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Magic Valley Leaders Want To Add Entrepreneurial Flavor To Local Food Industry

A man stands on a ladder in front of four long shelves full of jars. He holds one jai in his left hand and is looking at it.
Chobani's new research and development center opened in Twin Falls in 2019. The company recently helped fund a feasibility study for a potential food innovation center in the Magic Valley.

Agriculture and food processing are the cornerstones of the Magic Valley’s economy, and the area is home to several large food companies like Chobani, Clif Bar and Glanbia.

Those organizations have manufacturing plants in south central Idaho and a growing number of them even research and develop their products here.

But a cohort of economic development and business leaders think there’s still room to expand the food sector — particularly in the start-up space.

“The one thing that our region was really lacking is a place for business owners, for entrepreneurs, to go and to test their ideas and try to get new ideas to the marketplace," said Jeff McCurdy, the CEO of Region IV Development, a Twin Falls-based nonprofit that focuses on public-private partnerships.

The goal is to open a food innovation center with business resources like a commercial kitchen, lab space and cold storage. The College of Southern Idaho, the University of Idaho, Southern Idaho Economic Development and Dairy West are part of the effort, too.

McCurdy thinks it would help existing businesses, and could also attract new people to the Magic Valley.

“Hopefully as a result of that, we can see new businesses, we can see new jobs and see our area continue to grow and prosper," he said.

Region IV recently produced a feasibility study for the project with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Chobani and Business Plus, Inc. McCurdy said the group is still in the initial planning stages. Next, it needs to come up with a business plan and choose a site, but it's leaning toward locating the potential innovation center in downtown Twin Falls.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Business Plus, Inc., contributed funding to the feasibility study.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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