The Philipsburg area got a belated Christmas present Monday when U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, made an official announcement.
The federal Bureau of Prisons renewed its contract with the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center, the private prison owned by Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group.
The future of the facility has been an open question for months as GEO competed for the contract alongside a Youngstown, Ohio, prison.
Thompson says he only heard the news himself Monday afternoon. The contract is for a five-year renewal, with one-year renewal options for the five following years.
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The MVCC is one of seven prisons within easy access for the Philipsburg area, including county facilities in Clearfield and outside Bellefonte and state facilities at Houtzdale, Rockview, Benner and Quehanna.
“But this particular facility deals with a pretty special clientele,” Thompson said. The 1,820-bed prison, houses “low-security, nonviolent criminal aliens who have 90 months or less remaining on their sentence,” according to GEO’s website.
Thompson couldn’t confirm the exact amount of the contract, but he did say the impact included $600 million in tax revenue to the community each year.
Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Stan LaFuria said the impact is even greater. There are about 260 jobs at the prison, with the average salary falling around $40,000 a year, meaning a total of $10.4 million flowing into local pockets.
“It kind of goes back to the issue of jobs,” LaFuria said. “The impact of that on our regional economy is just enormous. It would have been a huge disappointment if we had lost that.”
LaFuria said it took seven years of work for the community to bring in the prison initially. The proposal met strong opposition from then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher for several years before the doors were opened in 2006.
“We are very appreciative of the support from the community,” Thompson said. He also credited the support of other legislators, saying 12 other congressmen supported the Moshannon Valley proposal, as did U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.
“This is great news at Christmastime,” Thompson said, “especially having up to potentially 10 years of certainty.”
The facility was expanded in 2010. Thompson said additional expansion may occur as a result of the new contract but that has not been confirmed.
GEO could not be reached for comment.