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June 23, 2022

Entrepreneurs hope to build cannabis ‘campus’ in Hartford

David Salinas

Two entrepreneurs are hoping to create a hub for cannabis businesses in Hartford with a new campus that could house several different brands and businesses.

Serial entrepreneur David Salinas and Hartford native Janice Flemming-Butler are the co-founders of Let’s Grow Hartford, a prospective cannabis business hoping to operate in the Capital City. The two say they have applied for a disproportionately impacted area cultivator license and also submitted social equity lottery applications for retailer, food and beverage manufacturer and delivery licenses.

According to Salinas, Let’s Grow Hartford was inspired by one of his other ventures, District, a technology and innovation campus in New Haven. He said the business will operate similar to the way contract brewers serve the craft brewing industry, with multiple brands operating together under one roof to share resources and ideas.

“We can have established [cannabis] brands or up-and-coming brands and startup companies come in and we’ll incubate and help them land in Connecticut,” Salinas said. “We want to have them be a part of the ecosystem. So in a sense it’s a coworking space or a co-op on the campus.”

The campus will be designed to house different brands of cultivators, manufactured goods makers, packagers and retailers. Some brands operating within the campus could change annually if they outgrow the space. A majority of the campus will be for business-to-business activity, workspaces and office suites, but Salinas said a retail presence of some kind is planned.

Janice Flemming-Butler

“There will be applicants who get a license but face challenges in finding funding or a great space,” Flemming-Butler said. “We want those folks to know we have a highly-visible location, with significant vehicle traffic – likely the most desirable location in the state. But more importantly, we have the resources, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to help them succeed.”

Salinas and Flemming-Butler declined to disclose the location for their planned venture, but did say it’s already zoned for cannabis business operations.

The business model is unique for the cannabis space, but Salinas said he doesn’t expect there to be any regulatory issues with the state Department of Consumer Protection regarding the partnerships or operations.

“We have to be customer obsessed, and we have to build the future of retail spaces for the customer,” Salinas said. “We’ve got to be thinking about the future of the products that these customers are going to want because it's changing really quickly.”

Even if the duo doesn’t win a cannabis business license, they’re still pursuing the campus concept and will be willing to work with any licensed marijuana businesses, they said.

“We have the wherewithal, the resources and the property to open this one way or the other, which is why we say that we're open to other people's licenses coming on the property with us,” Salinas said.

For now, the company’s website is up and inviting those interested in learning more to reach out. Salinas said he projects the campus could bring at least 100 new jobs to Hartford.

In addition to District, Salinas is also a co-founder of design and digital marketing company Digital Surgeons. Flemming-Butler is founder of Voices of the Women of Color, a social justice firm based in Hartford. More recently she founded lobbying firm Strategic Outreach Solutions.

This is the second economic development project Salinas has proposed in Hartford. In March it was revealed that Salinas has plans to open a District-like coworking space as part of broader efforts to redevelop the city's Parkville neighborhood. According to plans, District New Haven would open a 20,000-square-foot coworking space in an advanced manufacturing innovation hub known as the “The Factory,” at 81 Bartholomew Ave.

That project, which is separate from the Let’s Grow Hartford venture, depends on the city getting money from the state’s Innovation Corridor grant program, Salinas said.

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