Canopy Growth closure feels like deja vu for Smiths Falls, Ont. residents
Smiths Falls, Ont. resident Ryan Bennett has heard this story before.
“Being born and raised here, I can say that it feels like a lot like what happened in the Hershey days,” he told CTV News on Thursday after Canopy Growth, the town’s largest employer, anmnounced it would lay off 800 workers.
“I remember back when I was younger, knowing people that had two parents that worked at Hershey’s and the news of it closing, and how those families were affected and impacted,” he said.
Canopy Growth said 350 of the layoffs would be in the Smiths Falls and Ottawa area. The cannabis company, which owns Tweed Inc., took over the former Hershey Factory after the chocolate makers left town. But once again, the factory will soon sit empty.
“I think it’s going to take a little while for people to really understand what the impact to the community is going to be like,” Bennett said. “I’m basically at a loss for words. I don’t really know what to say at this point. I’m a little frustrated. Annoyed.”
Canopy Growth says the decision to scale down operation in Smiths Falls is essential to the future of the company, noting the Canadian cannabis market had not materialized like they had hoped.
Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow says he lost sleep when he was notified of the layoffs late Wednesday.
“Obviously some time to think about it overnight, but definitely disappointing news,” Pankow said. “This is probably the single biggest layoff, and of course the closure of 1 Hershey Drive is not something we were expecting.”
Pankow says the town has already began to make calls to help the 159 people immediately affected, with plans to set up a job fair and resource centre in the weeks ahead.
“We’ll pull out all stops we can to make sure these people will find the next opportunities as quickly as possible and can get over the impact of today’s news,” he said.
“Our hearts go out to those who are most impacted, and I know some of them were previously impacted when Hershey closed, or other facilities closed around town. Here they go again. It can be pretty demoralizing,” Pankow said.
The cannabis company confirms they will not be completely leaving Smiths Falls, as their manufacturing will be consolidated and moved across the street into their former beverage facility.
“I think a lot of people are just confused,” Bennett said. “Like why now after all the investments, the projects, that kind of things? Obviously it’s a business decision.”
“A publicly-traded company has to deliver value to the shareholder and we’ve seen quarter after quarter, year after year, of loss and not what was anticipated when this industry was launched,” added Pankow.
It’s expected that the company will move out of their headquarters later this year, with the hope another business will move in to the newly renovated space.
“Cannabis was different than chocolate, and maybe it’s tomatoes or cucumbers or who knows what in the future, but I’m sure someone will recognize the opportunity,” Pankow said.
“There’s a facility here, there’s lots of good people in Smiths Falls that are willing to work hard,” added Bennett. “Hopefully some other big employer or investment group comes in and decides that they could put a viable business here to help support the community. That’s all you can really hope at this point.”
“You have a lot of people who are going be struggling,” he added. “It’s a tough day, with high rates of inflation, interest rates, it’s definitely hitting people where it hurts. It’s not a great day here.”
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