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HdG Furlough Friendly campaign picks up steam

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It has been almost a week since Havre de Grace businesses participating in the city's Furlough Friendly Community campaign began providing discounts to furloughed Aberdeen Proving Ground workers, and some businesses are starting to see interest from customers.

In all, 21 businesses had signed on as of this week, offering discounts of at least 15 percent to military and civilian workers at APG who have been affected by the ongoing furlough of federal employees as a result of the government's sequestration program to cut federal spending.

Businesses began offering discounts last Friday.

The discounts vary from one establishment to another, with some offering 15 percent, others 25 percent, and are being applied to the varied products and services offered by the businesses, such as restaurants, gift shops, galleries, financial institutions, even the Aug. 9 Oak Ridge Boys concert, to be held during the Havre de Grace Seafood Festival.

Some businesses are offering the discounts on days when proprietors expect APG employees to be off work, Brigitte Peters, director of marketing and tourism for the city, said Wednesday.

She said the campaign, which is being put on by the city with support from the Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce and Havre de Grace Main Street Inc., is designed to let those affected by the furloughs "know that Havre de Grace supports them in trying to alleviate that stress that comes with the furloughs."

Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford County's largest employer, has more than 11,500 employees, most of them civilians. U.S. Department of Defense employees are being furloughed one day a week over 11 weeks, starting this month, causing them to lose 20 percent of their pay during those weeks.

Participating businesses have displayed stickers with the Furlough Friendly logo, and discounts are available to those who show civilian employee or military identification.

Alex Lee, general manager for MacGregor's Restaurant, which is offering 20 percent discounts to diners, said it is still early in the campaign, but customers are beginning to take advantage of the discounts.

"When customers notice that we're Furlough Friendly and notice the sticker, then they take advantage of the 20 percent discount," he said.

Lee said APG civilian employees and active-duty military members patronize the waterfront restaurant and tavern.

"MacGregor's supports our veterans and government employees, and that's why we've joined the program," he explained.

Devra Giles, owner of Creative Sanctuary on North Washington Street in Havre de Grace, is offering a "furlough from stress" to APG employees, with a 50 percent discount to participants in her morning drop-in classes.

Giles said the discount will be expanded next month to evening and morning drop-in classes, and participants in the 9 a.m. Friday drop-in yoga classes can take it for $5 if they are APG employees.

"We feel that yoga and meditation, Tai Chi and art, and dance too, are all good means of stress relief," she said.

More information on the Furlough Friendly Community campaign can be found by calling 410-939-2100 or visiting http://www.hdgtourism.com or the Explore Havre de Grace Facebook page.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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