What to know about hemp processing facility planned for east Houston

The facility at 3900 Harrisburg Blvd. in east Houston. (Photo: Google Maps)
The facility at 3900 Harrisburg Blvd. in east Houston. (Photo: Google Maps)

HOUSTON – A hemp processing facility is being planned for the vacant campus of the former Maxwell House coffee plant in east Houston, according to the city.

What is it?

Elemental Processing, a Lexington, Kentucky-based company that produces CBD oil and related products, will use the 1.2 million-square-foot facility that sits on 18 acres at 3900 Harrisburg Blvd. in the Second Ward, according to the mayor's office.

In a letter to members of the Texas Senate in May to garner support for House Bill 1325 which legalized hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC, CBD oil and industrial hemp farming, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote that Elemental Processing would have the capacity to process more than 100 million pounds of hemp biomass per year.

What's the impact?

Turner claimed the economic impact of the processing facility at capacity could be as much as $947 million, with more than 4,000 permanent jobs.

According to a letter from Andy Icken, chief development officer for the city of Houston, to Turner in June, the previous owner of the property, Atlantic Coffee Solutions, closed the facility in June 2018 and the owners were planning to demolish and redevelop the site over a trhee-five year period, which "would have subjected the neighborhood to years of blight, decay and attractive nuisance."

The Elemental acquisition would transform the property into a sustainable business, since hemp is a drought-resistant crop, without negatively impacting the neighborhood, Icken wrote.

The creation of thousands of jobs would more than offset the 700 jobs ACS provided at its peak, he said.

Why Elemental?

KPRC 2 has reached out to the CEO of Elemental Processing for comment.

During an April hearing in the House touting HB 1325 as good for Texas farmers, Elemental Processing's Jeff Lake told the panel of lawmakers that his company pays $3,000 to $5,000, plus a bonus, for one acre of hemp compared to $350 to $400 for an acre of corn on a good year.

What's the history?

Here's a look at the history of 3900 Harrisburg Blvd. (according to the city):

1913: The original brick and concrete building was built by the Ford Motor Company and used as a Model T assembly plant.

1946: Maxwell House moves into the facility. The company was owned by General Foods and later Kraft Foods.

1988: The 16-story tower was erected on the site. The tower housed the world's largest CO2 extraction system at the time.

2006: Maximus Coffee acquires the plant.

2014: Maximus Coffee is rebranded to Atlantic Coffee Solutions, one of the world's largest coffee processors for some of North America's largest coffee companies, including Starbucks, Folgers, Maxwell House and Nestle.

2018: ACS closes the facility in June.