Commercial Construction and Renovation Magazine interviewed Orion Construction President Brad Walsh about how the company is building projects that are a catalyst for helping communities grow economically, including Gage Cannabis. See our feature in the CCR Magazine about our most recent construction project for Gage and what to expect from the construction market in 2022.
One of the commercial contractors helping spearhead this movement is Orion Construction, a commercial contractor focused on creating a positive impact in every project it builds. Its work in the cannabis industry is helping expand its mission and vision, building projects that are a catalyst for helping communities grow economically. We sat down with Brad Walsh, President of Orion Construction, and members of GAGE’s marketing team to get a peek into its most recent Gage project and what to expect from the construction market in 2022.
GIVE US A SNAPSHOT OF THE GAGE BRAND.
GAGE is innovating and curating the highest quality cannabis experiences possible for cannabis consumers in the State of Michigan and bringing internationally renowned brands to market. Through years of progressive industry experience, its founding partners have successfully built and grown operations with federal and state licenses, including cultivation, processing and retail locations.
Much of the cannabis industry is very specific about the products being used in their builds, and at times there are learning curves that go into the installation of specific products.
WHAT TYPE OF CONSUMERS ARE THEY TARGETING?
Cannabis products are used by a variety of people for various reasons. Its primary customer is the canna-connoisseur—those looking for premium products that are unique or exotic. Its secondary customer target is anyone and everyone who is looking to use cannabis either as an adult that is 21-plus or medical patient.
HOW DOES THE OVERALL DESIGN OF THE SHOP CATER TO WHAT TODAY’S CONSUMERS ARE LOOKING FOR?
We helped them carefully engineer the location for customer and employee flow, as well as product and merchandising placement to optimize the customer experience. Each store is opened with a methodical process to ensure that the customer experience is the same whether you are in Lansing, Grand Rapids or Detroit.
WHAT MAKES THIS LOCATION ENGAGING TO TODAY’S CANNABIS CUSTOMERS?
We have created an open concept that takes its cues from and feels like specialty retail— more like fashion in its presentation. It has a space that is literally called the “Feature Zone,” which displays the latest curated strains and products from GAGE and our exclusive partners.
TAKE US THROUGH YOUR CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN STRATEGY.
No matter how you try, it is literally impossible to always deliver the same experience for every person you touch. Knowing this, GAGE created user-friendly design and communications that make it easy for our customers to shop and learn at their own pace. The welcoming reception, expansive sales floor, and accessible check-out were strategically designed to provide a curated experience for all. They are committed that a first-time customer feels as comfortable as their loyal GAGE enthusiasts.
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO CREATING A “MUST VISIT” LOCATION IN TODAY’S COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE?
We have the luxury of building a project for a tenacious consumer base. They recognize that GAGE is unwavering in our commitment to delivering the best cannabis products available. From their perspective, the products and services we provide, and the experience of these products/services are the same. From the moment they arrive at GAGE, every touchpoint (architecture, staff, product) is unwavering in our commitment to offer authentic, premium craft products and service.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ISSUE TODAY RELATED TO THE CONSTRUCTION SIDE OF THE BUSINESS?
We are faced with issues surrounding zoning, but as many communities begin to see the benefits associated with allowing the cannabis industry in, such as increased tax base and revenues, as well as job creation, we expect to see easing of restrictions. Much of the cannabis industry is very specific about the products being used in their builds, and at times there are learning curves that go into the installation of specific products. Additionally, sourcing of products such as air purification, or even specific safety features, may have longer lead times that we are used to in general construction.
WHAT KIND OF CANNABIS SHOP DO YOU THINK CONSUMERS ARE LOOKING FOR?
An appealing shop for the canna-connoisseur. A shop where anyone of legal age that is interested in cannabis products can easily find products that fits their need, or learn more about cannabis products.
WHAT TYPE OF OPPORTUNITIES DO YOU SEE MOVING AHEAD?
I believe our knowledge gains in the cannabis industry will allow us the opportunity to grow our business as a premier building contractor for the cannabis industry beyond the borders of Michigan. The more we build in the industry, the more educated we become on the specific needs. As more states allow for the growth and sale of medical or recreational marijuana, we believe Orion is positioned to help as the industry takes root and commercial contractors with cannabis building experience are being sought.
TALK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
Sustainability is a main focus of the growth operations sector of the cannabis industry. These facilities rely heavily on electrical and lighting design, and the latest LED technology provides operators with the ability to lower energy needs. In addition, reclamation and reuse of water is often discussed among grow operations.
We have created an open concept that takes its cues from and feels like specialty retail—more like fashion in its presentation.
WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING/EXPECTING?
I expect to see growth in the cannabis industry in many ways. First, many communities in Michigan opted out of allowing any commercial recreational cannabis within their borders. This will change as the positive economic impact becomes more apparent, including revenue sharing from the state. Other states are now allowing both medical and recreational marijuana growing, processing, delivery and sales, which will lead to more growth in the cannabis construction sector.
ONE-ON-ONE WITH… Orion Construction’s Brad Walsh
Describe a typical day. What’s the biggest thing on your to-do list right now?
As president of Orion Construction, I oversee all aspects of our company including new business development. As we have moved into servicing the cannabis industry, we are gaining a deeper understanding of the industry’s needs. These go beyond retail operations, as we have been involved in building grow facilities as well. Whether it’s growing cannabis or selling products to consumers, there are many aspects that a commercial builder must understand before entering this sector. From zoning issues to infrastructure needs, such as water, air quality and access for employees and clients, the cannabis industry has its own unique challenges that must be addressed before construction can begin.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
With every successful project, being able to build our clients’ visions is very rewarding. But in the cannabis industry, it has become apparent that this work is helping revitalize communities. Whether it’s a large grow operation, which brings jobs to an urban core, or a retail shop in a rural community, not only bringing jobs, but spurring other businesses to open nearby, we are seeing communities benefit and that is rewarding for sure.
What’s the best thing a client ever said to you?
I was recently told by one of our cannabis clients, “You are the most professional contractor we work with in the country.” Here at Orion Construction, we take great pride in our process. Construction is small facet of the overall client experience we provide, which focuses on honesty, integrity and an open line of communication to ensure each client’s vision is accomplished.
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