City opens the door for Grow Facility
By Ken DeLaat
In a 4-3 split decision that involved a re-vote the Newaygo City Council approved moving forward with an ordinance that would allow for the construction and operation of a Medical Marijuana grow facility in the city.
A prior tally resulted in a 4-3 decision to not approve , however after public comment when some citizens voiced their support for the measure a second vote was called for. This time Council member Mike Hikade who had voted against the measure cast his lot in favor thus tipping the balance to 4-3 for approval.
A company interested in building a grow facility in Newaygo approached the city months ago and were referred to the Newaygo Economic Development Office (NEDO) who have been instrumental in the process that will lead to Newaygo’s newest employer.
NEDO Chairman Scott Faulkner spoke to the economic impact of having the operation located in Newaygo.
“There are 5 entities that exist within the marijuana world. The very first of these is production. That’s all you do. You grow marijuana for medical purposes only period. These are incredibly sophisticated operations, they are highly precise and scientifically based. Wring Bio Pharm LLC who is first in line in coming to Newaygo will be bringing with them about 40 jobs with an average hourly wage of about $18.
“They came to us and just asked that we listen to what they had to say, he said. “I don’t think anyone in the city the mayor the council or NEDO wanted this topic. It’s a hot potato.
“However when you start to break it down into the logical subcomponents we started to realize the laws are pretty sophisticated in the way that they separate the processes from production centers to transporters to dispensaries. Generally speaking people have a huge disdain for dispensaries. We are having nothing to do with that at this point. There is no thought of a dispensary coming to Newaygo at this time. We’re only talking about the first part of that process which is the legal manufacture of a biologic for medical purposes.
The building would be going into the Industrial Park and will be a very secure facility according to Mr. Faulkner.
As to criticism of the new business?
“If Shire Pharmaceuticals or Pfizer wanted to open a plant here to manufacture opioids there would be huge security but there would be no protests because it’s a legal drug. Well, so is medical marijuana.
“Much of the outrage comes from a stereotype of Cheech and Chong peddling joints out of the back of their van. This is not what that is. This is the manufacture of a legal product that people have legal access to and at this point there is no discussion of a dispensary in our city.”
“This is a big deal,” he continued. “A 7 million dollar plant with 40 good paying jobs. They’ve also expressed a strong interest in helping the community. They want to be good neighbors and get involved in local philanthropic programs.”
With ordinances being passed and considered in other local municipalities and throughout the state Newaygo has decided to move forward in becoming part of what looks to be a burgeoning business in Michigan. The decision does not come without some deference to those who might be wary of the change.
“Look, this isn’t a ribbon cutting moment where we’re leading the parade in marijuana production,” said Mr. Faulkner. “These are great jobs in a small town in a facility that is going to be built within a 20 mile radius anyway. We want the jobs and we want the tax revenue.
“And for those reasons we are unashamed of the vote.”