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

Fulton County pushing tech park: The Daily Gazette

Originally published in The Daily Gazette

— When Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed the Tryon Juvenile Detention Facility in 2011, Fulton County and the surrounding area lost 325 jobs and an estimated $15,000,000 in wages spent in the local economy, according to an estimate from the county planning department.

The Gloversville Water Dept. and the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant also lost a combined $170,000 in annual revenue, they said.

But while similar youth detention facilities across the state were shuttered and remained closed, officials in Fulton County had something different in mind for the Tryon facility. They asked the state to turn the property over to them so they could convert it into a business park.

“Fulton County government took the initiative,” said James Mraz, Executive Director of the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency. “After a couple years worth of back and forth this entire facility was deeded over to the county’s industrial development agency.”

The county, through a combination of grants and matching funds, has so far put over $4 million into the site. They built a ring access road throughout the 515-acre shovel-ready site, known as the Tryon Technology Park, as well as a 300,000-gallon water tower and pump station to improve water pressure and supply.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks over drying marijuana plant at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks over drying marijuana plant at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Their plan is to tear down nearly all of the many structures that were part of the detention facility, save for one 15,000-square-foot facility they hope to convert into a regional business training and incubator center. That facility, said Mraz, will help new businesses get off the ground and provide space for them to try out ideas.

Mraz said county officials felt the site would make a good business park because of its proximity to New York’s interstate system and the presence of existing utility hookups.

“There’s already gas, electric, water and sewer service here,” said Mraz. “When you’re developing shovel-ready sites that’s usually the biggest cost, is getting that infrastructure, which is integral to developing the site. It was already here.”

He also touted the county’s access to markets.

“Because of our proximity to interstates, this county, a four-hour drive in any direction has access 70 million potential customers, and that’s huge,” said Mraz, pointing to retail giant Wal-Mart opening a food distribution center in the Johnstown industrial park as evidence of Fulton County’s advantageous location.

“They did it for a reason,” he said. “Strategically it was centrally located to a geographic area that they wanted to serve and could serve given the interstate system here. Our proximity to markets is as good if not better than most other areas.”

Mraz also touted the relative remoteness of Tryon Technology Park as an asset.

“It’s a very peaceful campus setting. So part of our marketing strategy is we’re saying ‘come here, take a 180 degree turn away from a high-cost, high-stress business life,’” he said.

“We think it’s a positive thing. And that’s how we’re trying to market it.”

Selling prospective businesses on the property is something Mraz, who doubles as the county’s planning director, said is a daily task for him and other officials.

“That’s a work task that we’re on every day,” said Mraz. “This business is very competitive.”

Mraz said the county is courting a prospect now that’s looking at sites all over the northeast.

“So every time we’re competing against other great sites, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,” he said. “I can’t say when we’re going to have [tenants]; all I can say is every day we’re trying.”

The Tryon Tech Park already has one tenant, Vireo Health of New York, which is one of the few companies allowed to grow and manufacture medical cannabis for use by patients in New York.

Vireo’s scientific director Eric Greenbaum said on a recent tour of the facility that the company is one of just five allowed to operate in the state, and while regulations in New York are more stringent than in other states, he sees a bright future for the industry in the state.

Greenbaum said New York’s marijuana program is a “really medical model” as opposed to more recreation-based models in Colorado and California, which could actually greatly help the medical cannabis industry nationwide to serve patients as opposed to casual users.

“[New York’s] is a model that in my opinion will serve as the template for a federal regulatory framework similar to what the FDA would do,” said Greenbaum. “Compared to California, where the medical model is basically a proxy for adult and recreational use…the fact that we don’t sell [marijuana bud], we only sell carefully formulated medicines…it’s just indicative of the approach that New York is taking.”

Vireo provides customers with carefully formulated medicines in three different forms, said Greenbaum: oil (for vaporizing), a capsule or an oral solution. The company has five brands that run the gamut from having very high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations and very low cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations, and vice versa.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks at buds of marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks at buds of marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

 Cannabidiol is a compound that is useful for seizure disorders as well as pain, said Greenbaum. It’s also been shown to mitigate the sometimes dysphoric effects of THC, which can include paranoia and anxiousness.

THC is the chemical produced by the glands of a marijuana plant that is most responsible for the euphoric effect – or high – found in users.

Greenbaum said the company settled at Tryon Technology Park as part of the licensing agreement it struck with the state, but that he and Vireo CEO Kyle Kingsley are native New Yorkers who are passionate about jumpstarting local economies wherever they can in the state.

“We knew that the state was really focused on repurposing this facility; we knew there was a commitment to building up the Tryon Technology Park to be a center for tech development as well as job growth for this region,” said Greenbaum.

And while the state’s regulation of medical cannabis is a bit strict now, said Greenbaum, there’s reason to believe it will broaden in the near future.

“It’s a pretty limited patient market right now; there’s been some discussion with the legislators and regulators to expand some of the qualifying patient conditions to include chronic pain,” said Greenbaum. “Chronic pain is one of the indications for which we have the most evidence of efficacy with medical cannabis. So we’re hoping that that goes through. We think it will be really good for the people of New York.”

Marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Tech Park in Perth on Thursday.

Marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Greenbaum said Vireo is “optimistic” the regulations will be expanded within the next quarter.

“Not that we’ll be able to implement it, but we’re optimistic we’ll see an announcement within the next 90 days,” said Greenbaum. Relaxing them, he said, would “open up access a lot, and will be good for growth and patients as well.”

And growth is what county officials are hoping for as well with the Tryon Technology Park. Mraz said the capital projects at the site are in their final stages, and the way in which the county has been able to repurpose what would have become an abandoned property is a unique and inspiring way to create more jobs and commerce in the area.

“It’s just going to take some time,” he said.

Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, dfitzsimmons@dailygazette.net or@DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.

Growing Industry

Marijuana ready for harvest at Vireo Health in Tryon Technology Park

September 26, 2016, By MICHAEL ANICH, Reprinted from the Leader Herald0926 Mon Story greenhouse

PERTH – The pistils, or hairs of the plants, are ready. The resin and THC levels appear to be in peak condition.

It’s time to harvest marijuana plants at the Tryon Technology Park.

“We’re going to start harvesting next week,” Vireo Health of New York, LLC Chief Horticulturist Chuck Schmitt said Wednesday.

Vireo Health – the park’s only and first full-time business – is due to begin harvesting its cannabis plants this week to produce batches of legal medical marijuana products for the public. The firm employs 20 people, mostly with scientific, horticulture and plant biology backgrounds.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich Vireo Health Scientific Director Eric Greenbaum shows off some of the Vireo Health equipment used to procss medical marijuana at the Tryon Technology Park in the town of Perth.

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich Vireo Health Scientific Director Eric Greenbaum shows off some of the Vireo Health equipment used to process medical marijuana at the Tryon Technology Park in the town of Perth.

Fulton County and Vireo Health officials on Wednesday took area media on a tour of Vireo Health’s new operation – a curiously sophisticated and highly-protected cannabis growth building sanctioned by New York state. The new company provides medical marijuana – mainly in the form of vapor and capsules. Such firms also produce medical cannabis oral tinctures and syringes to Empire State-sanctioned dispensaries.

The new Tryon Technology Park is owned by the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency.

“Vireo came to us last year, in the spring of 2015,” says IDA Executive Director James Mraz. “This was a central location.”


“When you look at where Fulton County is located in the state, from a logistics standpoint, it’s at a convenient location to different parts of the state. There is a tremendous amount of [employment] talent in the Capital District.” –Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung


In 2014, New York state adopted the Compassionate Care Act that authorized the growing of medical cannabis to manufacture medicines to administer to patients with debilitating diseases. Vireo Health was one of five companies issued a license, retrofitting an existing 21,000-square-foot building.

Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung agreed Friday his company was attracted to the location.

“When you look at where Fulton County is located in the state, from a logistics standpoint. it’s at a convenient location to different parts of the state,” Hoffnung said. “There is a tremendous amount of [employment] talent in the Capital District.”

Hoffnung said Vireo Health is a “professionally-run operation” that will only gain more support as time goes on.

“Fulton County is an efficient place to build a plant,” he said.

Schmitt, who led Wednesday’s tour, showed off medical medical marijuana production from start to finish. The extraction process goes from seedlings to bricks of smaller plants to larger, more mature plants in the company’s new greenhouse. The cannabis is eventually processed into the medical marijuana used by patients.

Temperature, humidity and moisture controls are closely monitored throughout the process. Light, whether it’s blue-green or orange, are appropriately used for growing. Vireo Health recaptures and reuses its roof rainwater throughout the process. Security is also very tight at Vireo Health.

“It’s a continuous process,” Schmitt said. “This is a very unique [operation].”

The Vireo Health building has five “flowering” rooms, with Schmitt showing off the vibrant sticky strains of the plants known as the pistils. One of the rooms has 300 plants growing.

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich Vireo Health Chief Horticulturalist Chuck Schmitt checks out some cannabis seedlings Wednesday at the Tryon Technology Park.

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
Vireo Health Chief Horticulturalist Chuck Schmitt checks out some cannabis seedlings Wednesday at the Tryon Technology Park.

Temperatures are generally kept warm in the growing rooms, as high as 85 degrees. In the 20,000-square-foot greenhouse, Schmitt shows the tour the 2,000 more mature plants, already from four to eight feet high and ready to harvest. Those plants have the higher concentrations of THC, the compound obtained from cannabis that is the primary intoxicant in marijuana.

The pharmacological process pulls out the useful parts of the marijuana plant to make its medicine.

Vireo Health eventually plans to build a second and third-greenhouse, Schmitt said.

Company Scientific Director Eric Greenbaum says a state lab eventually does a third party canniabinoid testing on Vireo Health’s product before it can be shipped out to the licensed dispensaries.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

Signs of progress at Tryon Park

New sign at Tryon Technology park main entrance. Tryon Technology Park turned a fresh face to the community with a solar-powered sign for the main entrance based on the county’s new marketing theme, Fulton County…Positive.

Demolition work also began this week at the 515-acre park. The Fulton County Demolition Team is removing six cottages and administrative buildings left over from when the land hosted a youth detention facility. Funding for the work is coming through Fulton County, and the demolition debris is being hauled to the county landfill.Night view of solar-powered entrance sign for Tryon Technology Park.

Demolition at Tryon Technology Park

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
The Fulton County Demolition Team on Tuesday works on taking down the first of six former youth detention buildings at the Tryon Technology Park in Perth to make way for new shovel-ready business sites.

When the work is complete, the Empire State Development Corp. will provide the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency with a certificate declaring the area to be shovel ready, and the sites will go into a state database that promotes available properties to site selectors.

New York State transferred the former Tryon Detention Facility property to the IDA for redevelopment as a business park. The county has secured its first tenant, medical marijuana manufacturer Vireo Health of New York.

WAMC: Fulton County Officials Hope Medical Marijuana Will Jumpstart Tryon Site

Fulton County Officials Hope Medical Marijuana Will Jumpstart Tryon Site

Originally Broadcast on WAMC NorthEast Public Radio

By LUCAS WILLARD

Listen to the report on WAMC’s Website

The economy of rural Fulton County, New York has struggled for years, but with a new medical marijuana cultivation center on the way, officials are hoping New York’s burgeoning biomedical industry will help draw new business to the region.

 On the last day of July, five of 43 applicants were awarded licenses by the New York State Department of Health to cultivate, process, and distribute medical marijuana. Company Empire State Health Solutions is working to begin distributing the drug from its Fulton County facility.

Chief Operating Officer Michael Newel told WAMC that the site in the Mohawk Valley was chosen for its central location and proximity to major roadways.

 “Having grown up in Galway and Amsterdam, I was well aware of the unemployment rate in Fulton and Montgomery County and starting thinking that was pretty centrally located and was there a place where we could site the facility there. And as I started looking at that the Tryon Technology Park popped up.”

 The Tryon Technology Park was converted from a state operated juvenile correctional facility. Empire State Development transferred the property to the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency in 2012.

 Jim Mraz, Executive Director of IDA and Fulton County Planner, is excited for the Perth facility’s first tenant.

“We’re hoping this is the start of something big and will be something great for this region if we can replace all of the jobs that were lost when that facility closed,” said Mraz.

 At its peak, the Tryon Residential Center employed 350 before closing. Empire State Health Solutions anticipates creating at least 75 full-time jobs.

 While electric, gas, water, sewer, and fiber-optic internet were already available at the site, over the last year the county and IDA have made a few improvements including a new access road and rerouted sewer and water lines.

 Mraz said Fulton County commissioned a study for the best industrial uses at the Tryon site.

 “And the number one cluster is bio-medical research and development. Empire State Health Solutions proposed pharmaceutical manufacturing facility is a perfect fit.”

 And officials hope the company will jumpstart the 500-acre Tryon site and bring in more tenants. Ron Peters is President and CEO of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth.

 “By bringing in this group we can go out and try to attract other similar bio-med groups. I think it’s going to change the landscape of Tryon Technology Park,” said Peters.

 Peters also praised the site’s rural setting and central location.

 “Close proximity to Saratoga, very close proximity to Albany, and its close proximity to all sites north and west.”

 Empire State Health Solutions will distribute medical marijuana to Broome, Albany, Westchester and Queens counties.

 Elsewhere in our region, Etain LLC will manufacture in Warren County and dispense in Albany, Ulster, Westchester, and Onondaga counties. PharmaCann will operate out of Orange County and distribute the in the Bronx, Erie, Onondaga and Albany counties.

 Columbia Care NY will dispense the drug in Clinton County.

 For a full list of companies and locations visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/application/selected_applicants.htm

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.