If your business is anything like a medical marijuana facility, economic developers in Fulton County want you to know they have a perfect location for it.
You don’t have to be making medicines from plants that were until recently illegal to grow. Fulton County officials are looking for businesses that need lots of affordable space in a secure, remote location with access to a workforce that has a wide range of education and skills. That’s what Vireo Health of New York, one of five medical marijuana companies operating in the state, got when it moved into the 213-acre Tryon Technology Park two years ago.
“Fulton County has been a terrific partner for us,” Vireo Chief Executive Ari Hoffnung said Wednesday at a county event pitching the site of a former state juvenile detention center to a couple dozen real estate brokers.
“It’s a perfect fit,” Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz said of Vireo’s location.
As the unique business park’s only tenant, Vireo was a natural selling point. Real estate brokers got a rare tour of the strictly regulated facility.
They got to see an outdoor greenhouse and indoor grow rooms where horticulturists carefully control the light and temperature of plants whose oils are extracted for medicines to treat 11 debilitating conditions approved by the state. They got to peek into the laboratory where the medicines are made, in different formulations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a mind-altering ingredient, and cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive properties.
Yet as an example of a thriving business, Vireo isn’t there yet. Hoffnung told county officials and real estate brokers that the firm has invested about $10 million in the operation, including 20 acres of land. But like the other four medical marijuana companies in New York, it has yet to break even.
That’s despite a huge boost — an increase in volume of more than 50 percent, according to Vireo Operations Director Nick Goran — since the state added chronic pain to its list of qualifying conditions less than three months ago. One impediment to growth, company officials said, is that too few doctors are registering to certify patients for medical marijuana. According to the state Health Department, 1,058 medical providers were registered as of last week.
The business park landed Vireo as a client without much work, Mraz said. The company found the park as the county was engaged in getting the facility ready to market, Mraz said.
Mraz raised an eyebrow when he told about first hearing of interest from a potential tenant that wanted to grow marijuana. But then he learned more about Vireo’s plans. “Ah, you’re a pharmaceutical company,” he said.
By Claire Hughes, Albany Times-Union
Published 5:06 pm, Wednesday, June 21, 2017