North Country residents finally had a chance to hear about the jobs available when the federal prison in Berlin opens in the fall of 2010.
They also learned about the qualifications needed.
And as NHPR Correspondent Chris Jensen report, the news shattered some hopes.
Mark Belanger runs the New Hampshire Employment Security office in Berlin.
He told the crowd of about 125 that the prison alone will not revitalize the North Country’s economy.
“Is it going to result in jobs for everybody in this room? Not likely. But it is one piece of economic recovery that is very important to us.”
Federal officials say the prison will employ about 340 people when it opens in the fall of 2010.
About 210 of them will be new hires including everything from cooks and clerical workers to guards.
Guards start at almost $38,000 and hit $43,000 after two years.
That doesn’t count overtime or benefits.
But as appealing as those numbers are, they won’t be for everyone.
Cathi Litcher, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, stressed that the feds want to hire from the North Country.
But getting a job starts with two major requirements.
The first is US citizenship.
“The second one is, it is public law, Congress approved it, Congress passed it. You have to be hired prior to your 37th birthday.”
That’s because the people who work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons are considered law enforcement officers.
And they want younger workers who can handle physical chores, if necessary.
That news did not go over well.
A few people got up and left.
They included Deborah Lord of Gorham.
She was hoping for something in accounting or clerical work and didn’t think her age would matter.
“Well at 54-years-old it is like a kick in the teeth. I am not dead yet. It is very hard up here to find a job. I mean I lost my job after 22 years. “
But the doors were opening wide for younger workers like Mike
Secinore (Ses-nor-ee), 19, of Berlin.
He’ll be finishing at the White Mountains Community College just about the time hiring starts next May.
“It would be good for me. Around here that would be kind of a higher pay scale, which would be great.”
The feds predict the prison will inject about $14 million a year in salaries into the local economy. And, federal prisons generally don’t close, so the prison could provide jobs for generations.
While those new jobs are aimed at younger workers, here is what state and federal officials hope will happen.
First, older workers might get the jobs vacated by younger people who go to work at the prison.
Second, those 340 good-paying jobs will pump new money into the local economy as those people buy goods and services.
Diana Nelson works for the Berlin New Hampshire Employment Security Office. She says a report back in August showed a lot of local people already found jobs helping to build the prison.
“Of the 218 employees 78 percent of them were from Coos County, which is great. Eighty-six percent of them were from New Hampshire itself.”
The contractors have also made a lot of purchases.
About $1.9 million worth through last August.
Nelson said she is pleased with the impact so far.
“My expectations have fully been met because I see the project everyday. I know what is happening, I know they are walking into the local stores and buying local things. But for the average person who does not know that, they may not see it as much.”
On Thursday local businessmen met with Cathi Litcher, the Bureau of Prisons official, to learn about their opportunities..
Litcher said each year the prison will need about $24 milllion in supplies and services.
One of the people who hopes to benefit is Donna Goodrich. She’s one of the owners of Top Furniture in Gorham.
“We are hoping to increase our business like five to six percent.”
For NHPR News this is Chris Jensen