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Government Shutdown Could Impact NWA Industry

Thousands of Federal government employees in Northwest Arkansas are facing furloughs if Congress can't agree on a spending bill, and the uncertainty in Washington could mean trouble for local industry too.
Northwest Arkansas - Thousands of Federal government employees in Northwest Arkansas are facing furloughs if Congress can't agree on a spending bill, and the uncertainty in Washington could mean trouble for local industry too.

Kathy Deck, the Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas says the looming shutdown could cost as many as 2,300 local jobs.

"If we were talking about losing 2,300 jobs in any other sector we would be screaming and yelling," she says. "Obviously these jobs won't go forever, but it's a big percentage to think about... It's very dangerous, I think, to play with the economy as your bargaining chip, because, in fact, it's not just some abstract thing. These are people's lives."

Deck says the furloughs would hurt small businesses, but an extended shutdown would take a toll on Northwest Arkansas' biggest companies too.

"When consumer confidence suffers, very important industry to Arkansas suffers," she says. "The retail sector suffers. The transportation sector suffers. Consumers hunker down, because they really aren't sure what tomorrow will bring."

The post office will stay open, and social security checks will still go out, but new enrollment will halt and federal loans and research grants will also be harder to obtain.

"These are important things that we do as a government," Deck says. "The reason we have a government is to provide for the common welfare, and they got hurt last time and they'll be hurt this time as well."

A shutdown will also be costly to taxpayers, government agencies are wasting time working on contingency plans instead of continuing day to day work, and it will take time and money to get offices back up and running.

"These folks that work for the federal government have jobs, they do something," Deck says. "Whatever they were doing is going to come to a screeching halt, and you can't just always pick up where you left off... getting things back up and running will cost us, more than we wish we'd spent."
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