Now is the time for all good MEN and women of Greater Youngstown to come to the aid of their economy.
The Corrections Corporation of America, in its quest to preserve hundreds of high-paying jobs at its private prison on the East Side of Youngstown, needs our help, and it needs it now.
Specifically, CCA, which operates the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road, seeks an outpouring of community support for its bid to renew a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Renewal of that contract would keep about 1,200 federal inmates housed and rehabilitated at its 16-year-old prison.
Loss of that contract would pound the region’s wobbly economy hard, eliminating most of the high-paying 418 jobs there.
Helping to build an avalanche of appeals to renew the contract is only a few clicks away. CCA recently launched an aptly named website — www.jobsforyoungstown.com — that serves as a one-stop center for residents of Youngstown and of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties to educate themselves on the value of CCA in our community and then lobby elected officials and Bureau of Prisons decision-makers on the critical need to to preserve the corporation’s $150 million investment in the city.
As CCA points out on its website, subtitled Protecting the Workforce, Families and Economy of Youngstown, “Demonstrating community support from Youngstown is absolutely critical to extending the current contract and keeping NEOCC open. We anticipate this bidding process will be highly competitive, and the decisive factors in recent procurements have been local support and savings.”
A hodgepodge of numbers speaks to the value of the facility. NEOCC employs 418 workers, the vast majority of whom hail from the three counties in the Valley. Over the years, NEOCC has paid nearly $157 million in payroll, nearly $14 million on utilities, and more than $10 million in local taxes for a total direct economic impact of more than $180 million.
Speaking of bangs for the buck, NEOCC also saves taxpayers money, just as private-sector businesses generally do through efficiencies often absent in the public sector. Independent research from 28 studies has found that companies like CCA save taxpayers 5 to 15 percent in costs of construction and operation of prisons.
What’s more, the NEOCC has established itself as a caring corporate neighbor benefiting a host of causes and groups in the Mahoning Valley. On the short list of those beneficiaries are Relay for Life, American Diabetes Association, American Red Cross, Beatitude House, Habitat for Humanity, MS Walk, Panerathon, Rescue Mission, Second Harvest Food Bank, SoJourner House and the YMCA’s Spinning for a Cause.
One positive sign toward contract renewal is resolution of a tax dispute that had threatened to raise CCA’s operating costs and severely lessen its chances of securing contract renewal.
Youngstown has agreed to cancel its $1-per-day prisoner tax. “We’re putting the disagreement with CCA behind us to help them with a new federal contract,” Youngstown Law Director Anthony Farris said.
With that obstacle behind us, supporters should log in to lobby now as BOP officials are expected to decide on the contract next spring. CCA requests that appeals be made by Feb. 28. In addition to the online campaign, we’d also urge local governments throughout the Valley to draft and pass resolutions of support for renewing the CCA contract and forward them to BOP officials, as Mahoning County commissioners and others already have done.
The Valley has a long and proven track record of advocacy for its economic engines. Similar campaigns for the General Motors Lordstown Complex and the Youngstown Air Reserve Station have reaped positive dividends. It’s now time to marshal those same forces for NEOCC. This time, the opportunity is at your fingertips.