C & S Wholesale Grocers, based in Brattleboro, announced April 1 that it would move its headquarters to a campus-like setting in Keene, NH, by the end of 2003, taking with it 300 employees.
C & S is the third largest wholesale grocer in the country and expects sales to reach $9.5 billion in 2002. It is also the largest Vermont-based company and ranked 20th by Forbes for privately held companies in the country. On Vermont Business Magazine's Vermont 100+, C & S has been the largest Vermont-based company for over a decade, and the first to ever reach $1 billion in annual sales, accomplished in 1995.
Vermont state development officials, along with local business leaders, had put together a package of tax incentives and offered to re-develop the closed Book Press, but the town of Keene also had incentives of its own, as well as the state of New Hampshire's more desirable tax structure. The New Hampshire corporate tax, in this case, would be lower than Vermont's even with the incentives, according to Vermont officials, and New Hampshire does not have a personal income, which is important in attracting and retaining workers.
In the end C & S said, in a prepared statement, that the larger piece of land in the Black Brook Corporate Park made the option to move there more attractive.
Company CEO Rick Cohen said, "C & S has outgrown its present headquarters. The construction of a new facility in Keene will greatly help us to continue to grow our business, attract additional employees, and provide our expanding corporate workforce with a first-class work environment."
On the Vermont side, state and local officials were disappointed, but pointed out that the existing warehouse and about 500 employees will remain in Vermont.
The relationship between C & S has been strained at times, especially in the early 1990s when C & S applied for an Act 250 permit to build another Brattleboro warehouse. They met stiff local resistance and the case has become an icon for those who oppose or want to change the law. C & S eventually won a permit, but never built the warehouse, saying the restrictions that came with the permit were too onerous. They went on to build in North Hatfield, MA.
The vast bulk of C & S's business exists down the East Coast into the Mid-Atlantic states. The company's business plan was to do the warehousing and distribution for supermarket chains, which the chains found cheaper than doing it themselves. C & S innovated "self-managed" warehouse teams to make the process more efficient on their end, and has managed to keep unions out.
C & S was founded in 1918 in Worcester, MA, by Cohen's grandfather. It moved to Brattleboro in 1981 to take advantage of the interstate system.