Caitlin Jimenez waters hemp plants in one of the hoop houses at the CBDrx hemp-growing facility in Pueblo on June 9, 2015. (Denver Post file)

Hemp jobs and new purpose for Pueblo rocket plant

Economic development package from city of Pueblo for joint venture between O.penVape and Thar Process Inc. includes $4.89 million in help retrofitting long-vacant Boeing rocket plant for hemp oil extraction

A defunct Boeing rocket plant in Pueblo will be converted into a hemp oil production facility that will employ 163 people by 2018, Pueblo Economic Development Corp. said Friday.

UPDATE: Pueblo hemp oil processing plant gets $8M incentive package from Pueblo council

The jobs are expected to pay an average of $41,590 plus benefits, the Pueblo Chieftain reported. This is the biggest jobs announcement by PEDCO since 2008, when Vestas said it would hire 450 people.

The Pueblo City Council still must approve the deal put together by PEDCO, which includes $4.89 million in city incentives to CBD Biosciences, a joint venture of Thar Process Inc. and O.penVape.

The sprawling Boeing plant is city owned and has been mostly vacant since the aerospace giant discontinued rocket assembly there in 2004.

The council is expected to take up the matter Monday.

The planned facility will process hemp products only and will not be used for medical or recreational marijuana, PEDCO said.

Thar is expert in the technologies used to extract fluids from a wide variety of crops and plant materials, including nuts, herbs and algae. The extracted materials are used as nutraceuticals, bioactive and pharmaceutical ingredients, natural products and biochemicals.

Denver-based O.penVape is a maker of cannabis oils and vaporization devices.

According to PEDCO, the venture expects to invest $9.8 million to convert the rocket factory located at Pueblo Airport Industrial Park. About $3 million of that investment will be loaned from the city’s half-cent sales tax fund. CBD Biosciences will enter into a 10-year lease-to-own agreement on the former Boeing building and will repay the city for the building and its improvements over the lease life.

The company is expected to receive a 50 percent personal property tax credit from Pueblo County, though that incentive also has not yet been approved. It may also receive other incentives from the state Enterprise Zone program, which is administered by the county.

CBD Biosciences also expects to develop a Global Hemp Center of Innovation, which will provide technical expertise on extraction, purification, analysis and formulation, and will support local farmers.

“PEDCO has recognized that hemp has strategic importance for Pueblo and we are excited to be chosen as the site of a major oil extraction facility,” PEDCO CEO Jack Rink said in a news release. “CBD Biosciences will provide processing jobs in Pueblo, a Center of Innovation for research, and support the agricultural community throughout Southern Colorado making this a win-win-win project.”

This story was first published on DenverPost.com