About 30 percent of employees in Palestine work for one of five organizations or businesses, according to the 2017 figures from the Palestine Economic Development.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, with five prisons, easily is the largest employer in Anderson County. The prisons have 2,645 employees in its five prisons, which is 77 less than last year.
Businesses may close or downsize, but the Texas criminal justice system must stay open, making it easily the biggest employer in Anderson County.
Tom Manskey, director of the Palestine Economic Development, said there is no way to track how many prison employees live in Palestine. Manskey added that he sees detention officers in uniform in the stores and restaurants within the city, so he knows they are having an impact.
When times are bad and people are struggling, there tends to be more crime that leads to more individuals being incarcerated. However, when times are good, the crime rate usually drops, as does the prison population.
Among the Anderson County prisons: the Michael Unit has 697 employees, Coffield has 751 employees, Beto employs 537, Gurney has 417 workers and 243 employees work at the Powledge Unit.
Grouping all the prisons together in Anderson County, it is the second-largest prison in the state. The prisons started being built in the county in the 1980s.
“Crimes are not going away,” Manskey said in explaining why the prisons are the top employer in the county.
While the prisons are the largest employer, a distant second are the two Wal-Mart Distribution plants with 1,385 employees combined. The plants serve numerous Wal-Mart stores in Texas.
The larger of the two Wal-Mart distribution plants on South Highway 79 has 882 employees compared to the 739 it had in 2016.
Manskey said the increased number of workers at the Highway 79 plant could be that the plant is now serving more stores. The plant told the city this was the intention.
The smaller Wal-Mart Distribution plant on Elkhart Road decreased by 10 employees, going from 519 to 509.
Sanderson Farms employs 1,376 people in its two Palestine plants, which is 301 more than the 2016 number.
Manskey said when Sanderson Farms moved to Palestine and Anderson County, it anticipated having 1,100 employees working for the poultry plant.
Manskey did not want to speculate on why the plants are employing 275 more workers than what was expected, except to say increased business probably is a reason.
There is a big drop off of employees after Sanderson Farms, as the Palestine Regional Hospital employs 509 individuals and 500 more work for the Palestine Independent School District to round out the top five employers in the county.
The city of Palestine, from last year, added 24 additional employees, going from 187 in 2016 to 211 in August 2017, while the county's work force decreased from 258 last year to 206 this year.
The Results Company, a call center, increased in employees from 150 to 170, and plans to hire 120 workers in September and another 90 in October.
Manskey said the city is not putting all of their eggs into one basket when it comes to bringing employers into the community.
“We didn't see any drops among top employers, which is good,” he said. “Employees here stayed pretty consistent.”
He said every employee, whether they work at the prison or a fast-food restaurant, pays taxes in one way or another, which benefits both the city and county tax coffers.
And more large businesses could be on the way.
Manskey said the city is in the running for an undisclosed trucking company that could bring 30 or more jobs to the community.
This potential business, which is looking at other communities in addition to Palestine, wants to remain confidential right now. Manskey had given them the moniker of Project Star.