BELLFLOWER (CBSLA.com) — Small business owners across the Southland were preparing for reductions in staffing and other economic challenges after automatic federal budget cuts began taking effect Friday.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports sectors related to the defense industry are expected to bear the brunt of the impact.

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Officials have warned an estimated 64,000 civilian Department of Defense employees could be furloughed, along with airport delays and the closure of air traffic control towers in cuts scheduled to take effect Friday unless the White House and Congress can come to a budget agreement.

Budget “sequestration” could ultimately result in an estimated $45 billion in cuts to defense sector spending, a reduction that defense and national security reporter Jeremy Herb said will impact smaller firms first.

“For the smaller contractors though, when they only have a handful of contracts, once those run out, they’re going to be in trouble,” said Herb.

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Lisa Dante Pepini of the Dante Valve company in Bellflower – which makes valves for Navy vessels like the USS Abraham Lincoln – said she’s already worried about the people in her business.

“I’m very concerned about their jobs, I think we could see anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of them at risk,” Pepini said.

At least 1,200 teaching and education-related jobs may also be at risk amid a sharp downturn in research activity conducted at local universities and colleges, which receive federal funding to develop cutting-edge technologies in everything from clean energy to high-tech treatments for diseases.

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