City Provides Additional Funding and Extends Hiring Plan for Texas Fiber Startup

Texas fiber startup receives additional funding and an extension for hiring plan from the city

Officials in the Texas city of Wichita Falls have committed an additional $200,000 towards the hemp fiber processing operation of Panda Biotech, which is expected to start operations soon.

The City Council approved the extra funding this week to help cover the cost of a railroad spur to the factory. Originally, the Council had agreed to contribute $150,000 towards the spur, but they granted the additional money after the company stated that the total cost had increased to $500,000 due to an inaccurate original cost estimate.

Panda announced plans to create the “Largest Industrial Hemp Processing Facility for Fiber and Cellulose in the United States” in 2019, but the project has experienced multiple delays, primarily attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Council also agreed to an extension of Panda’s commitment to hire 50 workers under a $2.8-million incentive agreement made with the city’s Economic Development Corporation in 2020.

The company has received support from economic development and municipal agencies in the form of loans, bond issues, and tax breaks for the factory, which has a price tag of more than $100 million. Panda’s construction and machinery installation at the factory site are now complete, with the CEO stating that the factory will commence processing hemp by the end of 2023.

However, the source of the hemp input for the factory remains unclear. While Panda claims to issue large volume contracts to farmers in the region, the actual acreage of hemp planted within a 250-mile radius of Wichita Falls is unknown. Texas farmers only harvested 1,000 acres of hemp in 2021, and the state did not report any hemp acres in 2022. Panda has introduced a “pay-to-grow program” to incentivize farmers to raise hemp to supply the factory, which has a capacity to process up to 10 tons of raw material per hour.



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