Prison Closing Expected to Impact Local Economy

By  | 

MACHIAS, Maine (WABI) - The closing of the Downeast Correctional Facility is expected to have far reaching economic impacts in the Machias area.

"These jobs have health benefits,” said Julie Barker,co-owner of Helen’s Resturant. “They help provide various jobs in the area other than the prison."

A growing concern is that much of the former prison staff will be forced to leave the area for a new job, leaving businesses like The Bluebird Ranch Restaurant without a big chunk of patrons.

"We have limited customers during the winter time,” said Owner of the Bluebird Ranch Restaurant, Bethany Foss. “We have to rely on our locals year round."

"When you spend money locally, it's a multiplier effect and those moneys remain within the community and support other jobs and other businesses,” said Town Manager Christina Therrien. “So taking that out of our economy would be a tremendous impact here."

Barker says even the moving of prisoners will affect future jobs in the area.

"I actually know of one young man who got out. The people that he was working his release with, they were so impressed with his ability that he was hired on the spot when he was released."

Even prisoners who would have remained inside the prison have an impact on the local economy, whether it's from the extra business their families bring in or work programs that helped contribute to the area.

"Prisoners had families that would come in for the weekend for visitations and of course, they would eat out and give business to the local community," said Foss.

"They have done a lot of restoration work to nonprofit buildings, churches, they have done many repairs here, they've done painting at our facilities,” said Therrien. “They've saved the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Downeast community."

Many people in region are still left confused by the closure and now wonder to what extent their lives will be impacted.