Contributed Photo: Bayacan, LLC, looks to retrofit a 53-acre greenhouse at NatureSweet to grow cannabis.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – The Graham County Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter of support to the Graham County Board of Supervisors regarding cannabis grower Bayacan, LLC’s request for a zone change in Graham County.
“Approval of this request will result in much-needed employment and tax revenue to our region,” the letter stated. “Bayacan, LLC is a member of our Chamber, and held a job fair on Saturday, Dec. 12 as well as tours of their facility for Chamber Board members on Thursday, December 3, Thursday, December 10, and Monday, December 14. We witnessed precise professionalism and impressive standard operating procedures from their operations manager, compliance manager, agricultural operations manager, and human resources manager.”
The owner of Bayacan, Frank van Straalen, was formerly involved with “The Pharm”, a 7-acre medical marijuana cultivation facility in Cochise County. He branched off into looking to expand into space at NatureSweet’s greenhouse facility in Bonita, and add a 53-acre grow site. Frank van Straalen also formerly worked at EuroFresh, which operated the site before selling to NatureSweet. The former owner of EuroFresh is also an investor in Bayacan. With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arizona, the demand for cannabis is expected to increase greatly. As a producer, Bayacan is looking to sell marijuana to dispensaries, which are currently all still medical marijuana only, however, the dispensaries will be the first to apply for recreational licenses as well.
The company is looking to hire 100 to 150 people at the beginning and possibly grow that number to 600. The company advised that with the capital expenditures it plans on having to retrofit the facility for cannabis (including hundreds of construction jobs) the initial start-up will generate $38.3 million in economic output. According to a Rounds Consulting Group, Inc. analysis, once completed and fully operational by year six, the company could employ 606 people at the cultivation site and will support another 888 workers in the region. The economic impact – by year six – is expected to be nearly $300 million and generate tax revenue to Graham County of about $550,000 annually.
A job fair for the cultivation facility was held at the Graham County Chamber of Commerce last Saturday and will hold another one this Saturday, Dec. 19, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
After meeting with van Straalen, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vance Byce encouraged the Board of Supervisors to approve the rezoning application.
The Graham County Planning and Zoning Commission will have a hearing on the proposed rezone Wednesday, Dec. 16, starting at 9 a.m., and the Board of Supervisors will discuss it at its Monday, Dec. 21 meeting, starting at 8 a.m. Both meetings will be held at the Graham County General Services Building at 921 W. Thatcher Blvd. and are open to the public.