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County, feds, private firm reach deal on old jail

CCA bringing in money, 160 jobs

POSTED: March 9, 2009 10:07 a.m.
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Stacey Stone

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It’s not every day in the midst of a recession that a company comes to town with 160 jobs and a $7.5 million payroll.

But when the owner happens to be the largest operator of private prisons, the reception is mixed.

Corrections Corp. of America announced Monday that it has reached an agreement with Hall County and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house 500 federal detainees at the former Hall County jail on Main Street.

Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver, who was involved in negotiating the deal, points out that the company will offer jobs with benefits and already has paid its rent for this year.

"The money is in the bank," said Oliver. "People have an option. If they want those jobs, great. If not, they can look elsewhere."

Officials with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce declined to comment on the newest member of the business community.

Louise Grant, vice president for marketing and communications for CCA, said 70 to 80 percent of the work force will be hired locally and includes business office personnel, mental health counselors and many correctional officers.

Russell Vandiver, vice president for economic development at Lanier Technical College, said he has not heard from CCA officials about possible participation in the state-funded QuickStart program, which provides job training for new and expanding companies. Grant said the company was looking into the program.

Maggie Large, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said news of jobs is welcomed.

"In this economic climate, any new source of jobs and investment is a good thing, whether it’s from manufacturing or private corrections or any other industry," she said.

Her comments were echoed by Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, who first learned of the jobs when contacted by The Times.

"Trust me," Thurmond said, "your labor commissioner needs a little good news. This is great news, and it is going to be a boost to the economy and individually those 160 people will get to earn a salary, pay their rent or mortgage and feed their family."

Thurmond said the $7.5 million annual payroll will have an economic impact of three times that amount in the community.

CCA is pumping $4 million into renovations at the former jail, including electrical and heating and air conditioning. The company plans to open by the end of April and be substantially occupied by the end of the year.

The lease has an initial term of 20 years with two five-year renewal options and provides CCA the ability to cancel the lease if it does not have a management contract.

The company said hiring would begin soon in areas including security, facility management, accounting, health services, human resources, business management, quality assurance and education. The company expects to hold job fairs, however, applications already are being taken online at the company’s Web site, ccajob.com

With eight out of every 100 people in Hall County presently out of work, finding applicants is not expected to be a problem.

Also announced Monday was the appointment of warden Stacey Stone and assistant warden Charlie Peterson.

Stone formerly was with CCA’s correctional facility in McRae. Peterson formerly was with the company’s Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin.

"I am proud to now call Gainesville my home," said Stone. "We are eager to hire the best and brightest candidates to work in our detention center, and we look forward to becoming an active, strong part of this community."

CCA currently contracts with ICE to manage immigration detainees at 12 facilities.

"We are proud to expand our partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement," said John Ferguson, CCA’s chief executive officer. "The North Georgia Detention Facility will serve ICE’s need for detention capacity as part of the government’s strategy to deter illegal immigration and protect public safety."

CCA is the nation’s largest owner and operator of privatized correctional and detention facilities and one of the largest prison operators in the United States, behind only the federal government and three states.

The company is no stranger to Georgia. It presently operates prisons that house state inmates in Nicholls and Alamo, a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in McRae and a facility in Lumpkin that holds detainees for ICE.

CCA currently operates 63 facilities, including 44 company-owned facilities, with a total design capacity of approximately 85,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia.



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