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Local contractors pinched by government shutdown


If Rosie the Riveter was real, she may have been furloughed by the federal government shutdown that entered its second week Tuesday and started impacting the private sector, including a Sonoma riveting company.

Fastening Systems International, which makes the rivets that hold together America's military machinery, is one of dozens of North Coast contractors that are starting to feel the pinch of the gridlock in Washington.

Rosie, the iconic embodiment of the American can-do spirit in the 1940s, would have been ill-equipped to work through the modern day shutdown, said company president Roger Nikkel.

"The rivets and the tools that the government buys are going to be greatly reduced," he said. "The people that purchase them have been furloughed."

Sonoma County is home to more than 200 defense contractors that sold $500 million worth of products and services to the federal government over the past decade.

Across sectors, from technology companies to weapons components manufacturers to firms that clean government buildings, North Coast-based federal contractors awaited a resolution to the budget impasse that has sent home 800,000 federal workers.

According to a national survey of 925 contractors by the National Association of Government Contractors, 29 percent say the shutdown would cause them to delay planned hiring, and 58 percent said it would have a negative effect on their businesses.

Fastening Systems International, which has been based in Sonoma since 1983 with 12 local employees, traditionally did 70 percent of its business with the federal government but has recently been diversifying its client base, Nikkel said.

"We're making contingency plans," he said. "We are trying to develop the commercial sector."

Joe Romano, owner of Santa Rosa-based Generator Joe, which sells generators and fuel tanks to U.S. embassies, the Department of Veteran's Affairs and the Defense Department, said business has been slower in the week since the shutdown started. Washington lawmakers at odds over health care and government spending have hindered business, he said.

"The phones are not ringing, that's for sure," he said. "Here we are trying to get the economy moving and now it's shut down because we are standing around arguing over petty garbage."

One place that garbage is not being generated is in Yosemite National Park which, like all national parks, has been shuttered. With no tourists in Yosemite, Santa Rosa waste company The Ratto Group, which has the contract to collect garbage in the park, will have fewer bear-proof Dumpsters to empty.

"We will pick up the garbage until they stop generating it," said Jim Salyers, vice president of the Ratto Group. "I'm sure it will be a reduced amount."

Robert Rosen, president and owner of Santa Rosa-based Remote Satellite Systems International, said he got a letter from the Justice Department saying that he is required to maintain the same level of service on his government contracts even if payment is delayed. His company supplies emergency communications systems to government agencies.

"I could have tens of thousands of dollars outstanding that I now have to worry about," he said. "There is an impact. It's a big deal."

At Petaluma laser company Raydiance, the government shutdown has some worried that payments will be delayed and projects put on hold. The company, which has 70 employees, is working with the Navy to develop ultra short laser technology, project manager Steve Jennings said.