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Chamber of Commerce Holds Panel on Defense Cuts’ Effects in VA - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Chamber of Commerce Holds Panel on Defense Cuts’ Effects in VA

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Virginia, more than any other state, benefits from Pentagon dollars. In fiscal year 2009, this state received 10.8 percent of all federal defense spending.

And while northern Virginia and the Norfolk area account for most of that, defense jobs across central Virginia are a critical economic lever, and something that has helped cushion the state from the recession.

One estimate says Charlottesville and Albemarle County could lose $46.5 million in defense spending if we fall off the fiscal cliff. The deadline for that is just 20 days away.

Washington insiders such as Mike Ferrell, with Williams Mullen Federal Government Relations, warn central Virginia to brace for the fiscal cliff fallout here at home.

"There's a Grinch out there who could steal all the presents from this community and others if people aren't aware and act to preserve and protect what they've got," said Ferrell.

The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce invited a panel of strategists, lobbyists, and a former assistant defense secretary to help prepare the business community for federal cuts to defense agencies and contractors.

"We want to make sure they have all the support we could possibly provide them," said Valerie Long, the chamber's incoming president.

The panel calls the 10 percent sequestration cuts across the board "unprecedented."

A report by a conservative-leaning group estimates Albemarle County would lose $43.2 million starting next year, and Charlottesville could lose $3.2 million.

"We're at a time when we're at a precipice and things will change one way or another," said Chris Kelley Cimko, president of Cimko Strategies.

Cimko advised the pentagon on a series of base realignment and closure (BRAC) plans. She says central Virginia could benefit from sequestration's effects elsewhere, crediting fairly new high-tech intelligence facilities like Rivanna Station.

"I would recommend Charlottesville could be a receiver. Don't start closing things down, but realign things into Charlottesville," said Cimko.

"If the decision is made to make realignments and move people around, we certainly think that Charlottesville-Albemarle would be the wonderful community to bring them to," said Long.

Ferrell is encouraging everyone to keep a close eye on Capitol Hill.

"It's tense…This is like a wave rolling in," said Ferrell.

The fiscal cliff deadline isn't the end of potential funding cuts from Washington. Panelists say communities should prepare for another round of BRAC cuts in 2015. They're urging chamber business members to lobby lawmakers to avoid sequestration.

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