Sundial Growers set to become the biggest employer in the Town of Olds this summer. Photo contributed

Marijuana grower set to become biggest employer in Olds

A cannabis company is bringing the boom back to Olds.

Sundial Growers is set to become the biggest employer in the Town of Olds this summer.

During its first harvest in late November, the private cannabis company had about 90 employees. Now, that number is more than 400, and once the company exceeds 500 workers by July, it will be labelled the biggest employer in Olds.

The hiring doesn’t stop there. By the end of the year, it will have about 1,000 employees.

Jim Bachmann, Sundial’s chief production and construction officer, welcomes the growth.

“I don’t think there are a lot of companies that can say they’ve added 1,000 new jobs to Alberta, in one year, or even over two years.

“I’m sure that oil and gas will always be a presence in Alberta, but it’s refreshing and comforting to many people that we’re starting to see diversity and innovation moving in and filling some of that void that’s been created.”

Town of Olds Mayor Michael Muzychka said the impact is visible in town, where vacancy rates are down and the housing market is picking up.

“It’s a trickle-down effect,” said Muzychka. “(There’s) buzz around town … everybody seems to be really more optimistic.”

The town’s population is just shy of 9,200, the mayor said, which means by the end of the year, roughly one in 10 people who live in Olds would be employed at Sundial Growers.

“That’s 10 per cent, and the 9,200 people of course includes seniors and children, so when you take that out of the working force population, that would be close to 20 per cent,” Muzychka said.

The interest in working in the marijuana industry is “phenomenal,” said Bachmann, adding it’s not uncommon for the company to hire more than 30 people per week.

“And we’ve been operating at that pace for the past two to three months,” he said.

The expansion at the production plant is driving the job market in the town about 60 kilometres south of Red Deer, and the surrounding communities, said Bachmann.

The expansion, which is ongoing and is about 60 per cent complete, adds about 140,000 square feet of cultivation capacity, which currently sits at around 290,000 square feet.

Once the construction is completed, around the third or fourth quarter of 2019, the facility will have about 430,000 square feet of cultivation capacity.

The expansion also includes a 20,000-square-foot extraction and processing facility, which will be used for cannabis products such as oils, lotions and vape cartridges.

“Whenever those are ready to go through the legal system, we will be ready to make them.”

The company is hiring people for everything from managerial roles, cultivation, processing, environmental services, to maintenance positions, such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians.

A partnership with Olds College helps the company. Students from cannabis-related programs do their practicums at the facility. In some cases, the Sundial Growers hires the graduates as they leave school.

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