By David Sali, Ottawa Business Journal, August 17, 2023
While Canopy Growth’s announcement that it’s selling the former Hershey plant in Smiths Falls back to the company that made it famous might feel like deja vu all over again, Sean Lawrence says the community is not the same place the chocolate-maker left in 2008.
“The attitude in Smiths Falls is completely different than it was 15 years ago,” says Lawrence, the president of the Smiths Falls Chamber of Commerce.
A financial adviser who’s been part of the Eastern Ontario town’s business scene for decades, Lawrence remembers how deflated residents felt when Hershey pulled out of the “Chocolate capital of Canada,” relocated the production facility to Mexico and left more than 400 local residents jobless.
It was one of many economic body blows the community 60 kilometres south of Ottawa suffered in a disastrous stretch in the early 2000s.
The same year that Hershey pulled up stakes, Stanley Tools shuttered its manufacturing plant in the town, throwing 175 people out of work. The 2009 closure of the Rideau Regional Centre, a health-care facility that employed even more workers than the Hershey plant, followed. Five years later, Shorewood Packaging closed its operations in Smiths Falls, leaving about two dozen people without jobs.
“When we lost Hershey’s, we lost Rideau Regional and Stanley Tools, it was pretty tough around here,” Lawrence says.
But he says times have changed.