Vicky Miller’s message Thursday morning was simple.
If local businesses want to get a piece of the annual operating budget of the Thomson Correctional Center, estimated to be between $38 million and $42 million when it is opened by the federal Bureau of Prisons, they must be prepared.
“You need to get ready now, because when the funds are released, you’re not going to be able to engage if you’re not prepared,” she said.
Miller is the coordinator for the Northwest Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center and will be conducting a three-part seminar next month to help Quad-City area businesses get certified and registered to bid for contracts with the federal government. She spoke to a group of about 75 businesses representatives at the i wireless Center during a morning meeting hosted by the Illinois and Iowa chambers of commerce.
Paul Rumler, executive vice president of the Illinois Quad-City Chamber of Commerce, said the federal government will be looking for local businesses to provide a wide range of goods and services at the prison, from fresh food, such as eggs, bread, poultry and dairy products, to services such as transportation and funeral services.
“They do it all there,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting was an opportunity for business people to ask questions about the bidding process and what they need to do to be prepared.
The $140 million prison was built in 2001 by the state and designed to hold 1,600 maximum-security prisoners. But due to budget constraints, the Illinois Legislature never allocated the money to fully open the prison. The prison was shut down last month in preparation for its sale to the federal government, which plans to use it as a federal penitentiary.
Miller said if the funding to open the prison is approved by Congress, the money for contracts will be available Oct. 1.
The prison is expected to create 3,800 jobs and have a local economic impact of $1 billion in the first four years, according to estimates from the Obama administration.
“We’d like to capture as much of that in the Quad-Cities as possible,” Rumler said.
Miller said businesses interested in competing for contracts at the Thomson prison need to have adequate cash flow, offer good service at competitive prices, have a business and quality-control plan, and have the Internet skills to use the federal bidding process.
Donald Carlson, owner of River City Heating and Cooling based in Sabula, Iowa, said he hopes his business can benefit from the prison opening by providing HVAC services inside the prison, as well as for residential development that will occur in the area.
“It’s going to be a huge boon for the area that has been so depressed for so long,” Carlson said.