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Golden Piedmont Labs opens state’s first large-scale hemp operation

South Boston NewsSouth Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Local and state officials gather for the ribbon cutting at Golden Piedmont Labs, with South Boston Mayor Ed Owens, with scissors, doing the honors, flanked by Gov. Ralph Northam, left, and company co-founder Sterling Edmunds Jr. Above, left, Northam speaks to a crowd of some 100 local business and civic leaders, with a hemp plant set up near the podium. (David Conner II photos)
SoVaNow.com / October 19, 2020
Thursday’s ribbon cutting at Golden Piedmont Labs, the first large-scale hemp processing facility in Virginia, heralds a boon for local agriculture and Southside Virginia at large, say backers of the venture.

“Our vision is to brand the Piedmont region as the Napa Valley for growing hemp,” said Sterling Edmunds Jr., a Town of Halifax native who co-founded the company with Rick Gregory, also a county native. Both men now live in the Richmond area.

Edmunds, Golden Piedmont Labs president Steve Mize and company employees and investors were on hand Thursday to welcome some 100 community and business leaders to the ribbon cutting program at the Houghton Avenue plant, the repurposed former home of Blue Ridge Beverage Company. The guest of honor for the morning celebration: Gov. Ralph Northam, who joined the invitation-only event to praise the plant opening as “an exciting day for Halifax County and an exciting day for Virginia.

“On behalf of the Commonwealth, I want to thank the team here in Halifax County for bringing new industry to rural Virginia,” said Northam, who mused that he may someday be interested in getting into the hemp business once he leaves the Governor’s Mansion.

“I grew up on a farm,” said Northam of his upbringing on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

South Boston’s hemp processing facility will produce CBD (cannabidiol) oil for use in a wide variety of consumer lifestyle products that hemp supporters champion for their wellness benefits. Mize described hemp as one of the most versatile crops known to humankind, which, through the proper chemistry, can be used in medicines to help relieve pain and alleviate a variety of other conditions.

He also praised the company’s team of employees, a group that is pegged at 22 people in the early going and is projected to grow to 40 full-time positions within three years.

“We have an awesome team of highly qualified local people who are in this for the right reason,” said Mize, adding that he envisions Golden Piedmont Labs will be “highly profitable.”

He also hinted at the possibility that the company could enjoy even more growth as laws evolve governing the use of cannabis products such as hemp and its close cousin, marijuana. Pointing to a hemp plant set up next to the podium, Mize said, “We should not smoke this, but the laws will be what they will as we go forward.”

The plans for the hemp facility have been in the works for over a year. After attending a hemp conference in Powhatan, Edmunds connected with Gregory, a friend from Halifax County, at a meeting at a Richmond restaurant, and they decided to partner together. Both founders have enjoyed successful business careers: Edmunds is former president and CEO of SunTrust Mortgage Corporation and member of Edmunds Private Capital LLC, a family-held money management firm in Richmond. Gregory is a veteran Richmond real estate developer and founder of Lynx Ventures, which focuses on bringing innovative economic development projects to Virginia.

Other investors from finance and agricultural circles have joined the bandwagon. Among them are two area tobacco farmers with large farming operations, Billy Wilkinson in Mecklenburg County and Jay Barker in Pittsylvania County. Wilkinson’s South Hill tobacco warehouse served as a receiving station for last year’s hemp crop, which was shipped off for processing into CBD oil for the consumer market.

“We are in partnership with our farmers — if we do well, they do well,” said Edmunds, adding the company and local producers will basically split the revenue from the sale of the processed CDB from the plant.

Golden Piedmont Labs will start with one shift and eventually add an assembly line to accommodate three shifts, processing up to six million pounds of hemp every year. The starting wage will be $15 an hour for entry-level positions. Actual production of CBD oil is expected to start as early as this week.

“This will be the largest hemp processing facility east of the Mississippi,” said Edmunds.

He said Golden Piedmont’s customer base is comprised of pharmacies, medical marijuana companies in Richmond, and makers of pet food and cosmetics products.

While the 2018 Farm Bill limits the allowable THC content of hemp plants to 0.3 percent, the oil derived from hemp plants is valuable to medical marijuana facilities because it can be mixed in with more potent marijuana-based derivatives to create medicines to alleviate suffering from cancer and epilepsy. Edmunds said the addition of CBD oil can cut production costs by 50 percent for medicinal marijuana producers.

“CBD oil is helping people and has potential to help more people,” chimed in Northam.

A procession of local and state officials hailed the project as the godsend for Southside Virginia and county farm producers. “It’s the beginning of a new day and era for hemp production for Halifax County and the Southside region,” said Brian Brown, executive director of Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

A number of speakers, including Northam, further praised the bipartisan effort that paved the way for the legalization of hemp, and the creation of Golden Piedmont Labs. “It’s the right thing for the farmer, low to moderate income families, and it’s the right thing for Virginia,” said Edmunds, thanking elected officials — including local Del. James Edmunds, his cousin, and state Sen. Frank Ruff — and state agriculture department leadership for their help with the legislative process.

Northam and Bettina Ring, secretary of agriculture and forestry, both noted in their remarks that agriculture is the number one industry in Virginia. Virginia producers generate $70 million in income for the state and support 334,000 jobs across the Commonwealth.

“We know how important opening the CBD oil processing facility is for the region as it will enhance the economic growth for the farmers and the state,” said Ring

Representing an investment of $3.2 million, Golden Piedmont Labs is the first large-scale CBD oil extraction facility in the Commonwealth. As of September, over 2,000 acres of industrial hemp was planted this season by 1,227 registered hemp growers in Virginia. There are 355 registered processors and 228 registered dealers.

“The founders of the company know local agriculture and have local ties to farming in Halifax County. They understand the needs to support the local farmers and the excitement for the new market for industrial hemp. They built this facility to serve our farmers,” said Northam, adding “everyone has worked so hard to make this day possible.”

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “business continues to grow in Virginia and we will get through this together by working together,” said Governor Northam.

The launch of Piedmont Golden Labs represents a collaboration of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, the Halifax County and Town of South Boston IDAs, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia Department of Agriculture, Virginia Tobacco Commission, Town of South Boston, and the Governor’s office. Golden Piedmont Labs is located at 2525 Houghton Avenue, South Boston, in the Houghton Industrial Park.




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Comments

Just like King Ralph, shut down the state for legal business, but push for something that is illegal to become legal. What a jerk. Everyone in VA needs to vote the evil dems out! THis is about good vs evil.

Comments

Just like court jester allpolitical2 ^^ cbd is 50 state legal. CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies. Evil dems lol good vs evil hahaha u are delusional. You 100% wouls bennefit from thc & cbd


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