Stewart economy gets a big boost - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Stewart economy gets a big boost

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July 11, 2006

Stewart County -- Georgia lawmakers passed tough new laws on illegal immigrants this year, and illegal immigration continues to spark a lot of debate in Congress.

Many aliens in this country illegally will soon spend time in a south Georgia prison. And that facility will provide jobs for more than 300 people in a small county that needs the economic boost.        

The prison that sat empty and unused for years, is finally opening, bringing with it hundreds of jobs to South Georgia.  In 1999 CCA, Corrections Corporation of America, announced plans to build and operate a prison in Stewart County. A year later, construction began,  

"Several years ago, CCA had a deal with the state for state inmates," said County Commission Chairman John Patterson. "They started construction, the state pulled out of the contract and construction came to a stop."

The $50 Million facility was going to waste, and the hundreds of jobs that had been promised to South Georgians, seemed to be dust in the wind. "Finally we have an intergovernmental agreement with the immigration and custom enforcement people to house inmates here."

CCA completed the prison and plans to begin housing inmates as of October 1st.   Inside the prison gates, more than 1,500 detainees will be held here by ICE awaiting deportation to their country of origin.

There's only one problem, though, there aren't any employees. But hiring is underway.   "311 jobs will be a big boost to the county, plus it's going to be a big boost for the entire region," says Patterson. "It's an extreme pleasure to see it finally happen, because we've looked at it for so long and worked on it for several years. It's real good to see it happening." 

It would certainly be a boost for Kimberly Stout. She's been out of a job for a while now and is hoping the prison will provide her with a new opportunity. "I'm sure there are a lot out there that are interested in coming in just like me."

She's right. Since yesterday, about 200 people have filled out applications for a job at the prison. Kimberly hopes she is one of the lucky ones.   What would this mean to her? "A new start." And a new start for the county.    

The agreement between Stewart County and CCA is effective through 2011.  

In addition to the 311 jobs the prison is bringing to Stewart county, a modular manufacturer is looking to hire 150 employees.

APEX homes manufactures custom modular homes. They're in the process of interviewing for administrative, warehouse, accountant, and construction positions. A mass recruitment is planned at the site on APEX Drive off highway 280 East in Richland Saturday from 9AM to 1PM.

The new jobs will replace ones wiped out when Redman Industries closed a few years ago.  "We understand there was a production facility before that had 200-300 people," said Apex Homes Co-owner Ben Reichley. "We're looking to bring jobs maybe in that range in a couple of years, but we'll have 100 jobs, 150-200 jobs in our first year, two years of operation."  

For more information on job opportunities at APEX or at the prison facility, contact the Department of Labor.

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