Promotion of Appleton prison to continue in 2017

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Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, in black sweatshirt, chairs the Minnesota House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. He will play a key role in the discussions about the state’s possible use of the Appleton prison.

Swift County is already gearing up to make another effort to get the State of Minnesota to lease or buy the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton.

At the county board’s meeting Dec. 19, Commissioner Gary Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, reported that he and Commission Chair Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson, had attended a meeting of representatives of lobbying firm Goff Public and CoreCivic, the owner of the prison.

CoreCivic is the new name of Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest owner of private prison facilities. It changed its name this past fall.

“Rebranding as CoreCivic is the culmination of a multi-year strategy to transform our business from largely corrections and detention services to a wider range of government solutions,”  Damon T. Hininger, the company’s president and chief executive officer said in a news release. “The CoreCivic name speaks to our ability to solve the tough challenges facing government at all levels and to the deep sense of service that we feel every day to help people.”

Also at the meeting was District 17A state Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and state Senator-elect Andrew Lang, R-Olivia. The meeting was called to formulate a strategy for lobbying the Legislature during the 2017 session.

The prison has sat empty since February 2010 when it was shut down. A minimum staff has been kept at the facility to maintain it over the past nearly seven years. The company has also invested hundreds of thousands in improvements to the 1,600-bed facility.

It has been estimated that reopening the prison would create 350 jobs for western Minnesota, have a $13 to $15 million payroll, and provide a significant boost to the local economies of the many small towns from which the employees come.

Hendrickx told fellow commissioners that it seems that the appetite to purchase isn’t as strong as it was last year; there is more of an appetite to lease, he said.

Whose appetite is favoring leasing over buying? Commissioner Ed Pederson, District 2-north Benson, asked Hendrickx.

Republican Tony Cornish, chair of the state House’s Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee, seems to have more of an appetite for a lease, Hendrickx said. The lease doesn’t require the big upfront dollar amount a purchase would, he said.

Minnesota Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton, who has not looked at any use of the Appleton prison favorably, still has indicated he leans toward a purchase if it is done.

For the Appleton area, whether it is a lease or a purchase, it is the jobs that are important, Hendrickx said. But it is also important that the agreement that is reached whether a purchase or a lease shows a commitment to use the facility for the long term to ensure job stability, Hendrickx said.

When there is uncertainty about future employment people can’t find stability in their lives and businesses can’t find stability in their decisions, he said. When individuals and business don’t know where things are going, they are not going to invest as much, he said.

 

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Pictured: Republican Rep. Tony Cornish, in black sweatshirt, chairs the Minnesota House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. He will play a key role in the discussions about the state’s possible use of the Appleton prison.

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