By Erin McIntyre
Thursday, January 19, 2017
A new business that uses hemp for home-building materials was approved for the Colorado Rural Jump-Start program on Thursday.
Hemp Adobe, operated by BioCorp US, will open in Montrose, and uses industrial hemp to manufacture residential building material.
The company’s CEO, Kevin Hodge, said he decided to bring his business to western Colorado after a frustrating three-year experience trying to get his venture going in Washington state. He was shopping for incentive packages in a few states, came through Montrose on business and saw a good fit in the community after meeting with Sandy Head, the executive director of the Montrose Economic Development Corp.
“She understood my needs implicitly,” Hodge said. “I want to operate in a place where we’ll be accepted. We want the agrarian society of hemp farmers in a community that will be able to sustain themselves and grow the industry.”
Hemp Adobe’s process uses industrial hemp to make a bio-composite cement for building materials. The finished product has several advantages, including the ability to resist water and mold, and repel insects, including termites.
The material also has insulating properties and is 60 percent lighter than conventional concrete structures.
Hodge said he and Patti Devine-Beckwith, the company’s chief operating officer, are shopping for a temporary home for the company and will begin obtaining the proper certifications for the building products.
Initially, the production facility will need 30 tons of hemp per month, but Hodge said the business will eventually need as much as 120 tons per month for full production.
He expects to rely on local farmers for that material.
Hodge said he’s excited to relocate to a community that has welcomed his business with open arms, and is looking forward to the recreation opportunities.
“Montrose has everything that I wanted minus the beach, and then I can go 20 minutes out of town and have a lake with a lot of beaches,” he said. “It’s great.”
Hemp Adobe is working with the Maverick Innovation Center at Colorado Mesa University and anticipates including students in applied research, internships and jobs.
The company expects to hire a total of 25 new employees by 2020, Hodge said, and five of those new hires will be in the first year of operation.
The Rural Jump-Start Zone program offers tax-relief incentives to new businesses and the employees of those new businesses in parts of rural Colorado struggling with economic development. Counties qualify through designation as economically stressed areas by the Economic Development Commission and by having populations of less than 250,000 people. Currently, 46 counties are eligible for the program.
Hemp Adobe is the eighth company approved for the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade Rural Jump-Start Program since February 2016. The other companies already in the program are Kaart Group, Colorado Clear, TSW Analytics, ProStar GeoCorp, Rebco Hydroponics, General Synfuels, and Qmast. Together, they will provide an anticipated 204 new jobs to western Colorado.
On Thursday, the commission also approved allowing De Beque to join the Mesa County Rural Jump-Start zone, making it possible for companies wanting to apply for the program to locate there as well as Fruita, Palisade, Grand Junction and unincorporated Mesa County.