Monday April 26, 2010

BRATTLEBORO -- Sometime early next year, spoons will be dipping into cups of Commonwealth Dairy yogurt produced right here in Brattleboro.

But first, shovels have to dig in the ground and on Monday that process will begin.

"This is an exciting and critical milestone in the evolution of our project" stated Dieter Dobousek, Commonwealth Dairy's vice president and chief technical officer. "It has taken over two years to get to this point, and everyone involved in the project is excited to finally see some real activity on the site."

Dobousek thanked town and state officials and local business leaders for their help in choosing Vermont and finding a place in Brattleboro.

The production facility is being built on 5.9 acres of land in the Delta Campus off Paul's Road.

The facility is expected to create at least 24 jobs within 3 years, with hiring expected to begin in October, stated Dobousek.

The company will make yogurt for other companies under private label and will sell its own all-natural, rBST-free "Mountainberry" brand product.

The biggest selling point for Commonwealth Dairy's yogurt is it will be branded with the Vermont Seal of Quality, said Dobousek, which means 85 percent of its milk will come from the Green Mountain State.

Though no contracts have yet been signed, Commonwealth expects to get its milk supply from St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and Agri-Mark.

Because Commonwealth will be purchasing a large amount of Class II milk, which is used to produce ice cream, frozen desserts, yogurt, eggnog, cottage cheese, and cream cheese, the demand should drive prices up for Vermont dairy farmers.

"The pool price is going to increase," said Dobousek.

"This is the perfect example of the value-added product of dairy in our state that can directly benefit dairy producers," said Kelly Loftus, spokeswoman for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

The new 40,000-square-foot building will have an output capacity of 50 million pounds -- or 130 million cups -- of yogurt annually. To do so, it will need 32.5 million pounds of skim milk and 400,000 pounds of butterfat annually.

To achieve that, the factory will need up to 24,000 gallons of milk every day from 3,000 cows, said Dobousek, at a recent Selectboard meeting.

To help set up the factory, Commonwealth received more than $1 million in Vermont Employment Growth Incentives for creating new jobs in the Green Mountain State.

Commonwealth will also receive federal "New Market Tax Credits" for locating its plant in an economically distressed part of town. The New Market Tax Credits can total 39 percent of the cost of investment in low-income communities. The credit is deducted from a company's federal income taxes over the course of seven years.

Commonwealth teamed up with Ehrmann USA Holding, Inc., a division of Ehrmann AG, Germany, which is a family-run dairy processing company with manufacturing operations throughout Europe and Russia.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.