Source: The Daily Beast
Hamdi Ulukaya is the model American immigrant success story.
In 2005, the Turkish-born Kurdish entrepreneur purchased a defunct Kraft foods plant in upstate New York with an $800,000 loan from the Small Business Administration. In just a few years, his Chobani yogurt went from selling a few containers at a Long Island kosher grocery to being the No. 1 selling yogurt brand in the country with annual revenue topping $1.5 billion. In addition to employing more than 2,000 people directly—all of whom earn above minimum wage and enjoy generous benefits—the company purchases 4 million pounds of milk from American farmers every day.
Ulukaya dotes on his employees like a parent. “To me, there are two kinds of people in this world,” he told The New York Times. “The people who work at Chobani and the people who don’t.” Earlier this year, he gave shares amounting to 10 percent of Chobani to his workers; a rare move for a CEO to make after the value of his highly profitable company has been established. Chobani is also a corporate sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team. Not bad for a Turkish guy selling Greek yogurt—that in itself a subtle rebuke to centuries of enmity between the two countries.
In addition to earning a raft of honorary Warren Buffett’s “Giving Pledge,”promising to donate at least half of his wealth to charity. To that end, Ulukaya founded an organization called Tent, which assists refugees in achieving new lives. Ulukaya, who grew up in a town near the Syrian border, says he was inspired in his activism by the plight of the some 2 million Syrians now living in Turkish refugee camps.., Ulukaya has been named a World Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, is the recipient of the United Nations Global Leadership Award, and has committed himself to
And that’s where the nativist forces supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign enter the picture. In 2012, Chobani opened the world’s biggest yogurt plant, in Twin Falls, Idaho. In addition to being one of the country’s largest milk-producing states, Idaho also happens to be one of the five highest refugee-absorbing states per capita, due to its low cost of living and 3.9 percent unemployment rate. About 30 percent of Chobani’s Twin Falls work force is composed of refugees, a hiring practice that originated with the company’s first factory in upstate New York, where many members of the community had been resettled from places like Vietnam, Burma, and Nepal. Ulukaya has written of the “growing need for the private sector to step up and help use its innovation, voice, and resources to address the global forced migration crisis,” and hiring refugees to work in Chobani’s factories has been his way of putting his money where his mouth is.