A hemp processing facility is under construction and planning to open in the Du Quoin Industrial Park this spring, bringing with it 30-40 "living wage" jobs with benefits, the city of Du Quoin has announced.
The owners of the business are not yet public, and neither is the name of the company or where it is based, said Jeff Ashauer, Du Quoin's economic development consultant. That information is expected to be made public in about 30 days, he said.
The facility will extract the oil from the hemp plant, and then send the oil to other manufacturers for use in a variety of products. One of the most popular end products is CBD oil, or cannabidiol, sold as an over-the-counter health supplement, among other uses.
No marijuana is involved in the process and neither the hemp plants nor the extracted oil will contain THC or any compound that produces a "high," officials explained.
"This is as pure an agricultural oil as corn or soybean oil, without hallucinogenic properties," Ashauer said.
Mayor Guy Alongi said the project has been in the works for about a year, and will be a shot in the arm for Du Quoin economic development. He said those 30-40 jobs could grow to 100 jobs within a short time, if the market for hemp oil remains as popular as it is today.
"Anytime economic development knocks on our door we take it and run," Alongi said. "These are going to be the kind of jobs you can build a family on."
The hemp processing plant will be located in the old Heartland Bakery Company, which currently is being remodeled. When that is finished equipment will be installed.
Altogether it is expected to be an $7 million to $8 million investment, Alongi said.
"It goes to show you the people who put the package together are very well financed," he added.
The city of Du Quoin is contributing $250,000 -- $150,000 from the city's video gaming tax receipts and $100,000 from an upcoming bank loan. The money will be funneled to the hemp processing company through the Du Quoin Community Development Corp., and eventually repaid by the city's tax increment financing district that covers the industrial park, Ashauer explained.
Besides the jobs created and the taxes produced, Du Quoin will also have the ancillary benefit of more workers in town -- eating at restaurants, buying gas, etc., he added.
Du Quoin has also pledged to host a jobs fair closer to the business opening. While the city can't require the company to hire locally, by hosting the job fair itself, the city is doing its part to keep the hiring as local as possible, Alongi explained.
No date has been set for the job fair, and Ashauer urged people to stay away from the construction site at 300 Bakery Blvd. No one is taking applications at the site, Ashauer said, and the company isn't taking applications at all yet, he added.
The building was constructed in 1989 as the General Henry Biscuit Company, which closed in 2011. A few other bakery businesses have been located in there since, Ashauer said, but the building has been vacant for about five years.
One of the investors in the hemp processing business bought the building several years ago, intending to turn it into a marijuana growth site, Ashauer said. However, that investor did not get the state license for marijuana production (the license went to Carbondale), and the building has sat vacant.
Ashauer said the city has kept an eye on the building these past few years, and the grateful owner "fell in love with Du Quoin," promising that if he could do business here, he would.
"He never forgot us with the opportunity came along," Ashauer said.
What is especially rewarding, Ashauer added, is that this deal is entirely "homegrown." No state agencies were involved, no state incentive programs were used -- just the city of Du Quoin and the business owners coming to an agreement.