Onondaga Feels Impact of Highfields Layoffs

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

In a community with just a handful of businesses, layoffs have a way of affecting most everyone. Highfields, an Onondaga youth treatment center, laid off 71 employees this past week -- and area businesses are feeling the impact.

"All those 71 people buy gas at the party store, buy lunches in town," resident Amy Winright said.

Peg Clone and her husband are among the people Highfields workers were buying gas and lunches from. They own a gas station, a pizza shop, and the country store in Onondaga.

"It's going to cut into our business a lot," Clone said.

A bar owner down the street says he lost 30 percent of his business since the Highfields employees found themselves out of a job.

Business at Clone's Country Store is already hurting, too.

"We've been at the store twenty years and we've never seen an impact so great," Clone said.

Business owners say they were already feeling the problems at Highfields before the layoffs. They say the kids living at Highfields were customers, too.

"They bring the kids down -- buy them ice cream, pop, chips," Clone said.

Highfields is about a mile and a half down Old Plank Road from the center of Onondaga. People we spoke with say Highfields is woven into the fabric of this tightly-knit town. Winright has been living in Onondaga for more than 25 years.

"On a Friday night it's nothing to go to a bar and ... see half of the people there from Highfields, wearing Highfields shirts," Winright said.

Many of the people we spoke with today say Ingham county and the state were too quick to pull kids out of Highfields. That move led to the layoffs. The center's residential program is currently empty.

With half of the Highfields' workforce out of a job for the time being, Winright says something's missing from the town.

Something she and others would like to see put back in place.

"Get everybody back at work and keep our community as it is," Winright said.

Judges and Highfields board members met several times this past week to work toward re-opening the center's residential program.

The board has about a month to present a plan for change to the judges.

-- in Onondaga, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.


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