Manufacturing marijuana: Carson City’s Miles Construction sees hemp industry as opportunity
CARSON CITY, Nev. — The sound of Cary Richardson breaking into a smile can be heard over the phone.
“We continue to see cannabis as a strong market,” says Richardson, vice president of business operations at Carson City-based Miles Construction. After all, Nevada saw more than $100 million in marijuana tax revenue over the 2019 fiscal year, which set a state record, according to the Nevada Dispensary Association. “We continue to build in cannabis. We’ve still very much engaged.”
Richardson isn’t kidding. With roughly 12 cannabis and hemp projects planted in Nevada and California that are either being designed, under construction or completed, Miles Construction has become “the go-to contractor” for the marijuana industry on the West Coast, Richardson said.
The company got a foothold in the budding industry in 2014 when it was asked to build a $15 million marijuana factory east of Reno for MedMen, a Los Angeles-based cannabis company. As the story goes, after its initial contractor dropped out, MedMen turned to Richardson and Miles Construction to reignite the project. Outside of working in construction, Richardson holds a Nevada license for marijuana cultivation and production with MedMen.
“Given our advanced manufacturing background, it made sense, so we stepped in partway through,” Richardson told the NNBV.
Completed in April 2018, the 45,000-square-foot MedMen Mustang factory is the biggest pot plant in the Silver State. The complex facility boasts a 26,000-square-foot Dutch greenhouse, a 19,000-square-foot extraction and production wing, a tissue culture lab to clone strains, and a test lab. At the grand opening, MedMen CEO Adam Bierman declared the facility as “the most high-tech marijuana factory in the world.”
Since, Miles Construction’s footprint in the cannabis space has only grown. The company planted an exact replica of the Mustang facility for MedMen in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., which opened its doors in early 2019. Prior, Miles renovated a vacant 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Verdi into a cannabis cultivation and production venue for Las Vegas-based cannabis firm SRENE.
The contractor’s pot portfolio also includes making tenant improvements for Green Thumb Industries’ Rise Dispensaries in Carson City and Spanish Springs, and building a 44,000-square-foot cannabis factory for Tilth Farms in Coleville, Calif.
“It’s one of those things, once you put yourself in the right space and the right situation, more opportunities unfold,” Richardson said. “One of the first things clients look for are contractors that have specific experience in the industry,” he continued. “And in the cannabis industry, nobody else had any experience. Once we had the first one going, that was enough to get us the second and third. And once had three of them, we were the experts.”
To maintain their reputation, Richardson said Miles Construction has its finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving cannabis industry — from the regulation changes to the tech advancements. Moreover, the company studies their up-and-running projects to find out what tweaks need to be made for future projects.
“Now when we’re sitting down with designers,” said Richardson, offering an example, “we’re like, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got to watch out for that wall section because of condensation issues that we’ve been experiencing with a previous project we did two years ago’… We now have experience to pull from so not everything that we’re doing is the first time.”
The twin MedMen facilities Miles built are highlighted by their 26,000-square-foot Dutch greenhouse, which Richardson called “a game-changer” for not only the cannabis sector, but also the agriculture industry.
“If you look on a global perspective, indoor farming is huge,” he said. “Netherlands, Russia, China, South Korea are all putting up millions of square feet of greenhouses in order to grow lettuce, tomatoes, what have you.
“One acre under glass produces the same amount as 10 acres outside, with 97 percent less pesticides,” he continued. “The greenhouses aren’t just going to be for the cannabis plant, it’s going to be the beginning of indoor farming and a new way to do things in the United States.”
THE HEMP EFFECT
With that in mind, Richardson said Miles Construction stepped into the hemp space on the heels of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the regulated production of industrial hemp. Prior, hemp had not been differentiated from other cannabis plants.
Almost instantly, Miles was contracted by Silver Lions Farms in Ely to construct a 300,000-square-foot greenhouse — one of several projects the hemp grower has tapped Miles to build.
“Although I really remain excited in the cannabis industry, the hemp industry is just as exciting,” Richardson said. “And it’s got some advantages over cannabis where there’s not the stigma associated with it. I think that’s really going to allow hemp to grow at a mind-boggling rate, as well.”
Whether it’s a cannabis or hemp project, Richardson said Miles Construction will be ready to build.
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