Norfolk, Va. - 40,000 workers employed by more than 200 local companies - they are the heart of the Virginia ship repair industry that annually pumps $5 billion dollars into the Hampton Roads economy.
That industry is what is on the chopping block in just eleven days time, if Congress doesn't pass a defense budget and the Navy cuts $271 million from their Norfolk ship repair budget.
“I think there is a great deal of anticipation and concern, because if it does end up happening, it would be devastating, and in many cases, irreversible,” said Bill Crow, president of the Virginia Ship Repair Association.
Crow, a former Navy captain who served as the commanding officer of Little Creek Amphibious Base, says the major shipyards in the area will survive the cuts, but the ship repair industry they rely on would be severely affected.
“You've got your contractors, you've got your sub-contractors, you've got your suppliers,” said Crow. “Those small businesses might not be able to remain intact during the time of the cuts, and may end up going out of business.”
No one can determine yet how many jobs will be impacted, but top Navy brass say they will alert shipyards and contractors on February 15th that maintenance on 10 local ships will not be done, starting in April.
According to the WARN act, companies have to give employees 60 days notice of a possible layoff, which would force them to act quickly to alert those affected.
“There will probably be layoffs,” said Crow. “A loss of money that would be infused into the area, then go out into the local economy.”
That means impacts on home sales, car sales and retail sales - everything that drives the economy and fuels other jobs.
It’s a ripple effect that will take a long time for Hampton Roads to recover from.
“We will always have a Navy, so we cannot afford to sacrifice that industrial base,” said Crow.