Hershey Drive facility already generating interest, Smiths Falls officials say

Canopy Growth has sold its Smiths Falls production facility to Hershey Canada. File photo

With a lack of industrial space in the region, town officials in Smiths Falls say they’re already fielding calls about the 600,000-square-foot Canopy Growth facility.

On Feb. 9, Canopy announced it was laying off 800 workers as part of a transformation plan that will see the company close its 1 Hershey Dr. facility in Smiths Falls and consolidate its cultivation operations.

While Canopy has not announced specific plans for the facility, the manager of economic development with the Town of Smiths Falls says she assumes Canopy will want to sell.

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“You can’t really put the cart before the horse. We don’t know until they tell us. So we haven’t approached anyone specifically about the facility, but we’ve already got interest from companies and other potential investors. As soon as the news hit, people were already contacting us,” said Julia Crowder.

In January, CBRE senior vice-president Louis Karam told OBJ that, despite a slight softening of the industrial availability rate, “demand is still high” for industrial and warehouse property in the National Capital Region, which has become a destination of choice for e-commerce and logistics giants like Amazon and FedEx due to its close proximity to the massive Toronto and Montreal markets. 

The 1 Hershey Dr. facility, with more than 600,000 square feet of floor space, is a state-of-the-art facility zoned for light industrial use that can be repurposed in several ways, Crowder says. 

“We’re really in a good position to get a great investor because of where the market sits,” she said.

“Most of the building has been renovated,” said Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow. “There’s a manufacturing section, there’s areas for administrative offices, call centres, production, advanced manufacturing. We’ve got about three dozen grow rooms that are climate-, humidity- and temperature-controlled, with timers, so everything you possibly need to potentially grow a variety of things.”

At this stage, Pankow says, the town is thinking of pharmaceutical, vertical farming, chocolate manufacturing or green-energy enterprises as possible occupants. 

“I’m no expert in industry, so I think it’s a matter of us making sure that we have the information we need to promote the space appropriately and get it in front of customers,” said Pankow.

Town officials say they were taking action even before Canopy’s announcement earlier this month.

“As soon as we knew what was happening, we were on the phone with our partners and the (provincial government) and (FedDev Ontario) to let people know this was happening, but also to be able to get into gear as soon as possible to help support affected employees,” said Crowder.

The town has organized a job fair in late March to help job-seekers, many of whom are not Smiths Falls residents, she adds.

When the dust settles, the company will employ about 400 people in Smiths Falls, down from about 750 before the latest round of layoffs and 1,500 just a few years ago.

The restructuring of Canopy Growth isn’t the disaster it might have been just a few years ago, officials say. 

“I don’t think we’ll feel a deep impact,” said Pankow. “(Canopy had) already cut their workforce by half and I don’t think we felt any impact from that. The decline of 300 to 400 jobs is going to impact the families involved – that’s what concerns us the most, but I think we’re much better positioned to weather the storm today than we would have been in any previous time in our recent history.

“I think prudent downsizing wasn’t unexpected. We’ve known for a couple of years that the industry had over-built, based on assumptions of where the cannabis industry would go in Canada. The pandemic really impacted any loosening of regulations at both the federal and provincial levels that would potentially have enabled broader distribution of (Canopy’s) product.”

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