By: Ken Kalthoff

NBC 5 Dallas – Fort Worth

Deep U.S. defense budget cuts could hit North Texas hard according to local officials and businesses that depend on the federal money.

Tarrant County alone received around $11 billion in defense contractor spending in 2011 according to the Fort Worth Star -Telegram.

Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter employ around 20,000 people in Fort Worth.defense-contractor-lead-nurturing1

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said the city is bracing for job reductions that will surely be the result of federal budget cuts.

“We have thousands of federal employees, and the city receives a lot of federal grants in transportation and housing,” she said. “Obviously the federal government’s got to be fiscally responsible. We hope the cuts are very strategically made, not just flat across the board.”

Beyond the direct jobs with defense contractors, there is a trickle down effect from the federal money.

Auto upholstery business, Cal’s Top Shop, is right outside the Fort Worth Lockheed plant. It caters to plant employees, but also makes cockpit covers for Lockheed’s F-35 fighters.

“Every time they come in and buy something from us, we buy something from somebody else and it just keeps on rolling,” said shop owner Cal Draper.

He knows the federal budget cuts would be a severe blow to his business.

“I understand they need to make cuts, but they need to be careful how they cut it and not hurt the small businesses because small business is the backbone of the country, always has been and hopefully always will be,” Draper said.

Congress delayed decisions on the spending cuts for two months but because the tax hike which was approved was smaller than President Barack Obama wanted, the budget cuts may have to be larger than he requested.

Lockheed and Bell have contracts in place for current work which could delay the impact of reductions on the local workforce.

Mayor Price said the strong North Texas economy may also lessen the impact here.

“And hopefully our economy is very strong and any cuts we can make up in the private sector,” she said.

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