By Angelo Lynn
PROCTOR — Zion Growers presented plans to the Proctor Select Board last week on its plans to revitalize the former Marble Museum complex at 52 Main Street. It seeks to operate an industrial hemp processing facility.
Zion Growers has been working with the Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region (CEDRR) and the Vermont Community Development Specialists to work through all the details that will be needed to cement a potential deal. Two months ago the project was possibility, now Town Manager Michael Ramsey said it seems more like a “probability.”
“Things are moving along pretty consistently, ” Ramsey said in an interview after the Monday, Feb. 14, Select Board meeting. “They seem eager to make things happen with that building,” he said, adding that they are working with the state, county and town authorities to tap into the appropriate aid and figure out the best way to move the project forward.
“At this point,” Ramsey said, “we have begun exploring what type of support the town can provide to Zion, and any other businesses interested in purchasing and/or operating inside of 52 Main. It helps that Zion Growers will not only provide jobs to the area, but that many of these jobs will be available to the low to middle income (LMI) community.”
The end game, Ramsey recalled, would be for Zion Growers to purchase the property from the Preservation Trust of Vermont and to lease out, or sell, the parts of the enormous building they won’t use for themselves. The Marble Museum would remain in the building. Zion Growers would use the space to convert hemp into a wood-like material similar to woodchips, which would be used to create luxury animal bedding and various types of construction materials.
While Ramsey said things are moving forward quickly, big projects like this take time, which means it could still be a year or two down the road before a production facility is up and running, if the sale is completed. If the sale does go forward, Ramsey said his conversations with the company indicate they could initially hire about 30 people. While that number is speculative at this point, it gives the town some idea of the positive impact Zion Growers could have on the community.