Prison funding offers promise to long-waiting Thomson

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A decade-plus wait is closer to reality in Thomson, Illinois. That's after Thursday's announcement that more than $53 million is being released to help activate the Thomson Correctional Center.

Not far away, Stephanie Heid is getting a head start on spring planting inside the Heirloom Market and Cafe.

The onion bulbs she's sorting should promise a bountiful harvest. Prison funding, in turn, should provide a lasting economic benefit.

"We're excited," said Sarah Tyler, Heirloom Market and Cafe. "Not only just for what it can do for our business, but what it can bring for the village of Thomson."

Work on converting the Thomson Correctional Center could begin this spring. After waiting more than a decade to fully open, there's plenty to do. But the long wait could soon be over.

"Thomson is a small town, and we can use all the traffic we can get," said Jeramy Jennings, Solutions from Science.

These businesses know all about the prison's promise. Now there's hope that federal funding will make that potential a reality.

Most of the money will go for staffing and equipment. Some $10 million will get the ball rolling on renovations.

The project is expected to take about two years. It brings along the prospect of 1,100 new jobs. For the village of nearly 600 residents, it's a positive sign.

"We've been told things many different times that it's coming," said Village Clerk Jennifer Foltz. "Things are going to happen. It's really good to finally get some good news."

While they've heard it all before in Thomson, there's hope it will actually happen this time. The prison promises economic impact for a community counting on it.

"The sooner, the better for all the businesses in this area and the surrounding community as well," Tyler concluded.

Just like the onion bulbs, hoping to grow the prison economy into a bumper crop in Thomson.