May 02, 2016 04:43 AM EDT

Chobani CEO Gives Company Stakes To Employees Worth Thousands, Even Millions – Here’s Why

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, met with his workers on Thursday at the company's Twin Falls plant, and announced that he will give around 2,000 full-time employees ownership stakes representing about 10 percent in his privately held company.

The amount that each of these workers will receive will be based on their time with the company, but the median will likely be around $150,000. But for those who have been working for Chobani for a long time that could be over $1 million.

"This isn't a gift. It's a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility," Ulukaya said.

The meteoric rise of Chobani started in a dilapidated Kraft yogurt manufacturing plant in New York. Ulukaya's experience in the dairy industry was his mother's delicious strained yogurt made in his Turkey hometown.

Ten years later, his company has gobbled up $1 billion in annual sales. Chobani now currently operates two plants with 2,000 employees and an estimated company value of $3 billion.

He is still the majority owner of the company and told his employees to think of the grants as a pledge to keep on expanding the company even more.

"We used to work together; now we are partners," he told workers at the company's New Berlin, N.Y. factory.

When employee ownership is made available to company workers, whether through a stock program or an ESOP, it can have a powerful impact on worker culture, said Corey Rosen of the National Center for Employee Ownership.

Workers' performance improves and they build wealth much, much faster, added Rosen.

The CEO of Chobani is vocal about corporate civic duty. Ten percent of his company's profits are given to charity, one third of his workers are refugees, and this employee ownership grant has always been a part of his dream plan.

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