Many industrial customers throughout the Inland Northwest recognize the name Oxarc.
Since the 1960s, the company has provided gases, safety equipment and other chemical materials and supplies.
But not everyone knows that the family-owned Spokane business recently began offering its expertise and equipment to a new type of client: cannabis producers and processors that are seeking safety and quality in the extraction processes.
“We made a decision to embrace the industry because we were getting a lot of inquiries,” said Mike Sutley, Executive Vice President. “It was a collective decision with the upper management team.”
Having a local touch is important too – the company originally began as a welding company, and today maintains about 20 branches in Washington, Idaho and California.
Oxarc sells industrial gases like CO2, hydrogen, ammonia and chlorine, plus dry ice, N-Butane, a flammable, colorless, mostly nontoxic gas with a natural gas odor; N-Propane, a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining commonly used as a fuel; and isobutene, a chemical compound that has the same molecular formula as butane, but with a different chemical structure.
Available equipment includes gas sensors and monitors, respirators, and safety glasses.
Because all these items can be used in the cannabis oil extraction process, Sutley said it was a natural move to reach out to growers and processors and let them know that Oxarc can help.
The company developed a flyer promoting those preparation and extraction products and added a cannabis section of its website. Staff members had a booth at this year’s CannaCon, a trade show for the marijuana industry in Seattle in February.
“We had gone to several of the cannabis shows, more as a spectator trying to understand the industry,” said Sutley. “But CannaCon was the first one where we’ve had a booth.”
Initially there were some issues that had to be navigated, including the fact that Washington’s cannabis community legally has to be cash-only.
Today, clients include growers and processors throughout the region, including several where some clients were previous Oxarc customers in other industries. Some area farmers also had existing accounts, but added marijuana to their crops when it became legal to grow.
The most popular product for cannabis customers is dry ice, which helps freeze the extracted oil and provides steady CO2 flow.
“Dry ice has just exploded,” he said. “We sold over 2.8 million pounds last year.”
The product has also grown in popularity in other fields as well, including medical and convalescent home industries.
Oxarc is also happy to share what the company has learned about the cannabis industry with businesses that sell similar products in other geographic markets. He also expects growing interest in supporting cannabis businesses.
“We’ve been educating fellow distributors to replicate what we’re doing,” said Sutley. “This product is going to create some other industries I’m sure,” he said. “It seems to be financially very, very stable. We consider it a niche market.”