FAIRBANKS - The manager of The Food Factory says the restaurant is usually full of soldiers from nearby Fort Wainwright during the lunch hour.
"We're constantly having reservations for 20, 30, 40 people," said Cheryl Brendell.
But speaking from the restaurant Thursday, she said many of the tables were empty because a substantial portion of her customer base is now eating lunch in Iraq.
With the last five soldiers of the 3,800 member Stryker Brigade Combat Team scheduled to leave Sunday for a yearlong deployment to Iraq, Fairbanks small businesses are feeling the void.
The deployment is the largest out of Alaska since the Vietnam War and some military families are also leaving.
State labor economist Brigitta Windisch-Cole said the deployment will have an effect on retailers and restaurants.
"But we can't quantify how big that impact will be," she said.
Forecasting the effects and even trying to measure them will be difficult because the deployment is scheduled for only a year.
About 3,100 soldiers in the brigade are stationed at Fort Wainwright and other 700 at Fort Richardson in Anchorage. Col. Robert Ball, deputy commanding officer of Army Alaska, said 1,741 of the soldiers have families in Fairbanks. As of last week, about 17 percent had requested to move from Fairbanks during the deployment.
Ball said the number of families that left could have been higher, considering the deployment roughly matches a school year. That less than 20 percent left is a testament to a supportive community, he said.
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