Editorial: Great Smoky Mountains Association can't recoup losses

Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:59 PM

Many businesses and organizations felt the pain of the recent partial shutdown of the federal government.

Hotels, cabin rental companies, restaurants and tour guides were especially hurt by the closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Thursday afternoon the Great Smoky Mountains Association, which runs the park's stores and raises funds for the park's annual educational programs, released its final estimates of losses it faced thanks to the dreadful 15 days, Oct. 1 through Oct. 15.

GSMA Executive Director Terry Maddox estimated that the group lost over $550,000 in revenue during the shutdown, a number he says the association won't be able to make up.

Losing money at at the rate it was, the GSMA was forced to lay off 45 workers of its 70 workers during the time period. Though they may have taken unemployment benefits over that time, those workers will never see those wages — the employees of the private business, unlike federal workers, will not see back pay for furloughed time.

Two of the association's laid off workers went on to other employment during the time, and one is likely lost permanently.

What's more, the group, which donated $1.9 million for park programs last year, will likely have less to give with a sizable chunk of missing funds from this year's revenue sheet.

"The ultimate loser is going to be the park," Maddox said. "(Donations from GSMA) will be significantly less. They're working on revising what they've asked us to do (financially)."

The park has allowed the association to keep its stores open an hour later, until 7 p.m., through Nov. 2, hoping that will increase revenue for the organization.

Perhaps that will make time for area citizens to venture into the park for some pre-holiday shopping. 

A great way to support GSMA is by spending money at one of the park's seven official stores, which GSMA operates.

It may be a small gesture, but in a time like this, every little bit helps.