Potential of 300+ new jobs for area as former Nestle plant gets growing

CHESTERVILLE – The once-bustling Nestle Canada plant in this village could be a major jobs producer in the years ahead thanks to an increased push for marijuana output ahead of the federal government’s decriminalization of the drug.

It was significant news Fri., Jan. 26 when Cannabis Wheaton Income Corp. announced its strategic alliance with IDP Group, the owners of 373,000-square-foot complex north of Chesterville’s downtown core.      

One of the principal’s involved, Hamed Asl of IDP Group, told local media via email that the plan has the potential to create more than 300 jobs in the next three years.

“Once the due diligence phase is completed, we are going to launch a job fair to hire for multiple different positions, and we are making it a point to hire local as much as possible,” he said.

Chesterville’s former Nestle Canada plant on Main Street.

All parties involved expect to finalize the working arrangement within the next 60 days, according to Wheaton. The Vancouver-based corporation would then make a major investment, to the tune of $12-million, to put an initial 100,000-square-feet of the former factory into pot production. CannabisCO, a new subsidiary of IDP, would be tasked with overseeing the growing operation.

Construction of phase one will be a yearlong process, Asl said, which would result in the need for 20 to 30 tradespeople that would eventually evolve into a “facility team,” remaining with the company through future expansions. On top of that, there would be 40 to 60 production workers.

The expected output from phase one is nearly 750,000 grams per year.

Asl said the company is at an advantage when compared to other cannabis production companies due to factor such as: access to an experienced in-house construction company, which will carry out the build and allow for efficiency in terms of cost; the product is taking place within our own buildings, which the firm has been renovating and repairing since 2015; and an abundance of indoor space and industrial land for future expansion.

He also highlighted the firm’s indoor growing systems, which, Asl noted, are already being used to grow multiple different cultivars and leafy greens and have the future potential for indoor vertical farming for food production.

The firm is tight-lipped beyond those few details.
“We do not want to discuss any details in regards to the technology and the design due to its competitive and proprietary nature at this time,” Asl said.

This project was first hinted at during the Township of North Dundas’ wine and cheese event last fall, which IDP hosted. Asl hinted at the time that the firm was in the midst of securing the deal with Wheaton, though stopped short of key details.

It’s public now.

“We have been part of the community in Chesterville, have already hired local, and the level of commitment of our staff and corporate team is second to none,” Asl said. “The hard part was working and pushing hard [24 hours a day for eight months] to clean up and bring the plant back to life… That’s already done.”

The plan has generated major reaction throughout North Dundas and beyond.

“I am pleased to see the Nestle plant brought back to life, along with the jobs it brings to our community,” Jackie Pemberton, Dundas County’s representative on the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said. “The use of indoor vertical cultivation is being used increasingly in warehouses for vegetables and herbs, thus making it very suitable for marijuana growing, as it is controlled, secure and uses less water. It makes sense to grow indoors efficiently. They won’t need to spend years learning how to contend with the vagaries of the sun and seasons… For that, there’s no substitute yet for experience.”

Dundas Federation of Agriculture president Steven Byvelds echoed the positive sentiments.

“It is great to have this type of ‘agriculture’ come to Chesterville,” he said. “It is certainly a growing business opportunity, and hopefully will work out. It utilizes old infrastructure, and will do well for North Dundas.”