Chobani Foundation is offering $100K in grants for ‘big ideas’ in Magic Valley

By By Heather Kennison, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho

Do you have a big idea to grow the local economy — but need some cash to get you started? The Chobani Foundation wants to know what it is.

The foundation announced this week it will establish a new $100,000 annual fund to provide grants to foster economic opportunity and entrepreneurship in the Magic Valley.

The Community Impact Fund grants will be awarded for programs or projects that impact the community by driving economic activity. Businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits in Twin Falls, Gooding, Lincoln, Jerome, Minidoka and Cassia counties will have until midnight Oct. 28 to apply for this year’s awards.

“From the moment Hamdi (Ulukaya) identified Twin Falls as a home for Chobani, it was important that we weren’t just creating opportunity for our employees … but really strengthening the fabric of the community as well,” said Michael Gonda, Chobani’s senior vice president of corporate affairs.

The first round of awards will be announced in December. Grant amounts will be between $15,000 and $30,000.

The Chobani Foundation is partnering with the Idaho Community Foundation to administer the grants.

“They have a proud legacy of identifying programs that support communities,” Gonda said.

The Idaho Community Foundation will have the grant application available on its website, idcomfdn.org. It will also distribute the money to grant recipients for the first year.

The ultimate goal is to find innovative programs that otherwise would have a hard time getting started, said Karen Bilowith, president and CEO of the Idaho Community Foundation. These programs would promote entrepreneurship and economic opportunity within their communities.

“That can take very different forms,” Bilowith said.

For example, a school could ask for funds to train high school students with a specific skill that will be needed in the workplace. An organization could develop a program to empower small business owners. Other projects of interest include those that provide job training for growing occupations or teach young entrepreneurs.

“It really leverages a new source of funding for the Magic Valley,” Bilowith said.

The six counties that are eligible are places where Chobani’s employees and dairy suppliers have the strongest presence, Gonda said.

“We feel that companies have a real opportunity, businesses have a real opportunity to drive economic activity,” he said. “We’re excited to see what ideas get put forth.”

Chobani’s Community Impact Fund in the Magic Valley is similar to a sister program that was announced in central New York in May. Combined, the total investment for both programs could add up to $2 million over the next decade.

The Chobani Foundation has already supported projects to strengthen communities around the Magic Valley. These include helping fund the Downtown Commons on Twin Falls’ Main Avenue and sponsoring the summer Special Olympics games in Idaho. The foundation also created a scholarship program in partnership with the University of Idaho that aims to invest in the next generation of dairy farmers.

This article provided by NewsEdge.