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A PINCH OF HUD

Clif Bar's new bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho
 

Clif Bar's new bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho
 

TWIN FALLS - Next time you treat yourself to a cool mint chocolate or iced gingerbread Clif Bar why not give a little shout-out to HUD. No, it's not our recipe and, be assured, the words "nutrition bars" don't appear anywhere in HUD's mission statement. But like a pinch of salt, there's now a tiny "pinch" of HUD in every Clif Bar.

Thanks to its Community Development Block Grant - or CDBG - program. Created by President Ford and the Congress some 40 years ago, CDBG has since provided $150 billion dollars to more than 1,000 state, county and city governments to help them meet their most pressing housing, community and economic development needs.

Don't worry. There are "strings attached" to how communities can use CDBG funds. Its authorizing statute stipulates that CDBG can only fund projects that principally-benefit low- and moderate-income residents or eliminate slums or blight or meet other urgent community needs. Within those broad parameters and a list of specified eligible activities decisions on how to use CDBG aren't made by distant bureaucrats in our nation's capital, but by local officials and citizens on the ground, in the communities where CDBG will be put to work.

Talk to almost any mayor or county commissioner and they'll probably tell you that CDBG may well be the most flexible, adaptable funding resource you'll find in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. And flexibility is certainly a hallmark of the CDBG program administered by the Idaho Department of Commerce.

In a typical year, it competitively awards between $8 and $10 million in CDBG funds to support projects that, as HUD Secretary Castro has noted, "actually matter where we live." To build a fire station in Albion or revitalize the downtowns of Blackfoot or Sandpoint. For an assisted living facility in Ashton or multifamily housing in Buhl or housing for the elderly in Eagle. For street improvements in Spirit Lake or new sidewalks in McCall. For upgrades of a water system in Cottonwood or a wastewater system in Plummer. For renovating a senior center in New Meadows, a fire station in Albion or a hospital in Bonner County. For infrastructure for business and industrial parks in Kuna and Rigby, Post Falls and Mackay.

And, yes, to bring Clif Bars to Twin Falls, a city of 45,000 and the commercial hub of the Magic Valley some 140 miles southeast of Boise. The Valley, says the U.S. Economic Development Administration, "is one of the most diverse food baskets in the nation," a "powerhouse of agricultural production" with "a diverse cluster of big name, globally recognized processors and home-grown food production facilities." All in all, Idaho Governor Jay "Butch" Otter told The Capital Press, "you couldn't find a better place to cook your biscuits,"

With demand for its products rising rapidly and its principal bakery in Indianapolis running at capacity, that's exactly what California-based Clif Bars was looking for. What first caught the eye of its chief executive officer, reports KTVB-TV, was Twin Fall's natural beauty – Shoshone Falls, the Snake River Canyon on the northern edge of the city and the Sawtooth Mountains on the horizon. "The outdoors is amazing. Within a stone's throw you've got skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking — those are all of our sports. And, golf."

But it didn't clinch the deal, he says. "From there," he recalled, "we got to meet the community and the city and the people. We learned more about their work ethic and we just fell in love with the community." And Twin Falls is glad Clif Bars did.

It's not your neighborhood bakery, but a 300,000 square-foot, $90 million building - funded with private, local government and, to upgrade the current wastewater lift station, construct a service building and install a new wet well, $500,000 in CDBG funds from the Idaho Department of Commerce (http://commerce.idaho.gov/press-releases/governor-otter-awards-community-development-block-grant-2) - utilizing biophilic design principles - "bringing the outdoors in" - with "lots of windows , vaulted skylights and light-directing solar tubes," connecting "workers inside the building to nature and the well-being it provides." The reflective roof promotes energy efficiency and the bakery uses less half the water others of equivalent capacity consume. "There's a lot of things built in that we think make a lot of sense for business," he told KTVB.

And don't forget the new jobs that have come to the Magic Valley. On the August day it celebrated its grand opening, the bakery was already running lines with some 200 workers. Another line is expected to start early next year. And if demand to continues to rise still another may start-up after that. "Clif Bar has already established itself as a premier employer and outstanding corporate citizen in Twin Falls," said Mayor Shawn Bariga. "We look forward to continued partnership to support both the company's and community's vision."

The next time you think "Idaho," you'll probably think potatoes and, just after that, maybe Clif Bars. With just a pinch of help from CDBG, "the Magic Valley," says Governor Otter, "continues to work its magic."

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