Yogurt plant is approved


BRATTLEBORO -- By a unanimous vote on Monday night, the Brattleboro Development Review Board gave its approval to Commonwealth Dairy, which hopes to start producing its own line of yogurt by this time next year.

The factory will be located at Omega Optical’s Delta Campus and 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 Dieter Dobousek, Commonwealth’s technical director.

The plant will employ about 25 semi-skilled workers and will be in operation 24 hours a day.

Commonwealth "honed in on" Brattleboro, said Tom Moffitt, president, because of the reception it received from state and local officials.

"Vermont obviously understands the dairy industry," he told the DRB. "It was reassuring to us."

Though Commonwealth had looked at locations in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, he said, Vermont and Brattleboro stood out because of their eagerness to bring new industry to the state.

And because of Brattleboro’s location on I-91 and its proximity to distributors such as C&S Wholesale Grocers and United Natural Foods in Chesterfield, N.H., it only made sense to set up shop here.

Every dairy warehouse in New England is accessible to Brattleboro, said Moffitt, with an average distance of 119 miles.

Dobousek told DRB members that the impacts the new 40,000-square-foot building will have on the site have been minimized.

The site plan was done in a way that disturbed the natural lay of the land in the most minimal way, he said. The site was also designed to keep night lighting from spilling over onto abutting properties.

Stormwater runoff will feed a nearby wetland and will not enter the town’s stormwater drainage system.

When the plant is fully up and running, 15 trucks will visit the site each day. Trucks will be arriving and leaving the plant no earlier than 6 a.m. and no later than 6 p.m., said Dobousek, assuring abutters that the noise impact on the neighborhood would be negligible.

"We will not exceed what is currently there," he said.

Dobousek also assured neighbors that there would be very little noticeable odor coming from the plant because the processes are completely contained within the factory.

He said if any problems arise during the operation of the plant, Commonwealth will work with the town to solve them.

"We made a commitment and we will work it out," said Dobousek.

Because Commonwealth will be requiring Class II milk from its suppliers, it will be paying more than many farmers might now be getting on the open market, said Moffitt.

Most of Commonwealth’s yogurt will be organic, fat free and low fat, meaning it will have an excess supply of cream, which can go to cheese and ice cream makers in Vermont that have had to ship it in from out of the state.

Moffitt said social responsibility will be part of Commonwealth’s credo.

Commonwealth will give 3 percent of its net operating profits to its suppliers to help them expand their herds, said Moffitt.

"We want to grow the dairy supply," he said.

The company plans to create a scholarship fund for students who want to learn dairy processing and dairy science at the University of Vermont. It will also offer provide paid internships to students majoring in those fields.

Commonwealth recently received more than $1 million in Vermont Employment Growth Incentives for creating new jobs in the Green Mountain State.

Commonwealth is also in line to 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.

Earlier this year, 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.

Prior to the start of construction, Commonwealth must receive an Act 250 permit from the state.

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


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