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Local Businesses Fear Domino Effect Of Sequestration Furloughs

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Roughly 800,000 civilian defense employees from across America are preparing to face the reality of being told to stay at home, but they're not the only ones who could end up getting hit hard by sequestration.

The massive furlough announcement made by the Pentagon on Wednesday has a lot of north Alabama business owners concerned. That's because a big part of their bottom line comes from customers who are directly connected to defense dollars, even though most of their establishments aren't.

The West End Grill in Huntsville is one such place. The popular lunch spot sits less than a mile from Redstone Arsenal and Research Park, where many local defense contractors are based. West End Grill owner Brian Ham said that for every ten of his customers, seven to eight are spending money that was earned from defense contracts and related business.

"It [sequestration furloughs] is going to take a hit on us, and many of the other local businesses as well," said Ham, who was digesting the unwelcome news from the Pentagon with his customers. "I'm really concerned because so much of our lunch and dinner business we derive from the Arsenal and a lot of the contractors in our area...It's really huge if you think about the whole trickle-down effect...If sales diminish, we'll also have to cut hours. I'm not looking to cut any of my staff personally, but it's going to affect us all. We're all going to have to tighten our purse strings."

Pentagon officials said furloughs would begin in April if sequestration does take effect. For many of Brian's customers it means a twenty percent paycut and close to one month's salary down the drain.

"I have been worried and concerned about how deeply it's going to affect us," said Ham. "I just hope everybody would try to come to some agreement that makes sense."