Lake County’s economy is poised to benefit from the booming growth in CBD popularity.
Green Ridge Biosolutions, a producer of CBD (cannabidiol) products from Montana family farm-sourced hemp, has acquired the vacant Sports and Western building in Ronan. The company is relocating from Missoula and significantly expanding their operations into the 15,000-square-foot building.
The building is being completely renovated to create a hemp processing facility that will conform to “good manufacturing processes (GMP),” guidelines to ensure cleanliness and consistency of product in manufacture and sale of food and beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, dietary supplements, and medical devices.
A series of processing rooms will be behind heavily sealed doors, providing increasing levels of protection from contamination. The company has developed a proprietary process that extracts and concentrates hemp products at cold temperatures that does not require additives typically used in the industry, allowing for product purity.
An interior laboratory clean room will be able to be passed through, but only those with the highest clearance will operate the extraction equipment to protect quality control.
Belanger began in this business as a hemp grower. He advises farmers on every part of the process, from seed to harvest, to help ensure they can grow hemp with consistent qualities Green Ridge needs and help them to make hemp growing an economical prospect. Green Ridge was recently granted the first ever Montana Department of Agriculture license as a Commodity Dealer, Commodity Warehouse, Hemp Producer, and a Hemp Processor.
The facility is registered with the FDA, as are their products.
Green Ridge makes several topical products, including a muscle rub, moisturizing lotion, conditioner, shampoo, soap, and full-spectrum CBD oil. In addition to their own brand, Belanger’s business degree and skills help connect with large wholesale contracts to create product lines specifically formulated, labelled, and packaged for those stores’ brands.
The new facility will include an in-house fulfillment and shipping center. Belanger is working with Lake County Community Development Corporation to make the center available for packaging and shipping other locally-made products as well, including the foods produced at the LCCDC Mission
Mountain Food Enterprise Center.
Shipping will be less expensive and more convenient, says Belanger, than if contracting with out-of-town fulfillment centers.
“If we’re going to be shipping anyway, I will be hiring people,” Belanger says. “If it were just for us, it would need two or three part time workers. But if we can bring in other people, it could be four or five full-time spots.”
If they hit their sales goals, Belanger says, the company could employ 30 to 40 people within the next 9 months. “It comes down to how well our sales team does. If we do OK, maybe 20 people. If we do amazing, maybe 40. If we go ‘viral’, who knows? It’s all about which stores we get into.”
Green Ridge has product placed in several stores across the U.S., including Bozeman, Missoula, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Austin, Las Vegas and even Pittsburgh.
As of print time, Mission General Store is the only local outlet. Belanger says his goal is to offer the products in local retail stores, and only sell wholesale from the new facility.
“We’re not coming here for cheap labor,” stresses Belanger. “There is a need for jobs, but nobody needs a job that doesn’t help them pay the bills. We pay a living wage. We might have to recruit from outside the community for some technical jobs, such as someone with a chemistry degree or something. But for the rest of the jobs we can train on the job,” for such positions as production, packaging, and shipping, he says.
“I like being in a smaller town,” says Belanger. “We can have a bigger impact here. We don’t want to give people jobs, we want to give them careers. This is the long haul. This is where we want to put down our roots and be here for the years to come.”