Department of Defense could profoundly affect the military-dependent local
economy and contractors like Valkyrie.
"I've had a lot of sleepless nights over the last six, nine months over sequestration," Lisota said. "Many times I think about ... these accolades (his company has received) and all this growth, but we could end up going bankrupt next year."
Lisota said the most recent acquisition effort he worked on for nearly a year cost the company $130,000 and left him weary. But he said he'll jump back into trying to acquire another company after the first of the year, while holding out hope that Obama and Congress can work together to avert automatic spending cuts.
"Standing on the curb and watching the traffic go by isn't the way to run a business," Lisota said. "You've got to get out in traffic and make your own luck -- even in hard times."
On a larger scale, Stihl Inc. abides by a similar philosophy.
The Beach-based manufacturer of hand-held power equipment has continually reinvested in the business, with the exception of a slowdown in 2009, said Bjoern Fischer, vice president of finance.
In August, the German-owned company opened a 55,000-square-foot addition to its accessories building, which cost $10.3 million. Stihl planned to hire 52 workers to staff the building. Stihl abides by a model of conservative and consistent growth, so executives do not react to periods of uncertainty, Fischer said.
Still, the company would be larger today if not for the recession, he said. It employed 2,325 workers in 2008, but it has 2,092 this year. The reduction came through attrition and a drop in the number of temporary workers.
Win, lose or draw?
Economists and business owners agree that the recovery will pick up steam when the fog of uncertainty burns off.
They disagree on exactly when that will happen and what it will take.
Lisota said a win by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have unleashed the "economic power that's sitting on the sidelines right now," but on the other hand, "just having some certainty as to what the future holds ... might make people breathe a little bit easier."
The election wasn't enough of a salve for investors, at least not initially.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.4 percent on Wednesday, which was the fifth-worst one-day drop following a U.S. presidential election, The Washington Post reported. After another drop on Thursday, the stock market regained some of its losses on Friday.
Investors reportedly are looking ahead to the fiscal cliff and all that's riding on a compromise.
"We've had a Congress and the president not working well together," said Vlattas, the architectural firm executive. "Is that going to change now? I'm uncertain about that."
It has to change, or the recovery may falter, economists said.
Koch of ODU said the lame-duck Congress needs to work quickly to develop "some kind of grand bargain" before automatic spending cuts take effect.
Conciliatory rhetoric from Obama and House Speaker John Boehner following the election gave Koch hope that an agreement finally can be reached.
"Until action is taken to specifically deal with sequestration, the uncertainty will remain," said Greg Grootendorst, chief economist for the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. "Perhaps the worst thing that can happen is this continued uncertainty."
When asked after the election if he feels any more certain about the future, Barlow, of Frank's Trucking Center, said, "Not yet."
He'll keep saving his money, he said, until he's certain any investment would yield a return.
"If the economy goes in the tank," Barlow said, "I have to use it to pay my bills."
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