Anatomy of a new industry

SMITH FALLS – The talk about the horrors of letting the marijuana monster out of its cage in your community has now changed to, “how do we tame it and capitalize on it,” and the small town of Smith Falls, Ontario, population 9,000, is one of those early success stories. Like most small communities, finding jobs within the community was hard to do and created a steady stream of young professionals and families moving away to pursue employment, which compounds the problem even more.

But it wasn’t always that way.

The Rideau River runs through Smiths Falls and the opening of the Rideau Canal in 1832 signalled a milestone for the town and the entire regions’ economic growth.

Smith Falls’ second economic boom came in 1884 when the Canadian Pacific Railway put tracks through the town, creating a thriving community that blossomed in the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s. This railway provided a direct trade route to Montreal and its vast shipping lines. Due to those early connections, Smith Falls boasted a diverse history of important industries, such as Frost and Wood Co. Ltd., Coca-Cola, RCA Victor Ltd., Rideau Regional Centre and Hershey’s Canada Inc.
But most of those businesses have since moved out or dried up putting and estimated 1500 people out of work.

Just like the town fathers of the 1800’s, the present Smith Falls Town Council looked towards the future and got on board early and are experiencing the third and most powerful economic boom since
Smith Falls, about an hour southwest of Ottawa, is home to the headquarters for Tweed Inc. and parent company Canopy Growth Corp., which make up one of the world’s largest licensed cannabis companies and has save that little town from extinction.

Tweed has created about 800 jobs directly in the community since it started gradually taking over a closed down the old Hershey chocolate factory about five years ago and has been “growing like a week” ever since. Tweed continues to expand and has also bought and revitalized other buildings around town — some of which had been boarded up for more than a decade.

“Virtually everybody you talk to would say this has been a real godsend to our community,” Shawn Pankow said in an interview inside the town’s new welcome centre.
“Our sense of optimism now is high.”

And they have a very unlikely investor in the town and the business that promises jobs and economic growth. Rapper Snoop Dog is a major investor in Tweed. He visited Smiths Falls last year where he checked out the facility and met employees and locals before putting some of his fortune into the operation to grow it. While there he also performed a show for more than 5,000 local and area people.

“If someone had told me five years ago that I’d be standing working at a cannabis factory, I would look at them and say they’re crazy,” said Carol Lawrence, whose husband lost his job at Hershey’s after more than 35 years Carol Lawrence. “And look at me now.”

Some locals at Six Nations have pointed to Kayanase and its state-of-the-art greenhouse facility on Highway 54, as a possible community owned marijuana growing facility ready to change over right away, should the community decide to follow the trend.

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