Top officials at York County’s Nutec Group “definitely had discussions” when the architectural and engineering design firm first thought of entering the medical cannabis business a year or so ago, Andrew Shakely recalled.
“We had to consider whether it was a market sector that suited us and fit with our other clientele,” Shakely, Nutec Group’s president, recalled in an interview this week.
“We have a lot of Fortune 500 companies as clients, and obviously didn’t want to be in a position representing a market that was conflicting with the values those clients had,” he added.
But after seeing the evidence of the good medical cannabis could do, and with some employees seeing the help it gave to friends and family members who were ill, Nutec moved to enter the market in Maryland several months ago.
It wants to do the same in Pennsylvania.
Nutec, which has 70 employees and is based in Springettsbury Township, believes that medical cannabis is “something that can improve people’s lives and have a positive impact in society” along with being a good business opportunity, Shakely said.
It was one of the first firms in its field to work on medical cannabis grower/processing facilities in Maryland, doing the design work on two facilities there.
Now, as it prepared to enter Pennsylvania’s newer medical cannabis program, Nutec anticipates working with other contractors that are focused on the market to design and build grow/processing and production facilities.
Quarryville-based Paul Risk Construction, which in late 2016 launched a new division, Cannabis Design Build, is one such contractor, Shakely said.
Maryland passed a medical marijuana law in 2014. Pennsylvania followed in April 2016.
“We saw the medical-marijuana business as a good opportunity to apply the technologies and understanding that we have to a new and growing industry,” Shakely explained.
He and other Nutec officials, like business development manager Dave Yarrish, urge would-be growers/processors to understand the complexities and tradeoffs when selecting the proper systems for their facility, so they end up with the production results they expect.
“My sense is, there are not a lot of people out there who are familiar with this industry, and we’re kind of happy to be ahead of the curve and to be able to say, ‘Hey, we have experience in this particular niche,’” Yarrish said.
Pennsylvania’s initial applications to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana are due March 20, with the first round of permits to be awarded in late June, Shakely said.
He added that “a lot of people are rushing into the market, taking existing systems that were developed for a different industry or applications, like computer data centers, and then applying them to growing marijuana.”
Not planning well on the front end, or in the construction of the facilities, could lead to mold and other problems in the early crops, possibly ruining a whole growing cycle, he also said.
“We’re seeing it in the Maryland projects, that it’s going to be a race. When Pennsylvania awards these permits, you will have a date by when production needs to be up and running,” Shakely said.
Nutec Group has three affiliate organizations and, along with its York-area headquarters, has an office in Hunt Valley, Md.
In late 2016, Nutec was named to handle the architectural and engineering design for the renovation of York’s historic Yorktowne Hotel, which had closed in November for what is expected to be a two-year restoration project.