Chamber watching situation at SRS

The Savannah River Site is a major economic engine for our region of South Carolina and Georgia. It is often said that when SRS has a cold, the surrounding communities have pneumonia – and I believe that’s true.

The Aiken Chamber has been following budget issues and sequestration impacts at SRS. One of the effects was that on Monday, 2,500 SRS employees – our friends and neighbors – began a furlough that reduces their work hours from 40 per week to 32 per week (or a 20 percent reduction in their pay). This will last for at least two months and is a result of $100 million being eliminated from the current SRS budget. Pending action by Congress and reprogramming requests to the Department of Energy headquarters could reduce the longevity of the furloughs, but the depth of future cuts is uncertain. What will happen is anybody’s guess.

So what is the impact of this current furlough? Using data from an Economic Impact Study conducted by the SRS Community Reuse Organization in 2011, and by applying that data to the reduction in payroll and using simple math, our region will lose $15 million (salaries times the multiplier effect) over the next two months. Consider the impact to our economy if this is prolonged or if the cuts go deeper. Based on available employment data, one-half of the SRS workforce live in Aiken County; therefore, it is a reasonable conclusion that half of the economic impact will be felt in Aiken County.

Will this be the “new normal” at SRS? This is a question that the Aiken Chamber continues to ask and to seek answers to.

J. David Jameson

President and CEO

Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce