Federal shutdown could impact thousands of private contractors

TYSONS CORNER, Va. – If the federal government shuts down, federal workers aren’t the only ones who will worry about their jobs. Thousands of people who work for small businesses with huge federal contracts could also be affected.

A shutdown could be crucial for the economy in the region’s largest jurisdiction, Fairfax County, which has more than 4,100 government contractors who take in $26 billion worth of business each year.

Most businesses will not have to lay people off immediately if there is a government shutdown. But Moe Jafari, who runs Human Touch, an IT company in Tysons Corner, says the possibility of a shutdown is bad for morale for his 150 employees.

“One gentlemen said the last time this happened, [he] had a heart attack,” Jafari says.

“Right now, they’re reading and they’re feeling that with the government shutdown, they have no jobs right now,” he says.

Jafari says isn’t planning any layoffs. Neither is Ed Jesson, CEO of OBX-Tek. His Tysons-based company, which also handles IT for the federal government, has about 200 employees and $30 million in contracts. One contract just started.

“We’d probably end up giving employees that are affected two or three weeks notice,” Jesson says. “If that happens, they would be laid off, not fired so they could be brought back fast.”

Jesson recently returned from England, where he tried to convince British businessmen to start up companies in Fairfax County. He says the pending government shutdown made that a hard sell.

Both businessmen say they expect, in the long run, that Congress and the President will make a deal. But Jafari has one message for them: “Get it done.”

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