The town of Smiths Falls, Ont., is having a full-circle moment as pot producer Canopy Growth announced Thursday it would sell its primary cannabis cultivation facility — once a factory for Hershey Canada — back to the prodigal chocolatier.
The move will see Canopy Growth, which announced plans to wind down operations at the 1 Hershey Dr. facility in the spring in a bid to streamline operations, agree to sell the property to Hershey at a price of $53 million.
Shares of Canopy Growth were trading higher at the market open Thursday following the announcement.
Canopy Growth notably operated the old chocolate factory as its headquarters as it scaled up through the cannabis boom tied to the legalization of recreational weed in Canada. In a nod to the site’s history, Canopy Growth also rolled out a line of pot-infused chocolate bars a few years ago when edibles were also legalized.
Hershey Canada built the factory on the street that still bears its name in 1964 and sold it in 2007, according to a spokesperson for the company.
The town of Smiths Falls, which once relied on jobs from the Hershey factory, saw an employment surge with Canopy Growth’s boom. The subsequent decline in the cannabis industry saw the pot producer announce it was cutting 800 jobs across Canada, or more than a third of its workforce, in the spring.
Shawn Pankow, mayor of Smiths Falls, said Hershey coming back to the town is significant for the community that relied on the employer for decades before it shut down in 2007.
“It’s almost like that time warp effect. Are we are we going back in time? Is this really 2023 or are we back here in actually 1960 when the Hershey story first started in Smiths Falls,” Pankow said in an interview Thursday.
The mayor of the small eastern Ontario town said it didn’t take long for calls to start rolling in when Canopy announced earlier this year it would be closing operations on Hershey Drive. At the time, he and most townspeople would never have guessed what company would end up buying the facility.
“Of all the potential opportunities that could have landed here, the fact that it’s Hershey is probably more heart-warming for the community,” he said.
He said the challenge for most interested parties was leasing or buying all 700,000 square feet of production space. None who Pankow spoke with were able to make such a commitment, until of course Hershey came along to lay claim to its former property.
“In the end, having one purchaser, one operator is really a godsend to our community,” he said.
Canopy Growth will retain a footprint in Smiths Falls as it centralizes its post-harvest production in a separate facility across the road from 1 Hershey.
Jason Reiman, Hershey Canada’s chief supply chain officer, said in a statement Thursday that the purchase is a “strategic investment” in the growth of its Canadian operations.
Global News reached out to Hershey Canada for details on hiring and production ambitions at the site, but a spokesperson for the company said it was “premature” to discuss those plans.
Hershey Canada’s website says its current headquarters are located in Mississauga, Ont., with additional plants in Saint-Hyacinthe and Granby, Que.