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Business owners worry over loss of command

As they considered the news on Monday of the potential loss of U.S. Joint Forces Command, area businesspeople considered the likelihood that losing the facility in Suffolk would have harshly negative effect on their businesses.

“At least 75 percent of our lunch customers are from Joint Forces,” said Teresa Cutchin, who works at the Subway restaurant around the corner from the center. “If it closes it’s bad news for us. I can’t imagine what would happen. We’d be lost. They’re nice people. You see the uniforms and suits come in every day.”

Cutchin teared up while answering questions about the impact the closing of the center would have.

The command, which has a branch in Suffolk, is the largest employer and corporate tenant in Suffolk. Defense Secretary Robert Gates would like to close it to help cut the U.S. defense budget.

Carmela Basile, owner of Bella Napoli, also located near Joint Forces, echoed Cutchin.

“A lot of people work there,” Basile said. “Forty percent of our lunch crowd probably comes from them. It would be bad for us. It would be bad for a lot of people around here.”

John King, who owns three area Firehouse Subs, one of which is across the street from the center, said his situation would be similar.

“They are a huge part of our daily lunch business,” King said. “We support our military, and in turn they support us every day. Joint Forces is our primary lunch business, and lunches make up 60 percent of our business. We know when their lunch is. The floodgates just open.”

King opened his North Suffolk branch in April 2008 due to the growth in the area, and he says Joint Forces has a big role in that growth.

“Joint Forces is a major factor in the spinoff,” King said. “In turn, they’ve probably brought a lot of the contractors that are a located here and have played their own part of Suffolk’s growth.”

Contractors that have established themselves in the area include Northrop Grumman, Cobham Defense Systems, Lockheed Martin’s Center for Innovation, Boeing and General Dynamics.

“They’re not directly affiliated with the military, but they bring in a lot of business, as well,” King said.

Some folks said the closing of the command would be a reflection of the larger economic picture.