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Hemp Industry Officially Puts Roots Down In Broome County

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Nearly seven months after Canada-based Canopy Growth announced it would be coming to Broome County, the company held an official groundbreaking in Kirkwood on Monday. The former Felchar Warehouse on Pine Camp Drive will house a hemp processing plant and office space, which Canopy Growth is calling the largest of its kind in the world.

On Monday, local leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer, and area farmers were all in attendance to celebrate the start of construction at the facility. When asked what this new industry will do for the Southern Tier, the common answer from those in attendance was boost jobs and the economy. President of Canopy Growth Rade Kovacevic says the construction on the 300,000 square foot facility will provide about 200 jobs, and that's before the plant even opens. The Kirkwood location is expected to employ about 400 people.

"There's a strong skilled workforce of Americans here, there's a strong agricultural and farming community, and then there's strong manufacturing and infrastructure facilities here. When we put those three together, it's an ideal place for us to be able to set up business," says Kovacevic.

The Kirkwood plant will extract cannibidiol, or CBD, for use in lotions, cosmetics, drinks, and supplements among other products.  Kovacevic explains that his company will purchase hemp plants grown by local farmers to be used in manufacturing.

"It not only helps our farmers, but it brings back manufacturing and innovation," says Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo.

Lupardo has been a strong voice for the legalization of hemp growing in New York State for several years. New York legalized growing hemp in 2015 and in 2018 federal legislation moved industrial hemp out of the category of controlled substances and made it possible for hemp manufacturing to take place in the United States. Lupardo says there are currently around 500 farmers growing hemp in New York State, with most of them in Broome and Sullivan counties. That's where the supply for the Kirkwood plant will come from.

Kovacevic says there are parts of the hemp plant that Canopy doesn't use, but can be used to manufacture other products like building supplies and textiles. He sees Canopy as a sort of hub where other businesses looking to get in on manufacturing those other hemp products can move into the area and benefit from the Canopy Growth facility.

"From that perspective, we're really hoping to attract American entrepreneurs to come here, set up business, benefit by the ecosystem, the infrastructure we're developing and bring more success and through that we hope to have a major impact on the local economy," says Kovacevic.

Construction will start first on the offices and then on the extraction plant itself.