HOUMA, La. (WAFB) - The news presses inside the Houma Courier building have fallen quiet but a new noise is coming from the building.
Construction crews have started work to turn the old building in Houma, Louisiana into the first hemp processing lab in the state.
"We have a team, we have a lab, and we have all the processes in place,” Courier Labs owner Timmy Thompson said.
Thompson and his business partner and CEO, Ben Nearn, run Courier Labs. They already operate in California and Colorado, but now that hemp is legal in Louisiana, they are bringing their expertise to Houma.
"What we want to do is take what was learned in California and Colorado and some of the other states and bring it over here and shorten the learning curve,” Thompson said.
Once the lab is licensed, the empty building will come alive and serve hemp farmers from across the country.
“We can bring it in from anywhere in the states,” Nearn said. “We’d rather take it from local farmers but we have the capacity to truck it in from anywhere.”
The lab being in Houma is not by chance. Houma is Thompson’s home.
"We’re third-generation oil and gas and the market has been down for some time and we felt like this was a cutting-edge industry, a new technology that we could bring into the state that was outside of the oil and gas,” Thompson said.
The lab will help make up for the loss of jobs in the oil and gas industry, Thompson said. Once up and running, Courier hopes to employ around 300 people.
"A lot of the workforce here is highly trained, educated in the petrochemical industry, and the skill sets cross over to the extraction methodology we employ in the lab as well,” Nearn said.
Production will focus on cannabidiol, or CBD, extraction that will go toward creating a variety of products.
"We’ll make a full range of goods whether it’s a gummy or a drink or a drink mix or a tincture or a sav, or those types of things,” Nearn said.
Before they can get to that point, though, a lot of work must be accomplished, starting with the state awarding Courier its license. That cannot happen until the USDA issues its regulations on hemp.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry expects that will come Feb. 22.