State and local officials are cautiously optimistic that the Waterbury properties being sold by Keurig Dr Pepper could bring new employers — and jobs — to the area.
On June 25, the multibillion-dollar beverage conglomerate — the result of the 2018 merger between Keurig Green Mountain and Dr. Pepper Snapple — announced it intends to sell its buildings in Waterbury and Waterbury Center and consolidate its remaining workers at a recently renovated space the company is leasing, and does not own.
However, company spokeswoman Katie Gilroy told VTDigger the company has no intention of leaving the state entirely. The latest moves are viewed as part of a long-term plan.
“I would say Vermont has been an important part of our company and culture since the very founding of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and we will still have a presence in Vermont,” Gilroy said.
Keurig Dr Pepper also has offices in Essex, South Burlington and Williston, which Gilroy said will not be affected by the consolidation.
For the time being, the company will also continue to operate the visitor center and café in the Waterbury train station.
The moves come as the company is consolidating its research and development work to a single location in Plano, Texas, a move that caused 118 Green Mountain Coffee Roasters workers to lose their jobs late last year.
In the coming months, the remaining employees will move to the two new locations, at 5 and 93 Pilgrim Park Road.
How many employees remain in the area is a mystery; officials with Keurig Dr Pepper decline to disclose employment numbers.
The company plans to sell 150 Pilgrim Park Road, which is valued at $14.7 million, and 228 Suss Drive in Waterbury Center, valued at $3.6 million.
The soon-to-be-available space could be a boon to manufacturers looking to relocate or expand, said Michael Schirling, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
“We always have manufacturers in Vermont, in various places, who are in the midst of expanding and changing their lines,” Schirling said.
His agency keeps a database of available manufacturing spaces in the state, and uses it to lure prospective employers.
“We’re also in contact with Canada and other states,” he said.
Schirling noted that numerous advantages come with moving into an existing manufacturing space, from the lack of construction costs to avoiding the often-onerous permitting process.
Schirling also noted the favorable conditions in the Waterbury buildings, and a local work force that has weathered numerous rounds of layoffs in recent years.
“Keurig Dr Pepper has some newly updated facilities, so that would be attractive, and you have a good workforce available in the area,” he said. “If you’re looking to relocate, there are people on the ground who are willing to work with you.”
Among those people is Jamie Stewart, executive director of the Central Vermont Economic Development Corp.
“The bottom line is, there is a general lack of industrial space in central Vermont, so the potential to find tenants to fill that space is better than it would be otherwise,” Stewart said. “An existing space is a better value than trying to go with new construction.”
Stewart acknowledged the buildings might not be used the same way Green Mountain Coffee Roasters used them.
“It can be a challenge to find a single tenant. This is Vermont, so, you might have to be creative and develop a multi-tenant facility,” Stewart said. “Waterbury has done an amazing job branding itself to make itself an attractive place to live and work.”
At the local level, much of that branding work is performed by Revitalizing Waterbury. Officials with the organization did not answer repeated requests for an interview for this story, but did provide a statement by email.
“The properties offer a unique opportunity for the Waterbury business community,” wrote Alyssa Johnson, economic development director for Revitalizing Waterbury. “There are a variety of businesses that would appreciate the amenities Waterbury has to offer, and Revitalizing Waterbury looks forward to facilitating connections for businesses that recognize the value of the Waterbury community.”