Possible sequestration cuts at MacDill worries local businesses

7:29 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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With help from our partners at USA Today, 10 News has learned close to a $100 million in contracting work will be cancelled or delayed in Florida. Of that, $20 million would be felt in and around MacDill alone.
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MacDill AFB, Florida -- For weeks there's been speculation about just how bad it could get; how deep the cuts would be at MacDill Air Force Base if there's no deal reached in Washington and sequestration kicks in.

10 News now has the numbers, and the numbers have local business leaders nervous.

The just released figures are so new, that base commanders were asking us for a peek at which projects at MacDill would be put on hold if no deal is reached in Washington.

In short, it's not good.

The delay or suspension of several major projects will directly impact thousands of people and indirectly a lot more than that.

How is that affecting people on the base?

If anyone can gauge the current sentiment on the base, it may be Allan Ackerman.

As a volunteer with MacDill's marketing department, Ackerman collects comment cards left at two dozen kiosks around the base.

He says the feeling is clearly tense, with sequestration cuts looming.

"And we know that there are people that are very concerned about their positions. And rightfully so," he said.

If Congress and the president can't reach a deal by March 1, the automatic cuts will be deep and painful.

With help from our partners at USA Today, 10 News has learned close to a $100 million in contracting work will be cancelled or delayed in Florida. Of that, $20 million would be felt in and around MacDill alone. Most of it would come in the form of construction and road projects affecting as many as 2,000 workers.

"I think everybody's bracing for impact," said Teresa Foss with the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

She worries the ripple effect could deal a devastating blow to the local economy.

She foresees contractors forced to scale back, "not only having to lay folks off, but possibly ending up closing their business".

Even small businesses that have no direct connection to the government contracts are worried, because they provide services to those who do.

From dry cleaners to restaurants, like Kojak's Barbecue in South Tampa, businesses say it could take a big bite out of their bottom line.

"You know a lot of our business comes directly from the base whether it's general contractors or the military themselves," said Phillip Angelo, Kojak's manager.

And there's additional concern that, if lost, the jobs lost might not come back. Projects may be postponed indefinitely. Employers could put-off re-hiring at least until the financial impact of the temporary cutbacks can be recouped.

"We're all just waiting to see what happens," said Foss.

And that's an uneasy feeling considering Congress's recent track record when it comes to deal-making.

There is still hope an agreement can be reached, but we now that without it, our area will undoubtedly feel the impact of the defense spending cuts.

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

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