In September, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business released the results of a survey of 800 small-business owners and manufacturers.
The organizations said 67 percent of respondents weren't willing to expand or hire new workers because there was too much uncertainty in the economy. And 55 percent said they would not have been willing to start a business at the time.
"It's safe to say the business community is operating cautiously today, but particularly in Hampton Roads, because of what we call the fiscal cliff," said Jack A. Hornbeck Jr., president of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.
Nearly half of the local economy is based on Department of Defense spending. If automatic spending cuts set to begin in January are not averted, this spells trouble for the region.
"You can't go very far into the economy of Hampton Roads" without finding somebody "affected in one way or another by DOD spending, directly or indirectly," Hornbeck said.
Bruce Thompson, CEO of Gold Key -- PHR Hotels and Resorts, sent a letter to his employees before the election warning them that Obama's re-election would bring about significant changes for the company that would "curtail or discontinue our plans for the future."
On Thursday, Thompson said his company has $130 million in projects under construction and $150 million planned for the future. He said he is putting the future projects on hold until he feels more confident.
"I'm not sure I'm as bullish on the region until some of these issues are settled," Thompson said of the health care law, sequestration, and possible changes in the tax code.
In Hampton Roads, as elsewhere, plenty of businesses still are investing.
The owners of Mannino's Italian Bistro weren't dissuaded by economic or political uncertainty when they decided to open a third location, in Portsmouth, earlier this year. The group opened its first restaurant in Virginia Beach about five years ago and launched a second in the Beach about a year later.
"We hoped that when the economy finally starts picking back up, we'll have a good, strong hold in the restaurant business over here," John Mannino, co-owner of the company, said recently from the Portsmouth location.
When the group of owners first came together, they originally planned to open a new restaurant every year, Mannino said. Their pace has slowed somewhat, but the group still plans to push ahead and aggressively expand their chain.
Gary Lisota, CEO of Beach-based defense contractor Valkyrie Enterprises LLC, also has found ways to expand.
His company, which provides a range of technical services, grew from 37 employees in 2007 to about 200. Valkyrie now has offices in 14 cities, and Lisota said the company would have been even larger had three attempts to buy other businesses not fallen through.
"I grew this company in the recession," Lisota said. "Even though there have been headwinds relative to a larger national economic picture, we've gone ahead and made major investments."
Lisota made some of those investments before the specter of sequestration began to haunt his dreams. If Congress doesn't act soon, automatic cuts to the
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