Anyone looking for industrial space in Portland is going to have their work cut out for them. "We're out of space. We're down to one-percent vacancy now,” Justin LaMontagne, a partner at the Dunham Group real estate company, said to Maine Public. Along with the drop in industrial vacancies comes a rise in lease prices, so that even the space available is becoming increasingly expensive.
The reason for the sudden drop in real estate availability is the exponential growth seen in the cannabis industry over the past few years. Most of the once vacant warehouses in Portland are now occupied by cannabis startups taking advantage of the new marijuana economy.
Other industries in Portland are booming too. Drew Sigfridson, the managing director at CBRE the Boulos company says, "There's also the burgeoning brewery industry and distilleries, which have taken up a lot of space whether it be for warehousing, distribution or production." To top it all off, Sigfridson says, “there hasn't been a lot of new construction to keep up with that demand."
With that said, the cannabis industry in Maine does seem to be slowing down. The painfully slow pace the state Legislature has taken in regard to reforming cannabis laws means that enterprising startups are setting their sights elsewhere. Hannah King, an attorney with Maine Professionals for Regulating Marijuana says the looming changes to cannabis legislation in Massachusetts are enticing many entrepreneurs to relocate their business south. "Investors are saying look there's no certainty around either your medical or your adult programs in Maine right now, and we know that Massachusetts has essentially finalized their regulatory regime.”
King does note that legislation that would expand the medical marijuana market in Maine is in the works and could help keep some of these new businesses from moving. Additionally, LaMontagne sees an opportunity in converting vacant big box retail stores into industrial space, alleviating some of the real estate shortages.
The sooner Maine gets their cannabis legislation in order, the sooner they could be seeing the long-term economic benefits of this new industry knocking on their door.