State prison plan could threaten jobs in Bullock County

Prison plan could threaten jobs in Bullock County

BULLOCK COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - David Padgett took the wheel of the Bullock County Economic Development Authority a few weeks ago.

“I’ve got a passion for Bullock County," he said.

No easy task under any circumstances, but he admitted if the state prison here closes, this will make his job far more challenging. Gov. Kay Ivey wants to build three new mega-prisons and that could very well mean the closure of the 30-plus year old medium security prison in Bullock County. The Alabama legislature is expected to decide this spring how to pay for the super prisons.

“Could possibly double our unemployment," Padgett said.

The Bullock County Correctional Facility prison employs 200 and delivers a $10 million impact on the local economy annually.

“I don’t ever see an opportunity where we just give up," he said.

If anything David Padgett says the possible closing of the state prison is serving as wake-up call, a wake up call to diversity.

“We feel our airport is our best avenue," said Padgett.

Work is underway now to expand Franklin Field to expand the runway by 1,400 feet.

″We’ve also worked with local landowners close to the airport and they have agreed to allow to market their property as an industrial park," Padgett said.

David Padgett is convinced opportunities abound in Bullock County even though it’s not close to an interstate, a river or railroad. The Dollar General in Union Springs, for example, is said to be one of the busiest in the state; the county is also the bird dog field trial capital of the world.

“We’re not going to sit back and wait to see what happens. We’re going to take a pro-active approach," he said.

The population in Bullock County has remained fairly stagnant since 1970. But instead of seeing speed bumps in the road, David Padgett is holding on to what could be under his watch with or without the prison up the road.

Fifty miles away, Elmore County finds itself in a similar situation. DOC employs more than 500 at four state facilities.

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