Not In My Backyard

Not In My Backyard

The Closing of SCI Cresson

Cresson Community Bank

PACB President/CEO Nick DiFrancesco meets with Cresson Community Bank President Gary Bradley.

Perched along the Allegheny Mountains, the Cresson area is no stranger to hard times. The railroad industry, coal mining, and then the steel industry all once provided good jobs for the area’s residents before slipping away.

But while Cresson – which consists of a borough and township – has a history of surviving changing economic winds, the recent news that the state prison bearing the community’s name will be closing at the end of June sent a wave of shock and concern through community.

In making the announcement in January, state corrections officials say the decision is pure economics based on Pennsylvania’s shrinking inmate population. Closing State Correctional Institution (SCI) Cresson in Cambria County and SCI Greensburg in Westmoreland County and transferring those inmates to the newly constructed SCI Benner Township in Centre County is expected to save state taxpayers $23 million in fiscal year 2013-14 and more down the road, according to the state. Some inmates will also go to another new prison, SCI Pine Grove, in Indiana County.

To some degree the impact of closing SCI Cresson is as much psychological as it is economic. On the hard numbers side, the prison employs almost 600 people, but many will likely stay in the area, at least for a while, even if they start commuting to other state prisons. Of more concern is a potential hike in water and sewer rates caused by the sudden loss of the prison’s business.

But the psychological, or emotional impact, is harder to quantify. In the wake of the prison news, area business leaders said they anticipate at least a short-term drop in housing values, sales at restaurants and local merchants could decline, and that perhaps some employers would hold off on any expansion plans because of perceived uncertainty. The hope is that the community will be able to attract another business to take over the prison site.

As it faces the challenge ahead, Cresson does have one advantage as it tries to attract new businesses and keep existing ones: A strong community bank.

Read the full article in the March issue of Transactions. Not a subscriber? Visit the Transactions page on this website or call PACB at 717-231-7447 to start receiving the magazine.