Virginia Peninsula Community Invited to Fort Eustis Jan. 13 to Voice Concerns About Downsizing

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The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce encouraging mass community participation to help showcase the real and devastating impact force reductions on Fort Eustis could have on the community.

Eliminating positions and downsizing jobs at the U.S. Army’s Fort Eustis would create significant, negative impact to every aspect of the Virginia Peninsula community and greater Hampton Roads, the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (VPCC) said this week.

This month, before the Department of Defense rules on where cuts should occur throughout the Army, Newport News and the Peninsula community will have a chance to tell military leadership just that.

On Tuesday, Jan. 13, residents, business leaders, employees, educators, charitable groups and more are encouraged to attend the Fort Eustis Community Listening Session from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Wylie Theater on post.

“There are potentially thousands of uniformed and civil service positions at stake here, with a huge impact on the Virginia and Hampton Roads economies,” said Retired Navy Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley, Executive Director for the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance. “It is very important that we have a good turnout at this event with crisp and specific messaging.”

The purpose and intent of the listening session is for Army leaders to reach out to local communities on potential impacts as a result of force reductions over the next several years, according to an invitation Fort Eustis officials sent out on behalf of Army Maj. Gen. Ross E. Ridge, Senior Commander – Army Element for Joint Base Langley Eustis.

The outreach is being done throughout the United States at all major Army installations to share with the public the potential direction that the Army may take and gain their valuable feedback and insights on potential impacts to the community at large.

Military personnel reduction is a real possibility as a result of sequestration and the Army’s need to reduce personnel strength from 490,000 to 450,000, and possibly as low as 420,000, to meet shrinking operating budgets. These personnel reductions would affect both military and civilian positions. Nearly all Army installations are expected to be impacted in some way.

“This is a call to action to come and speak about the significance of Fort Eustis, the importance of the military and what we have done through infrastructure upgrades and community support,” said Mike Kuhns, President and CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (VPCC).

The VPCC, a business development Chamber of Commerce, represents more than 1,400 members and 84,046 employees and the entire business community in Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, James City County and York County.

“That story needs to be told by many people to the Department of Army officials who are coming to listen. We need bankers, attorneys, accountants, civic leaders, non-profit leaders. We need them all - a broad base from the community – to come and speak…and listen.”

At a similar listening session held at Fort Eustis in 2013, Kuhns said, the community and civilian turnout was minimal.

“We were really lucky then, not suffering from many cuts, but we can’t count on our luck now,” Kuhns said.

The impacts of the reductions announced in June 2013 were partially avoided at U.S. installations, because large portions of the reductions were absorbed at overseas bases or occurred through elimination of unstructured end strength.

“The impact of cuts at Fort Eustis could be significant,” Kuhns said. “We’re not talking about a few jobs. If cuts happen at Fort Eustis, it will create an impact that can ripple throughout the community, on the Peninsula and beyond.”

The fiscal investment by localities and the Commonwealth in “our highways, schools, and other basic city services has continued to provide for the upgrading, replacement and improvement our local services,” Kuhns added. “It is a shame to waste those efforts on naught. Infrastructure, experience, and support for the Army is surpassed only by the pride we have in the United States Army, its service members and their families and our desire to return service to them.”

About The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce

The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (VPCC) serves the Cities of Newport News, Hampton and Poquoson; and James City County and York County.

VPCC is a business association that "Connects Business with Opportunity" through Facilitation, Advocacy, Communication and Education.

In addition to helping lead the business community on public policy impacting the Virginia Peninsula workforce, the VPCC hosts a series of programs, including the annual State of the City events for Newport News, Hampton and Poquoson; the Peninsula Executive Leadership Forum; Military Day, Job Fair and Recognition Luncheon; Young Entrepreneurs Academy; Pink Bag Lunches; and Business Connections, in addition to numerous business roundtables.

The VPCC is located at 21 Enterprise Parkway, Suite 100 in Hampton. For more information, call 757.262.2000 or email info(at)vpcc(dot)org.

Connect to the VPCC online at http://www.vapeninsulachamber.com and via LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.

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Stephanie Heinatz
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