2009-02-18 / Front Page

COMBINED ANNUAL PAYROLL $21.9 MILLION MTC employs 1,063 people at 2-Willacy County facilities

By Paul Whitworth

In recent days we have made an attempt to determine the economic impact of the prison industry in Willacy County.

This week we heard from Carl Stuart of MTC Corporation concerning the two facilities his company operates in our county. MTC Corp is headquartered in Centerville, Utah and they operate prisons in Ohio, Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

In Raymondville MTC runs the 500-bed medium/ maximum security private prison that houses inmates from the United States Marshall's Office.

Ramon Rodriguez is the warden of this facility and he says it is running at 100 percent occupancy. More than 50 percent of the people who work at the facility are from Willacy County, the warden reports.

Last year in 2008 the 500- bed unit paid $7.5 million in local salaries to their 213 employees. The facility opened in 2004 and has paid more than $7 million in salaries for each of the past 5 years.

In 2008 this prison paid Willacy County $391,402 in fees and $17,659 in property taxes. MTC spent $2.9 million for equipment, services and supplies for the facility last year, much of it in Raymondville.

The company provides hot meals for the county jail inmates at no cost and has saved the county $276,515 over the past 5 years. And, as a public service, MTC has provided $10,000 in local scholarships since January, 2004.

MTC also operates a 3,000- bed illegal alien detention center in Raymondville housing detainees from ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) awaiting deportation hearings.

It takes 850 full time employees to run the bigger facility and in 2008 they were paid $14.5 million in salaries.

Last year this unit paid Willacy County $1.2 million in fees in its third year of operation. And in 2008 the detention center bought $4 million in supplies, equipment and services, much of it in Raymondville.

Like its 500-bed sister facility, the 3,000-bed detention center also provides $10,000 each year for college scholarships for local high school seniors.

So there you have it. ---- MTC provides these benefits to Willacy County each year. * 1,063 full time jobs * $17,659 in property taxes paid * $21.9 million in salaries paid * $1.6 million in fees paid to the county. * $20,000 in scholarships to local students * Hot meals for county jail inmates.

Before the prisons came to our county we had Fruit of the Loom and Indiana Mills sewing plants. Together they never generated more than 400 minimum wage jobs. When they departed to Mexico in search of cheaper workers, our county began recruiting help from the prison system.

Prisons are good neighbors. They don't pollute and they are permanent jobs that we can count on in the future. It is doubtful that we would have 3 new hotels in our community without the traffic the prison brings to town, or that we would see the new doctors offices and the new middle school construction.

We did not include Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) in this article because we don't yet have the correct information. But, its safe to say that the 3 facilities together represent a $30 million payroll. Unfortunately almost half of the 1,063 workers live in other parts of the Valley.

As we grow stronger economically, and provide more housing and purge our community of grafitti, many of these folks will eventually want to move here. More people with good jobs will eventually mean more retail stores and a better community.

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