Tony Dobrowolski | Out of The Pages: Chobani CEO values his employees


PITTSFIELD >> Given the gloom and doom that seems to surround the economy nowadays, it's refreshing to hear about a business owner who's actually concerned about his employees' financial welfare.

Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and CEO of Chobani, which manufactures Greek yogurt, is one of those people. The generous Ulukaya recently announced that he would give all of his full-time workers awards that could be worth up to 10 percent of his company's future value if Chobani goes public or is sold.

Here's how it would work: Every company employee will be given awards units known as "Chobani Shares" that are based on each worker's tenure and role at the company. These shares could then be converted into cash or shares in case of an initial public offering or sale.

Here are the parameters: The value of the these awards are dependent on company performance, and could be worth nothing if Chobani doesn't meet performance metrics, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the New York Times, if Chobani was valued at $3 billion, the average employee payout would be $150,000 and its possible that some long-tenured workers could collect more than $1 million (Chobani declined to confirm those figures).

Founded in 2005, Chobani's sales hits $1.6 billion in 2015, according to Euromonitor.

Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani 11 years ago, told his workers that the award should not be viewed as "a gift" but as a "mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility" the Los Angeles Times reported. "How we built this company matters to me, but how we grow it matters even more. I want you to be a part of this growth — I want you to be the driving force of it."

Ulukaya isn't just saying he wants to help his employees, he's actually doing it. That's nice to see.

Helping out

While we're on the subject of giving, one organization is offering grants to help people deal with the financial implications created by children's health issues, while another has made funding available to help stop the use of toxic chemicals.

The UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation is seeking grant applications from state families in need of financial assistance to pay for their children's healthcare treatments, services, or equipment covered, or not fully covered, by their commercial health insurance plan.

Qualifying families can receive up to $5,000 per grant with a lifetime maximum of $10,000 per child to pay for medical services and equipment such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, counseling services, surgeries, prescriptions, wheelchairs, orthotics, eyeglasses and hearing aids. Information is available at www.

The University of Massachusetts-Lowell's Toxic Use Reduction Institute is seeking grant proposals from state businesses, community groups, municipalities and UMass researchers for projects that will reduce the use of toxic chemicals.

Industry grants of up to $30,000 are intended for manufacturing facilities to improve processes or install technology that results in reducing toxins. Small business grants of up to $10,000 are intended for businesses that provide services directly to consumers.

Community grants of up to $20,000 are budgeted for statewide projects, while $10,000 grants are available for local projects. Academic grants for UMass researchers and graduate students go up to $25,000. Information is available at The application deadline is Friday, June 17.

Finally, the leaders of 10 Berkshire organizations have signed on to "CEOs Against Stigma." It's a statewide campaign established by the National Alliance on Mental Health Massachusetts, NAMI's state chapter, to end workplace stigma and create healthier more productive workplaces.

The Berkshire signees include: North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright; Greylock Federal Credit Union President John Bissell; Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler; Carolyn Mower Burns of Berkshire Children and Families; and Dr. Andrew Gerber of the Austen Riggs Center.

The others involved include: Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy; Christine MacBeth of The Brien Center; Kelly Marion of the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center Inc.; Kenneth W. Singer of Berkshire County ARC; and Pittsfield Mayor Linda M. Tyer.

Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at


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