Petaluma hydroponics maker expanding warehouse space

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A Petaluma maker of hydroponics equipment and grow lights is getting ready to significantly expand its industrial space in the city, a seemingly fortuitous move in light of recent voter approval to legalize recreational marijuana use in California.

But the growth plans of Hydrofarm Inc. have been in the works for more than a year and represent the increasing demand for its products. In the past six years, some of that growth has come from greenhouse and farming businesses distinct from the cannabis industry, but also from states where voters already have legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

Those states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — “have experienced faster historical growth,” Hydrofarm President Peter Wardenburg said Tuesday in an email. Similarly, he suggested that this month’s voter approval of California’s Proposition 64 would likely result in further sales growth.

“The demand for indoor and year-round gardening has been increasing across many market areas and we expect the passage of this proposition to be another positive influence to retailers who serve that market,” Wardenburg wrote.

Hydrofarm plans to move some of its operations early next year into 80,000 square feet of warehouse and production space on Cader Lane in southeast Petaluma. With that addition, the company will have a total of 190,000 square feet of space and about 120 employees working in the city.

Hydrofarm calls itself “the nation’s oldest wholesaler and leading manufacturer of hydroponics equipment and high-intensity grow lights.” Along with Petaluma, it has six distribution centers in the U.S. and one in Spain.

Nick Egide, an agent with Meridian Commercial brokerage, represented Hydrofarm in leasing the property. He said the company spent a few years looking for the right space. Hydrofarm considered warehouse space in other communities, Egide said, “but Peter was really motivated to stay in Petaluma.”

Wardenburg later explained that “we have many long-term employees who live in and around Petaluma and moving the company too far in one direction or the other would have had a significant negative impact on them due to additional commutes.”

The new space is located in the Cader Corporate Center near Lakeville Highway and South McDowell Boulevard.

Other large tenants include beverage service company Scott Laboratories and dairy producer Clover-Stornetta Farms.

Despite the passage of Prop. 64, commercial property owners still have plenty of questions about leasing to businesses in the cannabis industry, Egride said.

Such concerns don’t apply to a company like Hydrofarm because “they provide equipment to growers of all types of plants,” he said.

But while voters passed the proposition, he said, some California cities have banned commercial marijuana cultivation.

And federal drug forfeiture laws still could apply to landlords who knowingly lease space to cannabis growers. Leasing, Egide said, remains “tricky because there’s still such gray areas.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @rdigit

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