Sequestration already having local effect

Local ship repair companies preparing to lose workers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - While automatic federal budget cuts called sequestration technically don't kick in until Friday, they are already having an effect locally.

Private companies like those that do ship repair say they are preparing to lose work and people.

CTI, a company on the Southside that does logistics and data work for each Navy base in Duval County, is about lay off 34 workers because of Navy cuts. The company president says the cuts aren't taking long to hit home.

"Because of this, there is good, hardworking people -- these guys are not numbers, they are my family," CTI president Christopher Imbach said. "And they have given taxpayers 100 percent for many, many years, and they are going to be out of a job tomorrow. And they are faces, they are not numbers. They are faces to these decisions made by lawmakers."

Nearly 300 ship repair personnel are awaiting word at what will happen at Mayport. Last year in Jacksonville there were 10 Navy ships being repaired. This year that number dropped to two, and one of those could be lost to the latest cuts.

Mike McGrath, of the Jacksonville Area Ship Repair Association, says those cuts are hurting the smaller companies.

"Yeah, they had to make some layoffs," McGrath said. "They are trying to stretch out their work, shorten the work weeks so they have some income coming. But how long can you do that?"

If what the governor said Wednesday about losing three ships scheduled to come to Mayport becomes reality, millions of dollars would be lost to the community, and jobs could become scarce.

"Sequestration does not make any sense," Gov. Rick Scott said during a stop in Jacksonville on Thursday. "The president and Congress need to get together. They need to do their job so we don't lose jobs for Florida families."

The governor would not talk specifically about those ships, and he said the information came from his staff in Washington D.C. Standing next to the governor was Retired Adm. Vic Guillory, who heads up Jacksonville's Military Affairs.

"As for the amphibious ready group coming, I believe that decision has not been made," Guillory said.

It's that lack of information that is hurting the local ship repair businesses, because as there are more delays and rumors, the skilled workers are leaving town to get jobs.

"They have to work somewhere. They have to," McGrath said. "Our concern is when the work comes, how do we get that expertise back into northeast Florida?"

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