‘Father of Denim’ Joins Leaders at Hemp Ribbon-Cutting at Panda Biotech’s Huge Plant in Wichita Falls

“We will lead the nation in industrial hemp,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said at the grand opening of the hemp processing facility, the second-largest on Earth. Instead of satin ribbon, a hefty length of "hemp denim" got the scissors treatment amid a crowd of city and state officials, business leaders, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe chairman, and Sasson Jeans Founder Paul Guez.

In April, Dallas-based Panda Biotech began commercial operations at the Panda Hemp Gin, a landmark industrial hemp processing facility in Wichita Falls. This week, the plant had its official grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring honored guests—including Paul Guez, the “father of denim” who pioneered so-called “designer jeans” with his famous Sasson brand in the 1970s.

But a hemp plant can’t be christened with shiny satin ribbon. Instead, Panda leaders and visiting dignitaries took the scissors to a hefty length of “hemp denim,” one of the many end products that will result from the new facility, which can process 22,000 pounds of hemp fiber per hour.

This is no ordinary plant. The Panda Hemp Gin is the largest industrial hemp processing facility in the Western Hemisphere—and second largest in the entire world.

“We will lead the nation in industrial hemp,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller proclaimed at the event.

Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO Ron Kitchens gave local thanks for the christening by saying, “Today, we celebrate the courage of entrepreneurs who said over and over again, we believe in you, Wichita Falls.”

Packaged hemp at the newly opened Panda Hemp Gin in Wichita Falls. [Video still: Panda Biotech]

Speakers from a top state official to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe chairman

Besides Miller and Kitchens, speakers at the event included Panda Biotech President Dixie Carter; the companie’s COO, Scott Evans; and Southern Ute Indian Tribe Chairman Melvin J. Baker.

Carter began the ceremony by lauding the vision of Panda Chairman and CEO Robert W. Carter to build a “large-scale, top-tier processing facility” in the U.S. for domestic industrial hemp decortication. She said the CEO’s “signature ‘no excuses’ leadership style” help make the day possible after years of challenges, including the pandemic.

Other guests at the event included senior executives “from the world’s largest textile spinning mills,” textile importers and exporters, and regional agriculture leaders and producers, Panda said.

You can read all about the first-of-its kind plant—which features a 600-yard-long processing line and three miles of overhead pneumatic duct lines—in our April story.

Inside the Panda Hemp Gin, a 500,000-square-foot industrial hemp processing facility in Witchita Falls. [Photo: Business Wire]

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