THOMSON – The activation of the Thomson Correctional Center is moving ahead, and officials say prisoners could be arriving in mid-March.
"Recruiting and hiring is going well," said Michelle Gonyea, a prison spokeswoman in Thomson. "More than 100 people are working, and we're still on track to start receiving minimum-security prisoners by the middle of this spring."
Most of the first-round hires are transferees from other Bureau of Prisons sites, who can then train staff with less experience.
About 200 minimum-security inmates will be brought in to play a key role in some of the work that must be done on the grounds and indoors.
Hiring is being done in phases, and Donald Hudson, who was named warden in August, is authorized to bring in up to 300 in the first round. Hudson came to Thomson from the Federal Correctional Institute in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania.
Two associate wardens are among the staff now on-site that includes workers in information technology, food service, accounting, human resources, maintenance, and locksmithing.
"HR is on-site, and they are handling interviews, training and hirings," Thomson Mayor Vicky Trager said. "There are about 120 people working now in pretty much every area."
Trager said she is resting easier knowing that $53.7 million earmarked for activation by the Federal Bureau of Prisons is now part of the omnibus spending bill.
"Everything I've heard from Washington is that activation is full-speed ahead until we are fully operational," Trager said. "We're not a line item up for debate anymore, and we finally have some certainly with our funding."
Trager said another job fair is being planned, but a date has not yet been determined.
The prison, built in 2001, is expected to bring 1,100 jobs when completely activated. Annually, it is expected to generate more than $122 million in operating expenditures, including salaries, $19 million in wages, and $61 million in local business sales.
Trager said the area is starting to feel the economic impact of the federal facility.
"There has been a small increase in traffic, and people are here looking for places to live," she said. "While they look, folks are staying in area hotels, eating at our restaurants, and shopping at our stores."