Marijuana making a mark in WC
By Charles Chandler
How can cities like White Cloud compete for regional and national business?
Good question, and most residents will quickly tell you that we need to attract new businesses and residents to our City.
Yet that can be a challenge according to one former White Cloud business owner.
“The State of Michigan has set the bar low for developing 501(c)(3) enterprises. Some of these entities can operate like a business, yet, they have different oversight, operating rules and don’t have to pay taxes. Given this advantage starting and successfully operating private and family-owned businesses in small municipalities like White Cloud is daunting. Considering that many of these municipalities have high taxes, restrictive zoning and a population with limited disposable income.”
These challenges are often magnified when you have a demographic with reflective nostalgia who only want to talk about the good ole days and see change as something to be feared or resisted. Common themes heard in many public meetings and hearings follow; ‘you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t cost me anything, not in my neighborhood and it must not affect my comfort zone.’
Given these inherent barriers and limitations, how do the Chambers of Commerce, City Officials, and entrepreneurs go about starting and supporting new business in these small municipalities? They market their assets, take advantage of new opportunities, face up to opposition and take risks to become a business-friendly community.
White Cloud does have marketable assets and strengths. The obvious is location, location, location. The City rest at the corners of M 37 and M 20. It also has abundant recreational assets and opportunities with trails, the White River, local parks, and nearby Huron-Manistee Forest. Its biggest asset is land with. large tracts of both Brownfield and undeveloped areas.
The new opportunity is the Michigan Marijuana Business. The voters in the State of Michigan, Newaygo County and the City of White Cloud approved the production and sale of medical and recreational marijuana. White Cloud’s Legislative body, City Manager and the Planning Commission took that voter approval and drove a stake in the ground. They discussed the risk, listen to the opposition speak, and sought counsel from experts and the City Attorney. After deliberation, they assumed the risk and hung out the shingle, believing the marijuana business to be a niche market where the City could compete.
City Manager Lora Kalkofen assumed sales and marketing and met with potential marijuana businessmen. The City Planning Commission, composed of Mayor Jamie Denslow, members, Charles Twing, Keith Payne, Lori Shears, Becci Kolenda, and Manager Kalkofen, did the heavy lifting. They ensured that City codes and ordinances were developed to align with the State of Michigan PA 281 of 2016, the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, MCLA 333.27101, et seq., and IL 1 of 2018 the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, MCLA 333.27951, et seq. Additional, they conducted reviews with the city’s attorney , posted public notices, held public hearings and presented the documents to the City Council for review and final approval. White Cloud now has the option to allow the licensing, and permitting of marijuana Growers of any class, Processors, Retailers, Secure Transporters, Safety Compliance Facilities, and Micro Businesses to operate within the City Limits.
“We get calls almost daily about opportunities to open a Marijuana business in White Cloud,”Kalkofen stated.
She suggested that while the early focus has been on the Medical Marijuana business she expects that future growth in White Cloud will be Recreational Marijuana production and retail sales.
All businesses will meet State and City codes and ordinances, particularly the 500-foot setback limits from schools and churches. Mayor Denslow will seat a seven-member Marijuana Board to provide oversight of the licensing and permitting functions.
White Cloud has one successful Medical Marijuana business on M 37. All the lots in the Washington Street Industrial Park have been sold to a potential marijuana business. The ground has been broken for two grow facilities with construction to begin as weather permits. Construction of the large NWM Organic Farms, LLC Marijuana Grow facility located at 183 N. Webster in White Cloud is well underway. That company is solely owned by Mr. Rick Ziehl and operations are expected to begin in the spring of 2020.
On December 1st, it became legal to sell recreational marijuana in the State and a limited number of retail shops opened their doors for business. Marijuana and Hemp production is a new business for the State, County and the City and how it will shake out is anyone’s guess. Let’s hope that market economics determine the outcome of this venture and not the bureaucrats and politicians.
Hats off to the White Cloud voters, the legislative body, the City staff, and the Planning Commission and other supporters for facing the opposition, taking risks and allowing City to attract these much-needed new businesses.
This is one time you did not snooze and hopefully won’t lose.
Mr. Chandler is a regular contributor to our pages, a White Cloud City Council Member and a rather avid fisherman.
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