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Largest marijuana ag facility in Oregon plants roots in Hillsboro
Portland businessman Rich Plainfield is building the state's largest marijuana agriculture facility in Oregon — and he's doing it smack dab in between two law enforcement training centers in Hillsboro.
Plainfield is in the process of retrofitting the 167,000-square-foot Walnut Industrial Park, 630 S.W. Walnut St., into a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient marijuana grow operation.
Known as a "condo-grow," the facility will house several marijuana-related businesses under one roof.
The building has at least eight weeks before it's ready, Plainfield said, but when it opens the facility will house up to 40 licensed marijuana growers and others in the marijuana industry.
Think of it as a one-stop-shop for Oregon's budding marijuana industry, he said.
"We have everything except retail. We have a lab, kitchen, extractors, growers, wholesalers and distributors," Plainfield told the Tribune. "My whole goal is to implement as many energy efficient technologies as possible."
Fully developed, the space will have room to grow more than 100,000 square-feet of marijuana canopy — the biggest indoor grow operation in the state, and the most energy-efficient of its kind, according to Plainfield.
The operation has some unusual neighbors. The building shares a wall with a Hillsboro Police Department training facility, and is neighbored on its north side by a large property scheduled to be remodeled into a 70,000-square-foot training facility for the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
It's an unusual arrangement, Plainfield admits. Before the passage of Measure 91 in 2014, which legalized recreational marijuana, police would likely not have taken kindly to a grow operation next door.
But Plainfield — who owns the building and serves as landlord for the Hillsboro Police facility — said he enjoys having a police presence.
"The Hillsboro Police have been tenants since I bought the building and I want to keep them ... they're built-in security," he joked.
Likewise, Plainfield said he's not worried about anti-marijuana rhetoric from Washington, D.C. Last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reiterated the Department of Justice's authority to enforce the federal ban on marijuana, and warned that Oregon may be violating federal requirements to keep marijuana out of the illicit markets.
None of that, nor construction setbacks, has shaken Plainfield's confidence.
"It's state law," he said. "Everyone has been dealing with it like it's any other business."
He thinks the 29 states with medical marijuana laws and eight states with approved recreational use is enough to hold federal agencies at bay — it's enough confidence for him to leap into a brand-new industry and sink $5 million into re-creating the facility.
Plainfield has owned businesses in the Metro area since 1978, running downtown Indian restaurant Plainfield's Mayur until 2011, as well as information technology company TechSpeed for more than 35 years.
But his newest endeavor is a whole new bucket of worms.
"I'm not a grower, I'm a landlord," said Plainfield. "I've been studying every aspect of this industry to become an expert."
He received an introduction to the industry in 2013 after purchasing a property in Portland housing a tenant growing medical marijuana.
"He was doing really well and I thought, 'That's a good, stable tenant,'" said Plainfield.
Frank Gill, a founder of The Extraction Artists, said he's excited for the facility to open. Leasing a space in the building, Gill's business processes marijuana flowers into high-quality oils that can be vaped or smoked.
He moved from Georgia to get his start in Oregon's blooming industry.
"Colorado and Washington were already pretty far advanced in marijuana — Oregon was very receptive," said Gill. "From a timing perspective, it was the right state to choose when we decided to get into the industry."
Transferring his skills and knowledge from his grandfather's businesses in distilling moonshine, Gill can turn about 25 pounds of marijuana into extract in a 24-hour cycle.
Gill said his business will have access to all the perks that come with sharing a space with so many others, like an abundance of marijuana flowers, wholesalers, and an on-site accredited testing facility for their product.
It could take months for tenants to build out their leased spaces and receive licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission — something Gill has been waiting for since he applied in April — but once they do, the Plainfields hope their energy-efficient systems will provide their tenants lower costs.
"It gives the tenants an opportunity to be more competitive," he said.
The systems include four acres of solar panels on the roof and a 30-foot water tower for chilled-water HVAC cooling and an air conditioning system designed to recaptures humidity — necessary for an energy- and water-efficient marijuana grow, Plainfield said.
"I am excited about this new area that we're exploring," said Plainfield's wife, Rekha, whose technical expertise has been key in the design and engineering of major retrofits like the sewer line. "There's more to think, learn, and understand in designing this whole new space. It's been a problem-solving time for the last three years in this industry — we've always been problem-solvers."
The Walnut Industrial Park was home to MasterBrand Cabinets for more than 40 years until 2007. Plainfield purchased the building in 2013 while the battle for marijuana legalization was still in full swing. After legalization, Plainsfield's newest vision sprouted.
"When I was a kid I used to build forts," Plainfield's said. "This is kind of like my adult fort."