Commonwealth Diary completes $12 million expansion

Shumlin touts company’s success as metaphor for state’s economic health

BRATTLEBORO — Commonwealth Dairy celebrated the completion of its $12 million expansion project at its Brattleboro plant last Friday.

The company chiefly produces yogurt products, and is well known for its strained Greek yogurt. The business opened in March 2011 and has far exceeded its early hiring estimates.

According to Gov. Peter Shumlin, who attended the celebration, Commonwealth started out expecting to add 40 jobs over five years. Instead, the young company just announced in a press release that it expects to add 34 new jobs to its workforce of 110.

As he greeted people venturing to trek outside during a soggy Gallery Walk and Strolling of the Heifers festivities, Shumlin said the growth of companies such as Commonwealth has helped Vermont maintain its standing as the state with the nation's third-lowest unemployment rate.

Vermont was also the only state to demonstrate income growth last year, he said. A modest 4 percent, he conceded, but growth nonetheless.

In contrast, the state routinely receives low ranking on business friendliness from organizations such as the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and magazines such as Forbes.

In 2012, Forbes ranked Vermont 44th among states for business friendliness. The business magazine noted that the Green Mountain State has the smallest economy in the country, and the cost of doing business here is 9 percent above the national average.

Utah claimed the top spot for business friendliness in Forbes' analysis in 2012.

Shumlin said a perception of Vermont as inhospitable for business is unfair and inaccurate. That “tells a story that does not match the facts,” he said. Indeed, he added, Vermont is known for supporting innovators and welcoming entrepreneurs. Vermonters, he said, work hard, value community, and enjoy a high quality of life.

Growing, growing

As of May, Commonwealth ( produced more than 125,000 cases of packaged yogurt per week, including its own Green Mountain Creamery brand, the company said.

The facilities expansion, kicked off last November, adds about 23,000 square feet to the plant, accommodating a new processing line, new office and warehouse space, and new or upgraded systems for filling, fermenting, processing whey, packaging, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Commonwealth sources its milk from area farms and plans to continue the practice.

“Our production and expansion in Brattleboro has far exceeded our most optimistic projections when we launched this project in 2010,” said Tom Moffitt, Commonwealth Dairy's president and CEO.

CFO Ben Johnson lauded the company's “great workforce here in Brattleboro” as well as Shumlin's leadership and that of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the town of Brattleboro in the expansion project's success.

Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, is a joint venture of Ehrmann USA Holdings - the U.S. subsidiary of Ehrmann AG, a German company - and Commonwealth Yogurt. Principal owners are Moffitt and Johnson.

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