Yogurt-maker Hopes To Set Up Shop In Brattleboro

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(Host) A startup company that plans to produce yogurt in Brattleboro has won approval from the town’s Development Review Board.

Commonwealth Yogurt is expected to bring jobs – and a new milk market – to the area.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) The partners in the new venture say that 35 percent of the yogurt consumed in the U.S. is sold in the Northeastern states. And they say that consumption is growing.

Yet yogurt, especially store brand yogurt, is often trucked into the region from the Midwest.

Dieter Dobousek is Commonwealth’s chief technical officer. He says the partners scoured the region before choosing a Brattleboro industrial park to build its 40 thousand square foot plant.

(Dobousek) "We looked in Connecticut, we looked in Massachusetts, also up in Maine and New Hampshire, but most of the time we came back to Vermont, for a variety of reasons. Number one, there appears to be an adequate milk supply in Vermont. Number two, Southern Vermont with Interstate 91, is easy access to everywhere."

(Keese) Dobousek says the company will process about 50 million pounds of milk a year, equivalent to the milk produced by about 3,000 cows. They hope all of it will come from Vermont.

Commonwealth will produce yogurt for store labels at first. But it plans to introduce its own yogurt brand eventually.  And the partners see the made-in-Vermont label as an asset.

They also say Vermont was the most welcoming of the states they approached, and easiest to work with.

Jeff Lewis is executive Director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.  He says the company will create between 25 and 40 new jobs and add $20 million to the town’s grand list.

(Lewis) "We have worked very hard to leverage all the possible benefits that exist in Vermont to smooth the way to make it possible to accomplish what they want… all the stuff that Vermont has to ameliorate the cost of starting a new business here have been deployed."

(Keese) The company received almost $700,000 in Community Development Block grant money from the town.

It’s also been approved for more than a million dollars in Vermont Employment Growth Incentives. Once it’s up and running it’s in line for federal tax credits for building in an economically distressed part of town.

Commonwealth is also partnering with Ehrmann AG, a German yogurt maker with more than a billion dollars in sales in 40 European countries.

Dobousek says Ehrmann had been looking for a foothold in the United States.

The venture still needs approval under Act 250, Vermont’s development review law. But if all goes well, Dobousek says Commonwealth could be making yogurt by December of next year.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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