A hemp processing company has purchased a 100,000-square-foot building in Libby and hopes to hire 150 people in the coming year.
Isotex Health plans on producing Cannabidiol (CBD) isolate, a white powder that is 99 percent CBD, which can be used for therapeutic and medicinal purposes. The company is growing hemp in central and eastern Montana and shipping it to Libby where it will be processed.
Last year, the federal government removed hemp from its list of controlled substances, opening the door for large-scale hemp production across the country. Montana has been growing hemp even longer, thanks to efforts from the state Department of Agriculture, and as of this year there were 277 farmers licensed to grow hemp, making Montana one of the largest producers in the nation.
Founder and CEO Jason Cross said he decided to move Isotex, which began in his home state of Texas, to Montana because of the state’s growing hemp industry. Cross established the company almost two years ago after hemp products helped him address his own ailments.
“CBD has a multitude of applications, and I really think this product can help the world,” he said.
Isotex is working with farmers in Chouteau, Poplar and Scobey to produce hemp that will be moved to Libby for processing. In Libby, the hemp will be dried, shucked, turned into Cannabidiol isolate and then sold to businesses producing hemp oils, balms, vitamins and other products.
The company is setting up shop in a 100,000-square-foot building that was built by Stinger Welding and closed in 2013 after the company went bankrupt. Cross said the facility was an attractive purchase because it offers room to grow. In fact, the company is already looking at adding a second floor to the warehouse to create 200,000 square feet of floor space. Additionally, Cross said Libby is an ideal place because there are people ready and waiting for work. Lincoln County has long had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.
“I wanted to find a community where our business could make a big impact, so we brought it to Libby,” he said.
On Oct. 4, the company had a job fair in Libby where it hired about 15 people to begin operations. Cross said the company hopes to eventually employ 150 people in Libby.
This year, the company worked with farmers to grow 14,000 acres of hemp, but next year it hopes to produce more than 50,000 acres. Cross said the company is building a greenhouse in Libby as well. Currently, the company is trucking hemp into Libby, but Cross said he hopes to eventually ship the product by rail. BNSF Railway serves the Kootenai Business Park, where the company’s facility is located.
Tina Oliphant, executive director of the Lincoln County Port Authority, said filling the old Stinger building is an exciting development for Libby.
“This is a big investment in the community,” she said.