SANDERSON, Fla. – A warehouse in Baker County that has sat empty for more than a decade will soon be transformed into a sprawling medical marijuana grow facility.
Acreage Holdings, a publicly traded cannabis cultivation company with facilities in 20 states, announced its plans for the Sanderson facility during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
"We are excited about the capital investment that is estimated to be around $15 million in rehabbing and equipment they will put in this facility," said Darryl Register, executive director of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce. "And then of course the jobs. That is huge for Baker County, 80 to 100 jobs, and it's all different types of jobs, from the people that plant the seeds and do the cultivating to the harvest to the processing and the lab and to packaging and delivery to the retail markets."
Acreage Holdings said the operation, its first in Florida, will start small with portable shipping container grow houses at the facility that manufactured Hanson concrete roof tiles until it went out of business in 2009.
"That facility has been empty for a long time, and it's huge to have it back in use, especially at creating the number of jobs that they are going to create here," Register said. "It will soon have more than the number of jobs of the original company that created the facility."
Eventually, the facility will have 33,000 square feet of indoor grow space and house around 25,000 plants.
Rhonda Kratz, Florida general manager for Acreage Holdings, said the company chose Baker County in part because the climate is ideal for growing cannabis.
"The local community has been really welcoming," Kratz told News4Jax.
Register said most of the feedback he's heard from Sanderson residents has been positive in part because more than half of Baker County's workforce leaves the county every day to work elsewhere.
Register noted that although medical marijuana will be grown at the facility, marijuana will not be available for sale there. Licensed patients will have to travel outside Baker County to visit dispensaries.
"I don't think we will see any dispensaries in Baker County, at least not for a long, long, long, long time just because of the limited size of our population," he said.
The first harvest at the facility is expected in early 2020.
Those interested in jobs at the facility can visit the company's website.