‘We’re seeing change’: Cannabis business sparking growth in Smiths Falls

Tweed, a cannabis producer in Smiths Falls is not just growing marijuana. After just a few short years, the business has caused an economic boom in the small town, spawning growth in housing, new businesses and spin-off jobs. Smiths Falls mayor Shawn Pankow says since the business set up shop in 2013, he has seen a huge difference.

“New restaurants have opened, retail stores,” Pankow said. “We’re seeing change in a positive way.”

The changes happened fast as well. Tweed, which is owned and managed by Canopy Growth, started out by leasing part of the old Hershey chocolate building, which they now own. On top of that, they have grown to nearly one million square feet of space for the business. The budding company has injected $220 million dollars into the facility, with more than 800 employees now working there.

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“People are walking up the street with a bit of a skip in their step. There’s a mentality that this town is capable of great things,” said Jordan Sinclair with Canopy Growth.

Cultivating cannabis in the town of nearly 9,000 people has sparked growth around the region. From the hundreds of jobs inside the factory to the spin-off jobs made with construction and other projects related to the business, the effects can be felt far and wide. Mayor Pankow says they have really seen a change in housing alone.

“To put it into perspective, from 1996 to 2006, the town added 190 residential units. We’ll probably do as much or more in the next year then what was done in that stretch,” Pankow says.

Those numbers can be shown in the buyers market as well. Pankow adds they can hardly keep up with the demand, once a house goes on the market.

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“We’re seeing higher demand for purchases than we have ever seen before,” Pankow said. “Homes are going on the market and they are getting multiple offers in a very short period of time.”

The turn of events is good for the town of Smiths Falls — it was just a decade ago when they felt the effects of Hershey’s packing up shop. The shutdown left hundreds of people without a job, with several other companies also leaving town. Now the producer that has taken hold of the building is paying homage to the company, even restarting the famous Hershey’s visitors center which locals had grown to love. This included a walkway to show visitors the production.

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Now Tweed has recreated this experience — with a twist.

“We just couldn’t say goodbye to that old catwalk,” said Sinclair. “Their whole economy was based on tourism and the jobs this site created. It’s an education-driven experience all about cannabis.”

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On top of this, the idea is to not only sell the experience of cannabis but the bud itself. Canopy Growth hopes to add their name to the list of retailers for the product.

Some employees working at the plant are from the area, but others, like Christian Kuhn, came all the way from Toronto for the job. He’s now the head cultivator there and says he has fully immersed himself into the community since he moved here nearly two years ago.

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“I purchase all my groceries, clothes, bought a guitar a few months ago,” Kuhn said. “We do a lot of team-building lunches and events around the community.”

With the legalization of marijuana kicking at 12:01am Wednesday, the company shows no sign of slowing down, either.

“It’s limited really by imagination and innovation; job opportunities will certainly be growing.”

Canopy Growth also hopes to be dipping their toe into the beverage industry, eyeing up cannabis-infused drinks once the government lays out its plan for edible marijuana.