WRGB sees growth potential for Fulton County

They’re both headquartered in our area.

The center of Fulton County is about 45 miles from Albany, and with two successful businesses operating there, right now county leaders are hoping to attract even more companies.

Vireo Health CEO Ari Hoffnung was born and raised in New York City, but he decided to manufacture medical marijuana in the quiet countryside of Johnstown.

“Got a great deal on 20 acres and now we have enough space our business can grow into,” Hoffnung said.

Security is extremely important for a medical marijuana operation, which is why Hoffnung says this was a prime location, an old youth corrections facility.

The old inmate living quarters now house the plants used to make kosher forms of the state-regulated drug.

Hoffnung says he saw an opportunity to bring the old Tryon Juvenile Prison buildings back to life, and put Fulton County residents back to work.

“Hundreds of jobs were lost and being able to bring jobs back was extraordinarily important,” Hoffnung said.

But now Hoffnung is looking for neighbors on the prison property, which has been transformed into the Tryon Technology Park, several hundred acres of shovel-ready space.

“We would welcome biotech companies we would welcome medical device companies it’s a great place to do business,” Hoffnung said.

County Planning Director Jim Mraz says the county’s been working to prepare the land in two nearby areas, Hales Mills and Vail Mills, for anticipated residential growth.

“We’re looking at upwards of 900 housing units county-wide in demand,” Mraz said.

They’re hoping the success of Fage yogurt, headquartered just eight miles from the medical marijuana site, will also help businesses look their way.

“We’re so proud they’re here, and we’d like to see more companies like that,” Mraz said.

County leaders say one of their biggest challenges is changing perception. Because the county is mostly rural, leaders say folks tend to think it’s hours away from the Capital Region, but the drive to Johnstown about 40 minutes from Schenectady.

by Anne McCloy, WRGB 6News Albany

Wednesday, June 21st 2017

WNYT finds Fulton County Posi+tive

Presentations highlight business opportunities in Fulton County

June 21, 2017 05:56 PM

PERTH – Fulton County wants companies to know it is open for business. County officials highlighted shovel-ready areas around the county for businesses to move in at a presentation Wednesday. The county highlighted those opportunities at Tryon Technology Park, and branded their new slogan – Fulton County: Posi+ive.

It may seem like an unusual place for a rebirth, an old juvenile detention facility. But at the Tryon Technology Park, Fulton County sees a bright business future for the county. “It was really a day to talk about investment opportunities, real estate development opportunities that we have here in Fulton County, readily available,” said James Mraz, Fulton County’s Planning Director.

The county brought in members of the Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Brokers to talk about opportunities for businesses and families in Fulton County. “We know what we’re doing, we know the opportunities that are here, but it doesn’t do us any good to know them and not for everybody else to,” said Mraz.

The county is focusing on three main sites. A planned residential and retail development in Johnstown and other in Mayfield. But the main area they focused on Wednesday was the Tryon Technology Park in the Town of Perth. The county got the property after the detention facility shut down in 2011. They’ve spent the last two years, and more than five million dollars, getting it ready for business.

“It’s one thing to have the land available, but if that land isn’t supported by the infrastructure it’s really not shovel-ready,” said Mraz. One tenant is already at the Technology Park: Vireo Health. A medical marijuana grower licensed by the state, the company credits the county for their growth.

“Fulton County and its IDA have been true partners to us,” said Ari Hoffnung, CEO of Vireo Health of NY, LLC. “We couldn’t do what we’re doing without their support.”

Vireo praised the county’s investments at Tryon, and say they’re ready for new tenants to come in. “Infrastructure here is top notch when it comes to power, when it comes to water, when it comes to high speed internet access,” said Hoffnung. “And it’s getting a little lonely so we would love a few more neighbors.”

Credits

Ben Amey

Copyright 2017 – WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

The NYT: Johnstown’s kosher cannabis makes national news

drying cannabis in Johnstown

At Vireo Health of New York’s plant in Johnstown, N.Y., Emily Errico, a cultivation technician, explaining the process of drying marijuana. Credit: JR Delia for The New York Times

BUSINESS DAY

The Rabbis Are Here to Inspect the (Legal) Weed

They had arrived here at Vireo Health of New York’s plant, about an hour northwest of Albany, looking for evidence that the company’s products merited kosher certification. They would eventually give their approval, but not before asking some tough questions, beginning in the room where row after row of plants hung upside down to dry.

“This is where they start getting worried,” recalled Ari Hoffnung, the company’s chief executive, because the kosher rules they were most focused on apply after a plant is dried.

As legalization of medical marijuana has hopscotched the nation, entrepreneurs have become nothing if not imaginative: Marijuana lotions, gluten-free edibles and many other niche products have hit the market. Businesses have also found resourceful ways to deal with a patchwork of taxation, banking and interstate commerce issues.

Little about the fledgling industry, then, comes as a surprise. But kosher pot?

Well, business is business, whether it’s widgets or weed, and any bit of competitive advantage is welcome.

“You’re seeing companies looking for creative ways to distinguish themselves, but also just interesting ways to appeal to different types of consumers,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Vireo’s plant here looks like a prison and smells like a dorm. It used to be the site of the Tryon Residential Center, a state-run facility for troubled youths that closed several years ago. The irony is not lost on Mr. Hoffnung or his workers.

Vireo Health Solutions medical marijuana products in Johnstown, NY

The final result: a bottle with a tiny kosher symbol. Credit: JR Delia for The New York Times

As he walked by old classrooms where hundreds of marijuana plants now grow, Mr. Hoffnung explained that the rabbis had mostly cared about what happened toward the end of the manufacturing process, which is why the drying plants had raised eyebrows. What chemicals did Vireo use to extract the cannabis oil, the rabbis had needed to know. What kind of capsules did they use?

Smoking marijuana by itself isn’t an issue — at least not from a kosher dietary standpoint — since the rules are intended for food and drinks. Products ingested in some way, on the other hand, are another story.

Ingredients must not come into contact with forbidden foods, like pigs or insects, and the restrictions extend all the way down the supply chain.

Every ingredient in a marijuana brownie, for example, needs to be kosher. The leaves, if eaten, would need to come from a bug-free plant. Marijuana gelcaps cannot be made out of pig gelatin. There are also rules for the equipment that processes kosher food. Vireo’s products that have been certified by the Orthodox Union can have the recognizable “OU” stamp on their packaging, and must submit to periodic inspections from the group’s rabbis.

“We literally took them through every square inch of the facility,” said David Ellis, the executive vice president of operations at Cresco Labs. The Chicago Rabbinical Council visited Cresco in March and said it was in the final stages of issuing a kosher certification that will cover everything from chocolate bars to concentrates.

Lifesaving medical treatment is an exception to kosher rules. A cancer drug made out of bacon-wrapped crickets, for example, would be fine. But while many patients use medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of serious illnesses, cannabis products are often not considered curative.

The products, almost certain to have a niche market, will be joining a booming industry. Legal sales of marijuana are expected to rise to $5.7 billion this year, up from $4.4 billion last year, according to a report from Ackrell Capital, a boutique investment bank. The recreational use of marijuana is legal in four states plus the District of Columbia, while medical marijuana is allowed in 19 more.

Mr. Hoffnung, 42, is quick to say that he is not a cannabis enthusiast and wants nothing to do with the recreational marijuana industry. He says that he considers Vireo, one of five companies licensed to sell medical marijuana products in New York, a pharmaceutical company.

Hydroponic growing area in medical marijuana plant in Johnstown, NY

Emily Errico checking a marijuana plant in the hydroponic growing area. Credit: JR Delia for The New York Times

Dressed in a dark blue blazer and white button-down shirt, he looks like the Wall Street executive that he used to be, having spent nearly a decade at firms including JPMorgan Chase. After Wall Street, Mr. Hoffnung served as a deputy comptroller for New York City. Part of his job involved analyzing the fiscal implications of medical marijuana.

“Just studying it with a group of economists and sophisticated financial analysts led me to believe wow, this is a multibillion-dollar market,” Mr. Hoffnung said.

The industry still faces a number of challenges, because the federal government considers marijuana an illegal drug. Many banks refuse to work with companies in the cannabis business, leading to stories about trunks full of cash and covert money transfers. And these companies cannot take advantage of some of the tax breaks intended for small businesses.

Vireo spent thousands of dollars on its kosher certification — Mr. Hoffnung declined to say just how much, because he sees it as one small step along medical marijuana’s march toward mainstream acceptance. The endorsement from a rabbinical organization, he hopes, will help the products appeal to a broader swath of consumers.

“There’s no question,” he said, “that the number of patients that desire kosher products, coupled with battling the stigma associated with medical marijuana, made this a wise economic investment.”

Representatives of the Orthodox Union and the Chicago Rabbinical Council, which inspected Cresco, said that the idea of kosher medical marijuana had stirred much internal debate, and that they would certify only medical marijuana and not products intended for the recreational market.

Deciding to go forward with the certification process “wasn’t an easy decision,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer at the Orthodox Union’s kosher division.

But Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the administrator of kosher laws for the Chicago Rabbinical Council, said he now expected to get more calls.

“What I thought would be, you know, maybe I’ll call it an amusing afternoon,” he said about the inspection, “really turned out to be a lot of lessons of Kosher 101.”

International site selectors find out about Tryon site

Fulton County Center for Regional Growth CEO Ronald Peters has returned from a meeting in Tennessee with site selectors from across the country where he promoted the opportunities available at Tryon Technology Park.

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan  FCCRG President Ron Peters

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
FCCRG President Ron Peters

The Site Selectors Guild’s Annual Conference held in Nashville from Wednesday to Friday was a prime networking opportunity for FCCRG and Peters. Getting the Tryon Technology Park on the radar of so many influential consultants means that information about the site will be communicated to corporations across the world.

Peters said delivered brochures, as well as the message that New York state is “embracing” businesses that wish to come here. He also met again with Michael Mullis, a site selector who visited Fulton County in 2013 and has had positive things to say about the potential of the Tryon site.

FCCRG’s Peters said he’s trying to arrange a tour of Tryon for other members of the Site Selectors Guild. “They have a forum and potentially could come back,” he said. “The word’s getting out there.”

The 500-acre site, mostly in the Town of Perth, is owned by the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency. Fulton County is assisting in development and FCCRG is marketing the project. The flagship tenant, Vireo Health of New York LLC, began production at the site this summer of pharmaceutical cannabis under a special license from New York State.

Peters also plans to attend the next forum of the Industrial Asset Management Council from March 12 through 16 in New Orleans.

Medical Marijuana Plant Approved for Tryon in Fulton County

medical marijuana to be one of the first manufacturing operations at Tryon Technology Park

Medical Marijuana Plant Approved for Tryon Technology Park in Fulton County

Fulton County will host the manufacturing operations for one of five organizations given health department permission today for the production and sale of medical marijuana in New York State.

“Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in the implementation of New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a written statement. “The five organizations selected for registration today showed, through a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation process, they are best suited to produce and provide quality medical marijuana to eligible New Yorkers in need, and to comply with New York’s strict program requirements.”

ESHS is a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Vireo Health LLC, a medical cannabis company which works to “insert standard medical, scientific, business and operational principles into the medical cannabis industry, which often lacks the expertise to meet specific scientific and medical standards,” according to its website. Kyle Kingsley is the CEO of both Empire State Health Solutions and Vireo Health.

Tryon Site in Fulton County NY

The first phase of the medical marijuana project involves renovating and retrofitting one of the existing buildings on 20 acres on the west side of the Tryon Technology Park for grow rooms, security and offices.

 

The first phase of their project involves renovating and retrofitting one of the existing buildings on 20 acres on the west side of the Tryon facility for grow rooms, security and offices.  The second phase would be the first greenhouse, and the third phase, scheduled for this fall, would be to develop additional facilities around the greenhouse.

ESHS plans to start with 20 employees in Fulton County – with an average starting wage of $22 – adding another 20 by the end of the year. When the facility is fully operational in October 2016 there could be as many as 100 unionized workers, according to Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty. The average worker would start at $22 per hour, he said.

Three top staff have already been hired, including a head horticulturalist from Austin, Texas. The company is advertising locally for some of the key entry-level positions. Applicants should search indeed.com to apply.

While New York is one of the largest states to embrace the drug’s use for medical purposes, it is hardly the first: 22 other states as well as the District of Columbia allow some form of medical marijuana,

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a national drug reform group, 22 states and the District of Columbia have changed their laws to allow the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. California was the first in 1996.

Gov. Cuomo’s opposed partial marijuana legalization when he campaigned for governor in 2010, and blocked attempts by lawmakers to create a medical marijuana program in 2011. In early 2014, however, he proposed his own plan to make the drug available at select hospitals across the state. That plan was opposed as too restrictive by advocates of patients likely to benefit from the pain-relieving affects of marijuana, such as those with cancers, seizure disorders and AIDS.

Cuomo’s next proposal, the Compassionate Care Act, also kept restrictions in place – such as barring the administration of the drug by smoking. New York producers will create alternate methods of  using the drug, including a vaporized delivery system similar to an e-cigarette.

Medical Marijuana Site Plan Approved for Tryon

The Fulton County Planning Board has approved the site plan for a proposed 208,000-square-foot medical marijuana manufacturing facility at the Tryon Technology Park.

The proposal is a significant step toward transforming the 515-acre facility into a biomedical research and manufacturing center. New York State turned the facility, a former state youth detention center, over to the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for redevelopment in 2013.

If Empire State Health Solutions (ESHS) receives a state license to make medical marijuana, it plans to build greenhouses, laboratory space, offices and a manufacturing and processing area at Tryon. Registered as a New York State limited liability corporation, ESHS would be the first tenant in the technology park.

ESHS is a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Vireo Health LLC, a medical cannabis company which works to “insert standard medical, scientific, business and operational principles into the medical cannabis industry, which often lacks the expertise to meet specific scientific and medical standards,” according to its website. Kyle Kingsley is the CEO of both Empire State Health Solutions and Vireo Health.

If ESHS wins one of the licenses, the first phase of their project would involve renovating and retrofitting one of the existing buildings on 20 acres on west side of the site for grow rooms, security and offices.  The second phase would be the first greenhouse, and the third phase, scheduled for this fall, would be to develop additional facilities around the greenhouse.

A marijuana crop takes about eight weeks from germination to harvest under controlled climate conditions.  ESHS indicated it may need to build additional greenhouses as demand requires.

“If they’re issued a license in three or four weeks, they need to start dropping some seeds,” according to Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty at the June 16 Planning Board meeting at which the site plan was approved. “They want to start up by January.”

The New York State Department of Health began accepting applications for medical marijuana manufacturing licenses after the passage of the Compassionate Care Act last year to make marijuana available as a treatment to patients with certain serious illnesses. There are 43 applicants for the five licenses the state plans to issue by late July. Each licensee will be allowed to open four dispensaries throughout the state.

ESHS plans to start with 20 employees in Fulton County – with an average starting wage of $22 – adding another 20 by the end of the year. When the facility is fully operational in October 2016 there could be as many as 100 unionized workers, according Geraghty. The average worker would start at $22 per hour, he said.

Three top staff have already been hired, including a head horticulturalist from Austin, Texas. The company is advertising locally for some of the key entry-level positions.

Mike Mullis, of the site selection research company J.M. Mullis Inc., said  the Tryon facility is “one of the region’s greatest marketing assets.”

“It’s the best property I’ve seen in New York State,” Mullis said. “It has the topography access, buildings and acreage that will appeal to major companies. It’s all there, including a backup power generator, $5 million worth of barbed-wire security fencing and a road network that is amply sufficient for most companies.”

Some of the fencing was removed at Tryon when the youth detention facility was closed a few years ago. Empire would augment the existing fencing with 12-foot high barbed wire and at least 60 security cameras.

The ESHS facility would use solar panels to produce more than 1 million kilowatt hours of energy, a third of its requirements. Geothermal energy capabilities would be employed, as well as recycling of rainwater.

The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth sees biomedical technology as its next opportunity for luring a “cluster” of compatible – and even symbiotic – manufacturing companies to Fulton County. It has already worked to attract and support a cluster of food processing companies such as Fage Yogurt, Crystal Geyser Spring Water, Euphrates Cheese and Pata Negra old-world sausages.