Brushy holds ribbon cutting ceremony

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By Goose Lindsay

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary celebrated another big day Friday, as state and local leaders gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the facility.

“It’s something I can’t really put into words,” Brushy Mountain Group Vice President Brian May said. “It’s been six years and I’ve got goose bumps. I’ve got two pieces (ribbon) for me and Pete (Brushy Mountain Group President Pete Waddington) in my pocket.”

Friday’s ribbon cutting comes nearly six years after May and Waddington began working on the project with the Morgan County Economic Development Board and several state leaders including state Sen. Ken Yager and state Rep. John Mark Windle.

“We’re able to do this today because a lot of people worked together for several years,” Yager said. It’s good to be here and cut the ribbon.”

“In some instances it flew by and in some instances we wanted to cut bait and go back to Chattanooga and do something else, but we’re so glad we didn’t,” May said of the six year process. “It’s here and we’re excited that other people can see what we’ve been looking at for six years because we love it and think it’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Yager was one of those impressed with the transformation.

“It’s outstanding,” he said. “I came the day the prison was officially turned over and it’s a remarkable difference from that day to now. I would encourage people to come out and visit. It’s a great day trip for people from Morgan County and the whole region.”

Windle was also impressed with the prison’s transformation and he’s equally impressed with the impact the facility is expected to have on Morgan County.

“I’m so glad to see new jobs in Morgan County and I’m so glad to see new tourist dollars come into Morgan County,” he said. “I really appreciate the Economic Development Board and all the hard work they put in to make this a reality because we need and want jobs in Morgan County, and this is a good start.”

Windle believes Brushy’s impact will continue to grow.

“I anticipate that this project will grow into a much bigger job creator than it is now,” he said. “There are quite a few acres here. This prison is a big asset to Morgan County and I’m hopeful it can be developed to its fullest potential.”

May believes if the first few weeks of operation are any indication then Brushy has only scratched the surface of its potential.

“It’s been unbelievable,” May said of the past few weeks. “Everybody’s been complementary and it’s given us a base of people to work the bugs out. It’s not going to be perfect, but we’re getting there.

“I’d say the number of people that have been through in the last three weeks or so has been double of what we thought it would be. We haven’t done anything but post on Facebook, we haven’t run any ads, billboards or any of that stuff and we’ve still got twice the people through here we thought we’d get for a soft opening.”