Money well spent

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2013

As the nation enters another brief period of respite from the political push and pull related to reducing the U.S. federal deficit, defense contractors around the nation, including those right here in the area of Suffolk sometimes called “Pentagon South,” are cautiously sighing in relief that the worst of their sequestration fears did not come true.

But nobody is making the mistake of assuming there’s no need for concern. The automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that were set to take place if deficit-reduction legislation had not happened ahead of Jan. 1 have been postponed by only a couple of months, which means legislators will have to find some scarce common ground in order to save the thousands of jobs defense contractors — including those here in Suffolk — have at stake. It seems almost fanciful to imagine Congress and the president reaching a bipartisan agreement that would completely protect the Pentagon funding that pays so many of the salaries in North Suffolk’s defense corridor.

So it seems especially timely for the city of Suffolk to be working with the Virginia Regional Center for United States Joint Forces Command Workforce Transition Center to help those businesses and others find ways to branch out and look for new non-defense markets.

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The center was set up in April 2011 to help displaced workers and defense contractors recover from the command’s disestablishment. Officials say more than 3,100 former JFCOM workers have attended workshops or received other services since that time, and about $5.3 million has been returned to the local economy through job placements the center has helped procure.

The negative results from sequestration could be similar to those of disestablishment, but this time on a corporate level, as well as an individual level. Tweaking the services offered at the workforce transition center to include helping businesses reinvent themselves will keep some of those businesses from shutting down completely, and therefore will help them continue to employ local residents.

The $176,600 state grant to introduce the Hampton Roads Business Reinvention Project will be money well spent.