FULTON – Eleven years after its construction, and 3 months after becoming the property of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the long-dormant Thomson prison could open in 6 months, freshman state Rep. Mike Smiddy says.
Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, said he has been working with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and his director, Bill Houlihan, checking in to make sure things are moving quickly with the federal prison.
“They are planning to start hiring this summer and get operational in the next 6 months,” Smiddy told the Clinton (Iowa) Herald. “This will create thousands of jobs for the area.”
Smiddy, who represents Whiteside and Carroll counties, is looking for more economic development in the area, and so one of his top agenda items is opening the prison, he told the Herald.
In early October, the U.S. government announced its $165 million purchase of the prison, which was state of the art at the time it was built but was never fully utilized because of state budget problems.
Smiddy is a supervisor at the East Moline Corrections Center.
ln addition to opening Thomson Prison, he said he wants to make economic development a priority and bring businesses to the area.
“We need to do a better job of convincing businesses to come here and work with municipalities to expand opportunities,” Smiddy said.
He is working with Renaissance Rock Island to obtain $29.2 million to improve housing in the region. Morrison, Fulton and Sterling recently partnered with Renaissance to form the Northwestern Illinois Housing Coalition.
Other goals include working with the mayors of Sterling and Rock Falls to improve the riverfront and working with local schools to solve funding issues, he said.