Businesses hope to bounce back from JFCOM

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, August 4, 2011

The fate of the U.S. Joint Forces Command now is sealed, but the effect of its disestablishment on surrounding organizations and businesses is still unknown.

But Suffolk officials and nearby businesses are optimistic they can bounce back.

“We’re hopeful,” said Suffolk City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn. “The assets that we have here, that’s where we see the future. This is just part of the process.”

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After a year of uncertainty and political bargaining, JFCOM was officially disestablished in a ceremony held at the Suffolk facility Thursday.

The command has provided business and contracts to several other companies who call North Suffolk home.

Just down the road from the Suffolk facility, the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center has completed work for JFCOM and even had a group of employees who specifically completed work for the command.

VMASC executive director John Sokolowski said he thinks the impact of the disestablishment on the facility will be minimal.

“There’s some impact on us, but several years ago, we diversified into multiple areas of modeling and simulation,” he said. “That certainly minimized the impact.”

Of the 14 technical service employees at VMASC working full time to serve JFCOM, three will remain, Sokolowski said.

But he added the center is looking to make up those losses by hiring more researchers.

Sokolowski said he thinks the disestablishment will ultimately benefit VMASC.

“I certainly think it’s a positive thing because there’s now recognition modeling and simulation can be used in other areas,” he said.

Suffolk City Councilman Michael Duman agreed.

“There’s many more applications than just military applications,” he said. “It can be used in health, transportation, and will continue to evolve, so modeling and simulation will involve just about every area of our lives.”

While many companies have served JFCOM through contract work, River Stone Chophouse has provided a different service for the command employees.

Chophouse manager Terri Truitt said the restaurant has had a constant clientele of JFCOM workers and hosted several retirement parties and other special occasions for the command’s employees.

She said she doesn’t think the disestablishment will have a great impact on the restaurant’s business.

“It hasn’t affected us as of yet,” Truitt said. “We have a huge following; we’re hoping our following will carry us through.”

She said the restaurant serves guests from the Riverfront and Harbour View neighborhoods as well as areas on Bridge Road and in Carrollton and Smithfield.

“We’re standing strong,” Truitt said.

She added she thinks a new organization will move into the command’s buildings soon.

Mayor Linda Johnson also said she is confident the buildings won’t stay empty for long.

“These buildings are going to be backfilled,” she said. “I think we’re going to have a great future with the military.”

The command took up residence in the Suffolk facility in 1999 when U.S. Atlantic Command became USJFCOM.

JFCOM has played a major role in homeland security since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Last August, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates suggested the command be shut down as a cost-cutting measure, a proposal that was approved by President Barack Obama in January.

Eventually, a full closure of the facility was adverted, but the disestablishment still cuts thousands of jobs.

About 1,900 former JFCOM employees will remain in Hampton Roads, with about 1,000 of them staying in Suffolk and the rest in Norfolk.