Cultivating success – Terrapin looks back on the road to Clinton County
AVIS — Five years ago, in April 2016, Pennsylvania’s Act 16 established the state’s medical marijuana growing, processing and dispensing industry. Since that time, medical cannabis has improved the quality of life for tens of thousands of children suffering from autism and epileptic seizures, seniors with glaucoma and Parkinson’s disease, and countless others who have been diagnosed with cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS) and Huntington’s disease.
Anniversaries are a good time to take stock in the industry’s development and Terrapin Pennsylvania’s growth here in Clinton County. Terrapin was selected in 2017 by the state’s decision-makers to receive one of the original medical marijuana licenses based on its experienced track record in other states and sound plan for Pennsylvania. For Bucks County native and Terrapin founder Chris Woods, helping his home state build a reputable medical cannabis industry was a dream come true.
But it wasn’t just one man’s vision that got the job done. It took the support of Clinton County’s elected officials, business leaders and the community at large for Woods and the Terrapin Team to turn a vacant warehouse on Henry Street in South Avis into a centerpiece in the local economy.
At an initial hiring event, 300 area residents showed up at the Lock Haven VFW to express their interest in being part of the young industry. From that first job fair until today, Terrapin continues to “hire local” and support veterans, women and minority businesses through its hiring practices, contracts and community projects.
In July 2020, Terrapin announced an investment of $6 million in capital improvements in the South Avis facility, doubling its processing capacity and workforce, and once again using local contractors for the renovations. Today, the company employs 90 area residents who receive competitive wages and benefits to grow, process and package medical marijuana. More than half of them are women and veterans.
New companies like VetForce Inc. have been spun off to support the local medical cannabis industry. VetForce employs 80 percent veterans who manage security for the Clinton County facility and ensure the safe transportation of product to licensed dispensaries across the state. Over the last four years, VetForce has expanded its operations to four states.
Terrapin’s focus on supporting veterans runs deep. In 2020, Terrapin worked with the Clinton County Economic Partnership and CareerLink to host a second job fair — held virtually due to COVID-19 — and offered a resume-building workshop in December. As part of the event, two computers were donated and installed at the Lock Haven VFW for members to use.
Last year, Terrapin organized an employee resource group to celebrate the contributions and sacrifice of veterans, reservists, active-duty members and their families. The Terrapin Veterans Network provides insights on ways to support the recruitment, retention and career mobility of veterans.
In addition to job growth and economic development, Terrapin Pennsylvania has prioritized community engagement and corporate responsibility as part of its core mission. Working with Dave Harger, the rehabilitation of Veteran’s Park in Lock Haven is underway. By providing seed capital, Terrapin hopes to commemorate the region’s veterans and transform this public space for the use and enjoyment of the entire community. While the project experienced delays in the approval process due to COVID-19, public presentations are planned to review the renderings and build momentum.
In recognition of its efforts to support and hire veterans, Terrapin received the Gold HIRE Vets Medallion from the U.S. Department of Labor in November 2020.
With a focus on underserved communities, Terrapin hosts an educational summit each year to introduce minority college students to Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana industry. In its third year, the 2020 Summit was held virtually and attracted 28 current and recent college students, vocational students and military personnel. Terrapin also sponsored a first-of-its-kind Women in Cannabis program to showcase opportunities for women in this emerging industry. These programs are regularly pointed to as best practices in the industry.
When faced with COVID-19 last spring, every state with medical marijuana programs deemed cannabis essential during shutdowns. In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana has been helping Pennsylvanians cope with the anxiety caused by COVID-19 as well as continuing to treat existing conditions.
Terrapin continued to operate at full capacity during the pandemic while also taking vigorous action to ensure the safety of its workforce. A newly created Pandemic Response Plan, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), implemented strict sanitation protocols, updated internal HR policies, and made shift adjustments to minimize employee exposure. Terrapin CEO Chris Woods held virtual town hall meetings to answer questions about the company’s response and make sure employees were well-informed.
Amid all the challenges of 2020, Terrapin has continued to help patients receive affordable, game-changing medicine, safeguard its employees, grow its manufacturing capacity and continue to drive the economic engine in Clinton County.