Aiken Chamber estimates huge economic impact from SRS furloughs

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, April 4, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- The talk of Savannah River Site furloughs is now reality, and some downtown Aiken businesses are worried.

"What we've heard from our customers is that they may have to cut back a little bit. I think they're still going to shop, but they may not shop as much,” said Danny Minolfo, manager of Lionel Smith, Ltd.

As 2,500 SRS workers are reduced from 40-hour to 32-hour workweeks, Minolfo, who sells fine men’s clothes, is already planning inventory changes.

"Maybe bring in a little less,” he said. “Maybe a bigger selection but, maybe, less of it."

J. David Jameson, president of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter out to chamber members last week, which warned them on the furloughs’ overall impact.

"A lot of time people hear, 'Oh, somebody's going to move from 40 hours to 32 hours. That's pretty bad.' But they don't think. That's 20 percent of that person's salary multiplied times 2,500 people, and it begins to add up,” he told News 12.

Jameson is doing the math. He estimates the community will lose $15 million over the next two months. He says if there’s no fix soon, thing could get even worse.

"Well, what I said to our members is that when SRS has a cold, the surrounding community's have pneumonia, and I believe that to be true."

But what's the problem?

For one, Jameson says the site is facing a budget shortfall. On top of that, the sequester is bearing down, too.

"Headquarters has been asked for months to do the proper reprogramming to get the budget straightened out for Savannah River Site, and it has failed to act,” Jameson said.

Now, Congressman Joe Wilson, R-S.C., has sent another letter to the Department of Energy asking for the same thing: a quick fix to the furloughs and shortfall.

"There are funds that can be, through reprogramming, shifted around,” he told News 12.

Click here to read Wilson's letter.

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