Smiths Falls is about an hour away from Ottawa or Ogdensburg. A town of about 9,000 inhabitants beside the scenic Rideau Canal.
For decades, one of its main claims to fame was the Hershey’s chocolate factory. As can be imagined – or remembered – that was a popular regional destination, with factory tours and a much-loved outlet store,
Hershey’s moved those operations to Mexico and closed the Smiths Falls factory in 2008, eliminating roughly 400 jobs. A potential sale to become a bottled water plant fell apart. The large factory site has simply sat idle, awaiting some new use.
This week saw a major announcement that could re-shape Smith Falls’ image once more. As reported in the Ottawa Citizen:
But for the first time since the factory shut its doors in 2008, a new business may occupy one of its eight buildings. If approved by Health Canada, medical marijuana supplier Tweed Inc. of Ottawa will transform the factory’s distribution centre into a hydroponic hub, the town’s mayor Dennis Staples confirmed Wednesday.
“The world has changed, and this is a legitimate business that (thousands of) Canadians rely on,” said mayor Dennis Staples. “It’s going to create jobs that we sorely need, and we hope that the remaining space continues to attract other tenants.”
There are a lot of hoops to jump through to grow medical marijuana for government agencies. But there are established processes to get that approval and regular demand for the product. Tweed hopes to be part of that regulated industry. (They have a FAQ page here.)
Here’s a sampling of local coverage: “Vacant Smiths Falls plant goes to pot” speaks about jobs that will include: “…growing, trimming, processing, testing, packaging and distribution”. Tweed VP Mark Zekulin says the operation will be treated as “a pharmaceutical operation”. Tweed hopes to spur additional activity at the site:
While the company is purchasing the entire plant – with a closing date of Dec. 1 – it only plans to use 180,000 square feet of the facility for the pot operation. The rest of the building’s 470,000 square feet will be rented to other manufacturers looking for smaller spaces with the unique features of the former Hershey facility.
“A priority for us is to attract other tenants for the remainder of the facility, bringing more jobs and investment to Smiths Falls,” said Zekulin.
Here’s more from the Ottawa Citizen’s James Bagnall about Tweed’s main players and why they see attractive opportunity in Canada’s shifting medical marijuana supply chain.
There’s no discussing pot without all the jokes that attach to that subject. (You know, “they’d better make chocolate again too, or they’ll be missing out on the munchie market.”) But for the many who have no appetite thanks to chemo-therapy experiencing hunger is a feature, not a bug.
And for fans of diversified agriculture, this could represent jobs in a town that needs more employment options.
As for me, I still miss the old Smith Falls Hershey’s.