Tinker Cuts Could Hurt Local Businesses
Imagine the largest employer in southeast Oklahoma County furloughing thousands of its employees starting on Friday.
That’s a very real possibility under sequestration at Tinker Air Force Base where Senator Jim Inhofe estimates 16,000 employees could lose at least one day of work every week.
This has businesses in the area concerned.
The wild weather week means it’s been a little slower at Gary Dale’s Barbecue Restaurant on southeast 29th street in Midwest City, but slow may become the norm on Friday.
General Manager Jamaal Swait says 95% of his business come from across the street at Tinker Air Force Base.
“It’s just crazy man. All I know is our lunch rush which is pretty much what we make is 75% of what we make during the day is our lunch rush, and if we don’t have a lunch rush we don’t have a business.”
It’s the same story around the corner on Midwest Boulevard.
Andy’s Liquor Store looks forward to Tinker pay day every two weeks.
But, it’ll be a different story under sequestration according to Andy’s Manager Sheldon Bolner.
“It could hit us pretty hard. Yeah, that’s a good percentage of our businesses comes from all the Tinker guys and gals coming in after work or on their way if they work the night shift because we’ll be closed afterward.”
Bolner says alcohol and eating out are luxuries.
He and the other businesses are well aware of the immediate decline in sales if Tinker employees have to tighten their belts.
“It’ll be the first time they get paid after that. If they’re losing time like that yeah, it’ll be a drop off in business and not just us, all of the strip mall area over there. They’re going to see a drop off too.”
Businesses all around the Tinker area are nervous about what next week might bring.
But even Tinker officials don’t know exactly what sequestration will mean for the base
Kenneth Lafayette, the Chief of Media Relations, says the base already started cutting back in January.
“Such as implementing a temporary civilian hiring freeze. The release of non mission critical and temporary employees. We also canceled some non mission critical traveling and limiting our supply purchases.”
Lafayette says Tinker has also looked at possibly reducing service contracts.
This could mean less business for companies like Boeing which provides engineering help to Tinker.
Oklahoma City Site Director Steve Goo says Boeing has also started cutting back on things like travel, but his goal is to be flexible in the face of possible cuts.
“The most important thing is to realize we’re supporting Tinker Air Force base and so we need to be the kind of partner that supports them well and that includes going through whatever the budget cuts might force on to them.”
Still, Goo says it likely won’t stop Boeing from growing from the current 1,300 employees to ,800 by the end of 2013.
The same can’t be said of places like Gary Dale’s Restaurant where Swait says its 12 employees’ livelihoods may depend on what Congress does.
“People’s jobs will be affected. There’s nothing to it they will be affected if we don’t have no business then that could cut it in half automatically within a month and then a month after that if it gets any worse then… lock the doors.”
Along with the possible furloughs, Senator Inhofe predicts a decrease in readiness for the Air Force, delays in flight tests and increased risk to flight operations.
He also says nearly 10,000 people could face furloughs at Oklahoma’s other military installations.