HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) - The Navy announced in February it would be moving three large, locally-based ships to Mayport, Florida by 2014. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission released a report on June 20 that stated the loss of the ships and the jobs associated with those vessels represent less than one percent of Hampton Roads' economy.
"Moving up that loss a year ahead of schedule kind of hits us while we're down so to speak," Hampton Roads Planning District Commission chief economist Greg Grootendorst said.
Greg Grootendorst says a sagging economy has already cost this region a lot of jobs. Now, Hampton Roads is about to lose even more jobs. Leaving with the ships are more than 5,000 jobs and almost $600 million from the region's annual gross product.
"We lose the direct employment of all the crew that are aboard the ships but then we also lose a lot of direct investment," Grootendorst said.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the transfer of ships will bring $75 million in maintenance and repair work to Mayport.
The Navy says the move is being done for the purpose of "strategic dispersal" to insure the security of the Atlantic Fleet.
"You can call it what you want to call it," retired admiral Fred Metz said. "It's to make sure Mayport is a viable base."
Metz understands the importance of the Mayport base to the Navy but isn't sure local leaders understand how significant the loss of these three ships will be to Hampton Roads, especially factoring in the Navy's plans to station 60 percent of the fleet in the Pacific.
"Three or four years ago when Ford Motor Company was leaving, the world was coming to an end," Metz said. "When Joint Forces Command was going away the world was going to come to an end. This is a lot bigger than all those together."
Gootendorst said the effects of the transport away from Hampton Roads is unpredictable.
"If we don't know exactly what's going to take place, if we don't know what's coming out of Washington than it's kind of difficult to look ahead and say we know exactly what's coming and there for we're threatened by basically the unknown," Gootendorst said.
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