Abandoned Marquette County Airport to become marijuana grow facility

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community plans to sell the cannabis products it grows on-site to UP dispensaries.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 7:04 PM EDT
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NEGAUNEE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The former Marquette County Airport will soon have a new purpose.

The facility was sitting abandoned since 1999 when it moved operations to Sawyer International Airport. Over 20 years later, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) has approval from Negaunee Township to go forth with a plan to repurpose the 40,000 square-foot building as a marijuana grow house.

“It’s about time we put this space to use and with the growing cannabis market, this is the perfect retrofit for this building,” KBIC Community Director of Cannabis Development Gary Loonsfoot Jr. said.

The township planning commission voted unanimously to approve ‘phase one’ of the tribe’s redevelopment and cannabis growing plan on Tuesday, May 10. If the state officially licenses the former airport site, the KBIC will receive one grow license. Loonsfoot Jr. said ‘phase one’ of the KBIC’s plan would be to grow marijuana on the property’s first floor.

“Our ground floor here is going to be about 10,000 square-feet of grow room,” Loonsfoot Jr. said. “That is going to include our mothering room, our nursery and then the vegetative and flowering areas.”

The KBIC plans to use the additional 10,000 square-feet on the first floor as office space, with a security room at the entrance. With this grow site would also come what Loonsfoot Jr. said is the most potent strain of marijuana in Michigan.

“Our partner already owns a grow facility and has just achieved an award through the state for the highest percentage of THC in a flower,” Loonsfoot Jr. said. “This is 36.82% which is unheard of, it has 44 total cannabinoids. We are going to clone that plant along with many other strains and bring them here.”

Loonsfoot Jr. said the KBIC’s goal is to sell what is grown on-site to UP dispensaries. Loonsfoot Jr. added that this would likely save these companies money in transport fees.

“Unfortunately the majority of these cannabis products are grown in Lower Michigan,” Loonsfoot Jr. said. “We are paying pretty high prices to get these products here. This will cut back on a lot of that. We will offer a lot of the strains that you can get in Lower Michigan.”

Loonsfoot Jr. said ‘phase two’ of the KBIC’s plan would be to reinvest the profits it receives selling these cannabis products into an additional 20,000 square-foot grow space on the second floor of the building.

“We want to naturally grow into phase two, so that means taking the profits that we gain from our first floor grow operation and investing them into our second floor,” Loonsfoot Jr. said.

Loonsfoot Jr. added that the KBIC wants to use 20 acres of commercial property surrounding the facility to put up greenhouses to grow more marijuana in the summer months. Loonsfoot Jr. said this product would be used for cannabis concentrates.

“We have 96 acres,” Loonsfoot Jr. said of the property around the former airport. “Two years ago we rezoned 20 acres for commercial use. The other 76 is still for residential use, so we might have plans for some housing for this land.”

Loonsfoot Jr. said the KBIC will put out a request for proposal (RFP) Monday, May 23, with a two-week period for potential developers to submit bids. Once a developer is selected, Loonsfoot Jr. expects construction to take 6 to 8 months.

Loonsfoot Jr. predicts growing operations will begin at the former airport site in 2023.

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