Jermain Parker stitches and stacks belts in a textile warehouse in Little Rock 10 hours a day.
"I didn't really think this work meant a lot, I didn't know where it was going," he said of when he first started.
If you are like him, you would not assume this small operation's uniting thread would be the Department of Defense.
"Knowing that I'm doing this for our troops, you know, that really gives me a good feeling," Parker said.
Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind is a non-profit that has competed for thousands of dollars in DOD contracts. Three of the four employees you see at a given time are visually impaired. That provides them an opportunity to contribute to their community and offers them independence.
"We focus on their abilities, and they are as productive as a sighted workforce," said Chief Operating Officer Daniel Novielli, who's also blind.
Novielli said among the blind who want to work, there's a 70 percent unemployment rate.
While Novielli is totall blind, he closely monitors the Department of Defense Budget because 70 percent of production is ordered. from the Feds.
"It's hard to get a forecast. This past two years in particular has been hard to get a forecast from the government on what they're going to have for the entire year," Novielli said.
It's a source many companies in Arkansas rely on as major revenue stream. In 2010, nearly 2,000 contracts worth more than $600 million from the DOD awarded to the Natural State.
Over the last decade, those stack up to nearly 16,000 contracts or $4.8 billion.
"Our product lines go right to the federal government, and we let our employees know that the job they do is to support the troops," Novielli said.
But with troop draw-downs and deep cuts in the defense budget, some of that could change.
According to the Center for Security Policy, the DOD cuts being proposed and set to take affect from 2013 - 2021 will affect every state in the nation. On Monday, it released a compilation of reports showing the impact of the forthcoming cuts right here in Arkansas.
A nine percent cut approved in 2011 would eliminate around $487 billion from the DOD budget. It's projected cost to Arkansas $54 million in 2013.
A second nine percent cut due to "sequestration" would remove another $500 billion from the budget for a total of 18 percent. If that happens, you're looking at $109 million no longer on the books in 2013.
It's a sign of the times we're already seeing.
"Times get hard, when no orders are coming through in a certain department," Parker said.
Loss of revenue can translate into job loss for those working to fill the less frequent orders.
"The last two years it's been up and down up and down," Novielli said of orders from the government. "And unfortunately we have had some lay-offs."
It's a scary outlook for those who work here, because jobs are hard to come by as it is, even when you are able to see.
"Where can I find another job? It's hard to find a job when you're blind," said employee Brenda Graham.
Graham's son was actually a member of the military, so when she heard about The Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind's connection to the military, she was happy to sign on.
"My son had a belt just like the ones we make here," she said. "So it makes me feel proud to know I'm doing something for those who serve our country."
And since she joined the line here at The Lighthouse, her life has changed.
"Before, I just sat around a lot of the time not doing anything," she said. "Once people see you're blind they don't want to hire you, and the amount you get from disability isn't enough to make it. You have to have a job. And this gives me the opportunity to have a hand in taking care of myself."
With the impending cuts coming to the Department of Defense, Novielli said the organization is diversifying both its staff and its products.
"We are looking at different product lines. We always have to have a new project coming down the pipe to make up the difference," he said. "And we crosstrain our workforce so that if demand is down in one department, they can work in another to meet an increase demand in that production."
For more information about Arkansas Lighthouse, including how to donate to the nonprofit and other aspects of its mission, click here.
To read more reports from the Center for Security Policy on how the Department of Defense cuts could affect your community, click here.
Defense Budget Cuts Could Cost Arkansas Communities
By: Marci Manley, KARK 4 News
Click here to view story on KARK's ArkansasMatters.com