'A big blow': Proposed Blackwell Job Corps closure could have significant impact on Forest CountySubmitted: 05/29/2019
Story By Lane Kimble

'A big blow': Proposed Blackwell Job Corps closure could have significant impact on Forest County
CRANDON - When major renovations came to the Crandon Off-Road Raceway in 2017, Blackwell Job Corps students helped out; a fact that isn't lost on Forest County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Mark Ferris.

"They've come from other areas. It becomes their home," Ferris said of those students.

By year's end, it's likely all of Blackwell's current students will need to find a new home. The federal government announced plans late last week to close down Blackwell and eight other civilian conservation centers (CCCs) across the country.

"It's a big blow to the town of Blackwell," Ferris said.

The facility near Laona has helped train disadvantaged kids from outside the area and state in skills and trades since 1964, while employing 54 full-time workers.

Ferris first heard the news talking with a Blackwell employee.

"[Those are] family-sustaining incomes. A big hit on our local economy," Ferris told Newswatch 12 on Wednesday afternoon.

The proposed closure comes as the U.S. Department of Labor takes over CCC control from the USDA. Spokesperson megan sweeney told Newswatch 12 in an emailed statement, "Decisions to propose deactivation of specific centers were made carefully following reviews of... performance and outcome measurements."

Ferris says the fact the federal government was considering this was news to him.

"There was nothing. And we still have yet to receive any formal notification. And that's really bothersome," Ferris said.

Ferris estimates Blackwell pumped a lot of tax and economic benefits into Forest County, in part, through its $5 million operating budget.

"A lot of money being spent by Blackwell in the county, so we have other businesses that are certainly being impacted by this," Ferris said.

Wednesday, Ferris placed calls in to Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, along with Congressman Sean Duffy. Ferris told Newswatch 12 late Wednesday afternoon he received a call back from Rep. Duffy's office. The seventh-district representative plans to contact the DOL and the USDA personally.

For its part, the USDA suggested the move helps the Forest Service "step away from programs that are not essential to our core mission," as noted by Sec. Sonny Perdue in a letter to the Department of Labor.

Ferris argues Blackwell is essential to Forest County and the dozens of employees who appear to be out of a job.

"Help those folks and hopefully get that message to the federal government that we need this facility here," Ferris said.

There may still be a chance to save Blackwell and the other centers. The Department of Labor will open the notice of suggested closures to the public for comment Thursday. The notice can be read here.

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
| Print Story | Email Story
Sponsored in part by HodagSports.com


RHINELANDER - Scammers hope to get their hands on your money and they'll try to reach you any way possible.

People from all backgrounds can fall victim to scams.

Scammers go where they can reach people, which means they spend a lot of time on social media. This puts people at risk of leaking their private information.

Many scams used to only attack the elderly and take away their golden years, but that is changing.

One law enforcement official says everyone is being attacked.

+ Read More

PRICE COUNTY - We'll never know exactly why a plane broke up in the sky over Price County, killing six people.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the accident over Catawba in July of 2017.

+ Read More

Play Video

ONEIDA COUNTY - Following a summer filled with gun violence including deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin are taking steps to end the epidemic.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - People in the Northwoods often travel a long way to get specialized healthcare not offered locally.

With the turn of a shovel Friday, Rhinelander's Aspirus Clinic moved one step closer solving that issue. A ground breaking ceremony cleared the way for a 21,000 square foot expansion.

The current facility opened in 2008 and employs 73 people within a 28,000 square foot building.

+ Read More

Play Video

WAUSAU - Wisconsin produces 90 to 95 percent of all the ginseng in the whole country. 

Ninety-five percent of that crop is grown in Marathon County, according to the Wisconsin DATCP.

+ Read More

Play Video

ELCHO - Devastating storms hit the Elcho community back in July. Many trees are still down across the region and some people worry the cleanup process isn't going fast enough.

Life may be returning to normal for some people. Others wonder if the forest debris will ever be hauled away.

"The area was out of electricity for six days," said 38-year seasonal resident Ben Merry. "All my friends and family members and so forth that are up there told me, um, they recommended me that I not come up."

The damage left by severe thunderstorms that hit on July 19 shocked residents like Ben Merry and his wife.

+ Read More

Play Video

CRANDON - The Ojibwe people want to share their culture with the people of Wisconsin.

+ Read More
+ More General News