and the pinnacle of its largest capital project in 58 years.

Kapstone Container Corp. is just wrapping up its five-year plan to do some major upgrades at its 400,000 square-foot plant. In the past year alone, the company has spent about $25 million, General Manager David Crawford said.

“It was almost a $30 million investment over the past two years,” he said. “We’ve been running at or near capacity for about four to five years.”

But as Amazon’s western distribution centers increase their demand for boxes and local manufacturing companies expand their capacities, Kapstone Container Corp. also needed to catch up. Kapstone makes boxes for food producers such as Chobani, Clif Bar and Glanbia.

“Boxes are really a staple of the economy,” Crawford said. “As the customers have grown, we’ve grown with them.”

Kapstone employs 130 people at its Twin Falls plant on South Park Avenue West. This latest expansion was expected to create a handful of jobs, as well as secure some of those positions for the future.

Manufacturing is on the rise around the Magic Valley. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, between 2016 and 2017 manufacturing-based employment for the eight counties of south-central Idaho grew 4.7 percent. It’s up 25.4 percent for the past 10 years, with average employment in 2017 at 10,252.

Wages are also increasing. Between 2016 and 2017, the average annual wage in manufacturing jobs grew 2.7 percent to $47,298. That’s a 32.4 percent increase from 2007.

Meanwhile, over the past year alone, manufacturers all around the Magic Valley have announced significant expansions. These combined are expected to create hundreds of jobs and total hundreds of millions of dollars invested in local facilities.

Here’s what we know so far about how those expansions are going.

Jayco’s new production lines

The travel trailer manufacturer broke ground in February on a significant expansion that was expected to create 300 or more jobs in Twin Falls — more than doubling the company’s workforce.

As planned, the new building would have opened this summer, but for whatever reason, the company didn’t file an application with Idaho Department of Environmental Quality until August. The company’s application with DEQ would change its air quality permit to reflect additional wood processing.

“Jayco, Inc. plans to complete construction and began (sic) operation of a second stationary recreational travel trailer assembly facility, at our current location, on December 31st, 2018,” the company’s application said. “This second production building will house two (2) additional assembly lines … Each new assembly line will have a capacity of 3.75 recreational vehicles per hour.”

In September, Jayco announced in a press release that Highland Ridge RV plans to start production of travel trailers in Twin Falls in early 2019.

Company representatives did not return phone calls or an email request for information.

Chobani’s innovation center

Chobani broke ground on its innovation and community center in 2017. The $20 million investment was for a 70,000 square-foot building to house Chobani employees, its global research and development team and a business startup incubator.

While originally planned to open this summer, the project is now slated for completion in the first half of 2019, though company representatives declined to comment on the reason for the delay.

Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Michael Gonda said the expected opening is still within a normal timeframe. An open house will be announced later.

“We’ll definitely be welcoming the community in,” Gonda said.

Chobani doesn’t have immediate plans for new hiring as a result of the expansion. However, the company said the 25-member research and development team could potentially double in five years. The team has been operating out of temporary trailers since 2013.

Idaho Milk Products’ expansion

In June, Jerome milk processor Idaho Milk Products announced plans to expand its operation with investments in research and development, employee facilities and the warehouse. The $26 million expansion is expected to create 25 jobs.

The company breaks ground this week on the warehouse expansion, after weeks of architectural and design planning.

“They’ll do that warehouse section first,” Idaho Milk Products spokesman Ron Hayes said on Monday.

Work should be completed by August 2019 as planned, with hiring beginning in the second quarter of that year. Idaho Milk Products converts raw milk into milk protein concentrate, milk permeate powder and cream. The expansion will increase processing capacity by one-third, meaning the company will be able to accommodate an additional 1 million pounds of locally sourced milk per day.

Commercial Creamery Co.’s new dryer building

Commercial Creamery Co. will be bringing in a 22,000 square-foot dryer building in order to “expand and modernize what we’re doing here,” President and CEO Michael Gilmartin said. The expansion is estimated to cost between $8 million and $9 million, and will probably create a handful of jobs.

But the project is about three months behind. That’s because the company fabricating the steel building was waiting for steel after U.S. tariffs created a shortage, Gilmartin said.

“The bad news remains that we’ll be forced to go through construction in the middle of the winter,” he said. “If it’s a mild winter, that’s not so bad.”

Foundation work started this week after the company completed work to relocate a sewer line. The construction will take another three months, with equipment installation happening between January and March. It’ll probably be ready to operate by spring, Gilmartin said.

Commercial Creamery Co. has had operations in Jerome since 1978, but its headquarters are in Spokane, Wash.

“This is a great place for us to do manufacturing here,” he said. “The workers are great — there’s just not a lot of them.”

McCain Foods’ expansion

McCain Foods in Burley broke ground on a $200 million expansion last December. That addition was expected to create 180 permanent positions, with production beginning in the fall of 2018.

The company did not return calls or an email for more information on the status of its expansion. However, NewCold — a company based in the Netherlands — announced earlier this year it would open a $90 million fully automated cold storage facility next spring. The major reason for its coming to Burley was to accommodate McCain Foods’ expansion, the company said.

Fabri-Kal’s addition

Fabri-Kal announced plans to nearly double its Burley plant with a 75,000 square-foot addition. The expansion will increase the company’s manufacturing of earth-friendly containers. Fabri-Kal has been making compostable yogurt and food service containers out of wheat straw.

A building permit issued in April valued the construction at $4.2 million, and work was expected to be completed by spring 2019. The company planned to add 30 to 50 jobs over the next two years.

A Fabri-Kal spokeswoman did not return calls for updated information.

Magic Valley Quality Milk Producers’ expansion

A milk marketing cooperative in Jerome wanted to branch out into milk processing. Magic Valley Quality Milk Producers announced this year a $20 million expansion that was expected to create at least 15 new positions. The project was anticipated to take a year to complete.

Officials did not respond to calls for comment by deadline.

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