Local Business Owners React to Prison Reopening

“My initial reaction was shock,” said Fabric Peddler Owner and Lake County Chamber of Commerce President LeeAnn Russell.

Baldwin business owners were surprised to hear GEO North Lake Correctional Facility is expected to reopen.

“But again, it’s just too many questions of ‘Will you stay open? And why did you always close?’”

She says the first time the prison opened, it was a good thing for the area economy.

“Initially when the prison opened, a lot people were employed of course. And people were buying homes, they were moving to the area.”

But skepticism grew the second time around, and businesses didn’t see a lasting impact.

“And then all of a sudden the business opened again, and when new employees started to come to the area, they weren’t coming here looking to stay here. They would rent, they would drive from home, wherever they lived to be employed.”

So now, people here are hopeful. But still skeptical, because there are so many unknowns.

“I think it would help pick up business. We of course would have orders coming in from the guards and the staff that works there.”

But still, Ronette Hanna would love to see the increase in traffic in her restaurant — a business that always sees ups and downs.

“It would help the waitresses with wages and what they make off tips. And right now it’s our slow season so in the summer when it’d pick up it’d help support the families. I’m excited it would be nice to have the extra business around the area and for here. And It employs quite a few people so it would be great.”

“Maybe third time is a charm, you know? It’s possible,” Russell said.