Many in the village and across Montgomery County hope that cannabis cultivation and manufacturing company E29 Labs’ proposed project will be the job creation catalyst needed to grow and restore the customer base of so many businesses in the downtown village of the village .
On Tuesday, Montgomery County’s legislature approved a five-year purchase option agreement with 102 Church Street LLC, the real estate holding of E29 Labs, a company that has proposed building a $ 15 million to $ 30 million cannabis grow operation in the eastern part of Old Beech -Nut property.
E29 Labs is owned by cannabis growers Sheldon and Shelley Roberts from Canajoharie and veteran of the cannabis business Michael Dundas. The company is now seeking a New York State license to grow cannabis plants and manufacture recreational marijuana products.
E29 Labs plans to hire 125 people for Phase 1 of its three-phase, seven-year plan, which could end up to 500 people. The company has also announced that its workforce will be unionized.
“When I have so many jobs in town, it definitely has an impact on the community. In my opinion, you are more likely to shop where you work. I can see it makes a huge difference here economically, ”said Janet Stanley, president of the Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge Chamber of Commerce. “Having jobs is equivalent to having bodies downtown, and I just think it’s going to be huge for Canajoharie.”
Marcia Jaque, owner of Gino’s Restaurant at 49 Church Street, said she moved her family-run business from Sharon Springs to Canajoharie shortly before Beech-Nut closed. She took over the location of the former Church & Main restaurant but always struggled to regain the level of business she had originally hoped her downtown location would.
“I was a little scared,” she said of the beech and nut lock. “I expected that we would at least have the Beech-Nut employees, but then of course the city dried up because everyone left. It killed it. There weren’t any people in the streets. It hit hard and the fact that it has been closed for so many years, so many broken promises from people who come in and supposedly buy it and we would be happy because anything that closes is not good.
“When a big business collapses, the rest of the city’s businesses have to make up the difference,” she said. “Everything went up. We were responsible for clearing that bill, and it hurt. “
Doing business in Canajoharie for the past decade has been difficult, she said.
“It tested our wills, but I’m 50 years old. Will I start doing something else?” She said. “I think my mother taught me to ‘tame little girls’.”
The E29 Labs project gave her hope.
“One hundred percent of the people who are going to work there, this city is going to thrive just because it feels like it’s not dead space that’s going to be wasted,” she said.
Michele McGlone, the owner of the Emotional Outlet consignment store, said her store is directly facing the west office side of the former Beech-Nut plant. She started her business at 36 Church Street in 2011 and was later able to buy her current location at 89 Church Street in 2012, partly because the pizza shop located there closed, she said, likely partly due to fewer customers after the factory closes .
McGlone said she was cautiously optimistic about the impact of the E29 Labs project.
“I wouldn’t say there were disappointed hopes here, I would say there were no hopes,” she said. “It would be great to convince customers of that.”
McGlone said she was only paying attention tangentially to the twists and turns of ownership and development of the former Beech Nut site, but she was watching what happened.
“It’s getting worse,” she said. “The windows are regularly blown out, and many of them have plywood. It’s really sad. They tend the grass. I’m used to it because I look at it all day every day, but I imagine people driving around town thinking it’s pretty shabby, but I know this E29 Labs project is this one Part of the building not affected. ”
Regardless of the fate of the E29 Labs project, Montgomery County will retain ownership of the old plant’s western office space. Various suggestions have been made for the space over the years, ranging from the idea of converting it into a consolidated municipal courthouse serving western Montgomery County, or possibly leveling the existing structure and building something new.
The idea of a downtown cannabis factory is a concept, so Canajoharie Central School District’s new superintendent Nick Fitzgerald isn’t entirely sure how the educators will treat the students.
“I don’t know that answer yet, we need to sit down and talk about it,” said Fitzgerald. “We should have a meeting with the owners and the county and things like that. As soon as things settle down, we’ll start looking for options.”
The Canajoharie Central School currently has around 900 students but used to have closer to 1,100. Fitzgerald said a great new employer could help change that.
“We want to try to understand this organization as best we can and encourage job growth and opportunities for students to stay in the community after they graduate,” he said.
Janice Dillenbeck, director of the Canajoharie Youth Center, said her organization runs an after-school program for children ages eight to twelve and has been in operation since the 1940s when she first offered supervision for the children of Beech-Nut factory workers. She said she was excited about the potential of the E29 Labs project, which she believes could include some green parking spaces.
“I think it would be great if it were open to the public. I would like to take over the children and let them use the grounds. We don’t have a place to do that right now, ”she said.
Dillenbeck said she admits the making of cannabis and recreational marijuana products will be a touchy subject, and is likely to be an issue her organization prefers when parents debate with their children.
“If a child has a question about it, we should say go home and ask your parents about it. I don’t think it’s our place to talk about it,” she said.
Dillenbeck said her program currently has approximately 25 children, which increases to 75 for her summer youth program. She said more jobs in Canajoharie could mean more children for the youth center.
“I think it would be great to have more people in the area,” she said. “It could definitely help.”
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