In an example of the opportunity that legal cannabis can offer economically depressed communities, a former meatpacking plant in Michigan that has sat idle for almost 25 years will soon be reopened as a medical marijuana facility. OrganiLife, located in Saginaw County in Chesaning, Michigan, will begin operations later this month at its cultivation and processing facility in a 30,000 square foot building growing 4,500 plants. The site also has 16 additional buildings that could eventually house 500,000 plants if business conditions warrant the expansion, according to property owner Beau Parmenter.
The OrganiLife campus was formerly the home of Peet Packing, a meatpacking enterprise with more than 200 employees that went bankrupt in 1995 after providing jobs for the community for 110 years.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for employment and investors in the community,” said Parmenter. “It’s phenomenal what we’re bringing to the table to get this place back on track.”
So far, 20 jobs have been created since renovations at the site began last year and another 20 will be added soon. In the long term, the facility could generate 350 jobs.
“The whole goal is to bring those jobs back into the community,” said OrgainLife cultivator Zach Chludil. “It’s gonna take a little bit of time, but there’s no reason with the current demand in the market that once we’re licensed and up and going, we should be able to literally grow along with demand which can lead to significant jobs in due time.”
OrganiLife successfully lobbied the county commission to have the property annexed to the village of Chesaning from Chesaning Township to take advantage of a more friendly regulatory environment. Parmenter said that the company has been welcomed by the community and is already lining up customers for its product.
“Quite a list of provisioning centers are waiting for the product already,” he said. “They’ve got a waiting list that keeps growing daily because they need good product.”
“It’s an all-natural product that they’re producing,” Parmenter added. “They’re using plant-based material for all the sprays, nutrients. No pesticides. No insecticides. That’s a thing. Going all-natural.”
County Benefits from Legal Cannabis
Chesaning is also the home of another medical marijuana business, VB Chesaning, and Great Lakes Natural Remedies will be the third cannabis operation in Saginaw County when it opens this spring.
Bill Federspiel, the Saginaw County Sheriff, has been working with Great Lakes Natural Remedies to help ensure the safety of the community. Federspiel says that he understands that medical cannabis operations can be an attractive target for criminals.
“This is a commodity,” Federspiel said. “It’s valuable to some people and it’s expensive to some people. It has a lot of potential to generate a lot of money.”
VB Chesaning is also operating at a site that was formerly occupied by a large employer, McDonald’s Dairy. Kate Weber is the executive director for the Chesaning Chamber of Commerce, which claims both VB and OrganiLife as members. She said that the medical marijuana industry is spurring business development and new jobs for the area.
“Two large employers have sat empty for so long are now being re-purposed, and it’s good for the community,” said Weber.