Northern Utah economy braces for effects of shutdown
Federal government facilities see desolate parking lots and huge slowdowns Tuesday.
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Roy • With thousands of employees at the big Internal Revenue Service processing facility in Ogden and at Hill Air Force base receiving furlough notices Tuesday because of the federal government shutdown, businesses in northern Utah could be facing some hard times.

"If it lasts for awhile, the impact could be significant," said Jim Smith, president and CEO of the Davis County Chamber of Commerce about the shutdown. "It's more than just the people who are furloughed. It trickles through the economy. If they are uncertain about tomorrow's income and change their purchasing habits, it impacts everybody. I get frustrated that Congress seems to think there is no impact. This has got a huge impact on Main Street."

That impact seemed obvious at the near empty Top Stop and 7-Eleven stores located within walking distance of Ogden's IRS processing center on 12th Street, a facility that normally employs 7,000 people but appeared mostly empty Tuesday.

"It was bad this morning," said Top Stop employee Daniel Anderson. "A couple of my IRS friends said it was kind of quiet...Our biggest customers are IRS and we usually have a solid rush in the morning around 4 or 5 a.m … Today is like a Sunday."

Aldo Luna operates Paco's Mexican Food inside the Top Spot. He said business was slower than normal.

"I hope this doesn't last very long," he said. "They are going to kill me."

Getting federal employees to talk about their situation proved difficult. Asked if what appeared to be a mostly empty parking lot at the IRS center was normal, three guards at the visitor center entrance said they were forbidden to talk to the media. Asked to speak to someone who could, they shrugged, not knowing if the public affairs person had been furloughed.

A call to the Ogden IRS office resulted in a recorded message that said no one was answering phones due to the furlough.

The same situation occurred at the National Weather Service's Salt Lake City office, which was open for weather forecasts and warnings. The employee said reporters asking about the furlough were to talk to public affairs workers who had been furloughed. She then sent an 87-page web response on the furlough from the Department of Commerce.

Dave Price, an exempt Hill Air Force Base employee who took a day of leave Tuesday and emphasized he was speaking for himself, expressed frustration with the shutdown and concern for those who were getting furloughed. He said some were told to go home Tuesday and others were required to work, but will not get paid until funds are appropriated.

"There are a lot of single moms and this is the only income they've got," he said. "What does it do to the families? … I understand John Boehner doesn't like Obamacare … But this is not going change it. Shutting down the government doesn't help anybody."

Some small business owners were taking a wait-and-see approach.

"It seems like it is a little busier today for a Tuesday," said Garrett Schroeder of the Circle Inn, a pizza parlor and bar in Sunset. "There are a lot of regulars. About 40 to 50 percent of our business is dependent on the base. People are talking about it, but they haven't said that much. It's mostly about how ridiculous it is."

Ron Yeats of the No Frills Diner near the IRS facility said he hadn't noticed any change in business yet. He said about 15 percent of his business comes from IRS customers, who usually come to eat on their day off.

"It seems when they are not working, they stay home and eat more," said Dominic Sacco, a long-time produce stand owner in Roy. "I'm not feeling much yet. So far, everything is normal."

Visitors to the Hill Aerospace Museum were out of luck Tuesday. A large sign in front of a locked gate said it was closed due to the government shutdown.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton