WYTHE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Governor Ralph Northam got his hands on some Virginia-grown hemp Thursday morning, as he arrived at Appalachian Biomass Processing in Wythe County.
"And the fiber is one of the strongest natural fibers, you can't break it," explained owner Susan Moore.
Northam visited the business to announce it will soon be the first commercial industrial hemp fiber processing facility operating in the state, at least in modern times.
Northam said the company will create 13 jobs and purchase more than 6,000 tons of Virginia grown hemp over the next three years.
"$894,000 in new investment to rural Virginia, that's a big deal," Northam told the audience.
"It's good for our economy, that's the bottom line," Northam said later in an interview. "It provides jobs and it also provides our farmers with other options to really grow crops, products and prosper in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam allowed commercial production of industrial hemp. $25,000 from the state, and $25,000 from Wythe County, helped to jump start the operation.
David Manley is the Executive Director of the Joint Industrial Development Authority of Wythe County.
"I don't think that hemp is a fad. I think there's enough demand, a growing demand for its products in textiles, construction materials and various other things," Manley said in an interview. "I think it's the right time to be moving into this area, and I think they're smart to be setting up this processing plant."
Appalachian Biomass will provide a critical link between hemp growers and businesses that use hemp in their products.
Susan and Christopher Moore believe this is the start of something big.
"The established markets are here but they're having to be fed by European trade," Susan Moore told us. "We want to be that person.'
"There is no ceiling," added Christopher Moore. "The sky's the limit here."
Appalachian Biomass Processing is now field-testing its equipment, and the company hopes to be in full operation by next spring, when the next crop of hemp starts coming in.
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