Economic Official Optimistic, Despite Depot Cuts, Furloughs

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MONROE COUNTY -- Although one of the region's largest employers, Tobyhanna Army Depot, announced its workforce will likely be cut and hundreds furloughed, one economic official in the Poconos is keeping an optimistic outlook.

About 800 of the more than 5,000 people who work at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna live in Monroe County.

The rest mostly call Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties home.

But recent announcements about cutbacks are sending shock waves through the Depot and have Monroe County economic officials concerned.

"When you have this kind of layoff, it has a significant impact on the region. It's something we're concerned about," said Charles Leonard, the Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation.

This week, the Depot announced the latest round of cuts.  This time, more than 400 contract workers may get laid off starting Friday.

The reason: partially because of the sequester. The sequester is the federal budget cuts, which are to blame for all Depot employees facing possible furlough days.

A furlough announcement came out two weeks ago, forcing more than 5,100 Depot employees to take 22 unpaid days off from April to September.

"In this economy, the loss of any job is a critical problem," said Leonard.

Leonard also says between the possible furloughs and layoffs, his concern is what the ripple effect will be in the county.

"I think you have businesses that are now starting to come back. This kind of blip in the economy has a significant effect in regards to that recovery," said Leonard.

But Leonard adds he's keeping an optimistic outlook for the Tobyhanna Army Depot, despite all the recent announcements of impending cuts.

"This depot has always been very successful in regard to their competitiveness, their efficiency, it's not done better anywhere in the United States.  We believe those factors will overcome what we're going through right now," said Leonard.

The first round of layoffs for contract workers is planned this Friday.

If it happens, a total of 95 contract workers will be let go.