As the government shutdown continues, local and national business advocacy groups are asking both Congress and the White House to stop playing chicken with the U.S. economy.

Trade associations representing numerous businesses in York County this week sent letters to President Barack Obama and rank-and-file House members, urging them to reopen the federal government and raise the federal debt limit before the Treasury Department exhausts its borrowing power on Thursday, Oct. 17.

The National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Retail Federation told government leaders the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling are must-pass legislation to avoid substantial and enduring damage on a still-recovering economy.

Local groups echoed those thoughts.

"We do think excess government spending needs to be brought under control in all aspects. There are no sacred cows. But if we ran up a debt, we have to pay it, and we have to pay it

on time," said Bob Jensenius, vice president of the York County Economic Alliance.

The polls: As Republican and Democrat leaders met both Wednesday and Thursday to find footing on middle ground, a national poll by the Associated Press revealed 68 percent of Americans said the shutdown is a major problem for the country and about 50 percent blame both major parties.

"The national polls reflect the sentiment of the American people, and that carries through to the business community," Jensenius said.


The shutdown, debt ceiling and constant brinkmanship surrounding those federal issues prevents the business community from making intelligent decisions regarding hiring and investments, said Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania.

"It's continued nonsense. I understand the ideological arguments on both sides, but to risk the economy of this country doesn't make sense," he said.

Just 10 days into the shutdown, and a week away from the debt ceiling deadline, local manufacturers haven't yet reported a dip in sales, Smeltzer said.

"But it's like a rat passing through a snake. It takes time," he said.

Travel impact: However, the travel industry has already taken a hit.

Clients of Fox Valley Travel, 2595 S. George Street, were supposed to be visiting national parks this week.

And Omega World Travel, 2118 S. Queen St., has lost a big chunk of its business.

Based in Fairfax, Va., Omega serves both government and corporate customers, as well as several government contractors who have cut back on travel while waiting for their contracts to move forward.

The company issues tens of thousands of tickets a month to government travelers, said Joan Meagher, vice president of account management.

"The government shutdown clearly has had a domino effect for Omega. As a result we've had to furlough about 10 percent of our workforce," she said.

Omega has also reduced hours for offices that have a high volume of government business, Meagher said.

It wasn't immediately clear how the York location will be affected.

"The shutdown affects our business as a whole," she said. "Of course government contractors and government agencies are concentrated in Washington, D.C., but we have travelers, both government and corporate, working with Omega offices all over the country and worldwide, so we have to keep adjusting staffing accordingly."

Local Omega agents also plan leisure trips, including to national parks and museums that are currently closed.

Those plans have probably been disrupted, but there's little that can be done. Rules and restrictions often prevent agents from changing booked trips and packages, Meagher said.

"Travel insurance probably does not have a protection clause for government shutdown," she said.

Retailers: Like the travel industry, retailers are also worried about the effects of a government shutdown. Many local stores and chain restaurants declined comment, referring questions to their corporate headquarters. And some of those corporate headquarters responded only by saying they support comments made by the National Retail Federation.

As the holiday shopping season nears, the shutdown has depressed consumer confidence and adversely impacted consumer spending, said federation CEO Matthew Shay.

A poll shows consumer confidence is now measuring at the same low levels as the 2008 economic collapse, he said.

"A lasting decline in consumer confidence is likely to translate into increased unemployment and slower growth in the coming months," Shay said. "Washington can't keep governing from crisis to crisis and quarter to quarter."