The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 9, 2013

Businesses in military towns brace for budget hit

(Continued)

"Our business is about 90 percent military," he said. "This is a military town. It is going to affect us all. When there's a cut, people are scared to spend. I've yet to speak to anybody who thinks this is a good idea."

In Wichita Falls, Texas, beauty salon owner Angela Ward expects her customers from nearby Sheppard Air Force Base to start cutting back. The facility has about 1,200 civilian workers.

She already offers a 15 percent military discount and offers a $10 men's haircut each Tuesday. But Ward said she can't afford to lower prices further, although she knows folks will go without or cut back on luxury items and services first during tough economic times.

"They will stop coming in as much or won't have as much done at the salon in one visit," said Ward, the owner of Crazy Beautiful Salon. "And moms tell us, 'Take it shorter' for their boys because they can't afford to have it cut as often."

In addition to the employee furloughs, Pentagon officials are also weighing cuts to military contracts, training, construction and maintenance.

Alabama's Fort Rucker is the Army's primary base for training helicopter pilots. With 5,850 military personnel and another 6,328 contractors, the massive base is the economic hub for three cities outside its gates: Enterprise, Daleville and Ozark.

Susy Guzman said she already is seeing the effects of budget uncertainty reflected in fewer diners at Brasas Brazil, her family restaurant in Enterprise. The business is popular with military contractors who work as flight instructors, helicopter mechanics, maintenance workers and administrators.

"You can tell people are being cautious because there is uncertainty, they are wondering if their wallets are going to be affected," Guzman said. "It will be a snowball effect here ... first the smaller businesses, like restaurants, but then it just grows."

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