LINCOLN — The possible closing of Logan Correctional Center would be devastating to local businesses, said one economic development official.
“It would be 100 percent across the board,” said Michael Maniscalco, executive director of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership. “There are less people going to dinner, less going out to movies, so some of our local people could feel it immediately.”
Earlier this month Gov. Pat Quinn proposed budget cuts that included closing the prison, which employs 357 and is among the area’s largest employers. In Lincoln, that’s prompted flashbacks to 2002, when the 698-worker Lincoln Developmental Center closed its doors.
“We took a giant hit,” said Maureen Wibben, co-owner of Wibben Computer Service in Lincoln. The downtown business had nine employees at one point, but started scaling back after the LDC closure. It is now down to three, including husband and co-owner Herman Wibben.
“When people started living and working out of town, they took their computers with them,” said Maureen Wibben, who anticipates another revenue hit should the governor’s plan go through.
Illinois Department of Employment Security statistics released Thursday show the county already has an 8.3 percent rate of unemployment. It has also seen its population drop by 800 people, to 30,305, in the last decade, according to federal census statistics.
And home sales are just 160 through August, down from 187 during the first eight months of 2010, said Bob Kidd, executive director of the Logan County Board of Realtors. He knows of one Logan Correctional Center employee who already opted not to purchase a home because of the job uncertainty.
“They backed out of the sale because they didn’t know if they would have a job,” said Kidd.
The governor’s office said prison employees would be able to transfer to other area correctional facilities as openings occur. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said there are seven correctional facilities within 90 miles of the Logan Correctional Center, including the nearby Lincoln Correctional Center, which she said would reduce some of the impact of a closure.
One businessman who is determined to keep his staffing up even if the prison closes is Dave Campbell of NAPA Auto Parts in Lincoln. He was able to retain all 12 NAPA employees after the LDC closing in 2002, and plans on doing the same even if the prison closes.
“We do business with both the Lincoln and Logan correctional centers, so it would affect us,” said Campbell. “But I would reduce my salary before I would put an employee on the street.”