RANSHAW — Officials from Parea BioSciences LLC, which was awarded a license on July 31 to operate a medical marijuana grower/processor facility in Coal Township, said they are committed to employing area residents and rejuvenating the local economy. The company held a 90-minute informational meeting Tuesday night at Brady Fire Co.’s banquet hall.
About 50 people, including electricians, construction workers, local officials and concerned citizens, attended the session hosted by the company that plans to offer 120 jobs plus an additional 15 administrative positions.
“We are excited to be here and are tremendously honored to be chosen by the state as one of the marijuana grower/processor facilities,” said Krista K. Krebs, Parea CEO. “We have a solid and committed team of professionals with Parea who want this facility to be an important part of the community.”
Krebs, a native of Carlisle, said her company looked at about 30 locations for its marijuana grower/processor facility before choosing a multi-purpose building in the boot camp section of the former Northwestern Academy at the far eastern end of the property near the new Northumberland County Prison.
Nikki Moyers, director of diversity for Parea, said, “There is a dire need for jobs in this area and we want to boost economic development while making a positive impact in the community.”
Moyers talked about the potential to partner with trade schools, high schools, colleges and health care facilities in the area to further enhance the benefits of having a medical marijuana facility in Coal Township.
“Parea is very community-based and will be able to provide resources in a high poverty area that are sorely needed,” she said.
Ryan Hedrick, chief operating officer for Parea BioSciences in Carlisle, who also serves as a consultant for Keystone Center for Integrative Wellness, said the company hopes to hire construction workers from the local area.
He described the size of the facility that will encompass 80,000 square feet. Hedrick said only 10,000 square feet of the property will be used during the first couple years of operation.
Hedrick said an existing building will be used for drying, curing, extracting, trimming, cultivating and packaging marijuana.
He said the facility will be enclosed with a 6-foot fence with barbwire and will be staffed by security personnel “24-7.”
“We want to bring a lot of revenue and jobs back to town,” he said.
Hedrick said most jobs at the facility will start at $15 per hour.
He said educating the public is the key to being successful in the medical marijuana profession. Hedrick said, “We want to change the stigma that still exists that things associated with marijuana are bad.”
Moyers said the company’s dispensary in Williamsport that opened May 30 serves mostly “baby boomers.”
“Our goal is to help people with disabilities and people who need jobs,” Krebs said.
Kathleen Dunkelberger, director of community outreach and chief nursing officer for Parea who resides in Paxinos, discussed her passion for getting involved with the medical marijuana industry.
Dunkelberger, who said her autistic son heavily influenced her decision to become involved with the company, said street marijuana is very different from medical marijuana. She said medical cannabis has been proven to kill cancer.
“I pushed to have this facility in Northumberland County and I think the building we selected is the perfect place to grow medical cannabis. We hope to make this the largest marijuana grower/processor in the state.”
Michael J. Cranga, chief of security for Parea, said the facility will contain a security system similar to prisons. He said access control cards will be used by employees with numerous surveillance cameras and other security measures being employed.
Granga said generators for backup power during emergencies will be available along with smoke alarms and other fire control devices.
Hedrick said if Northumberland County is successful in having Northumberland County Drive changed from a private to a public road and Parea receives the proper permits in a timely fashion, groundbreaking for the facility will be targeted for December.
Under the best case scenario, he said Phase I of the facility should be operational in April 2019 with advanced operations beginning in October 2019.
Coal Township Commissioner Chairman Craig Fetterman urged Parea officials to communicate better with township officials.
“Medically and economically, this facility will be great for the township and entire area,” he said. “We need jobs and revenue and we want to develop a good relationship with you. I want you to know that there are no back-room deals in Coal Township.”
Fetterman encouraged Parea officials to employ local tradesmen.
Parea officials fielded several questions from the public, most of which dealt with employment opportunities.
Also representing Parea at the meeting was Melissa Foreman, director of compliance.
On May 8, Northumberland County Commissioners Sam Schiccatano and Richard Shoch approved the purchase of 10 acres of county-owned land to Keystone Center’s holding company, Yinyanor LLC, for $1.5 million. Minority Commissioner Kym Best opposed the sale of the land.