Hometown Heroes
Small businessmen in Douglas County persevere through hard economic times

The long struggle to keep employees hired and businesses open during this recession has been heartbreaking—and expensive—for many small business owners in Douglas County.

Dave Miller, owner of a custom cabinet company in Roseburg, has experienced first hand what the poor economy has done to small businesses. The terms “lay-off,” “unemployment,” “housing foreclosure,” and “incurring debt,” words that no one wants to become familiar with, have recently become part of Miller’s everyday language. 

“We started experiencing problems about two years ago when the housing market was affected,” Miller explained. “In the past, I was doing three to four kitchens a month, but now we’re just trying to get any business we can and keep a roof over our heads.”

Many business owners such as Miller went the extra mile to keep jobs for their employees, even to the extent of taking out large loans. Initial forecasts in 2008 from news sources such as CNN claimed that the housing market would shrink by .1 percent in 2009, and that the economy would begin to improve throughout 2009. However, unemployment hit double digits and the recession still is not over.

Miller’s story is one of many in Douglas County. The loans that business owners took out in an attempt to prolong the life of their businesses and keep their employees hired are now coming due, but business still hasn’t picked up enough to keep their doors open, let alone pay off the loans. Many are burdened with large amounts of debt and few options.

“I did my best to keep jobs for the employees I had,” Miller said. “After realizing that things weren’t getting better, and getting behind on my bills, I had to get rid of outgoing costs as much as I could. These included my shop home and my employees.”

“Because of the federal and state government, my family and I are having to consider the idea of moving out of state to find more work,” Miller stated.

Miller and his wife, Rebecca, have three young children. Rebecca has gone back to UCC nursing school and will graduate this June.

“Right now we’re praying that God will provide for us and we’re just trying to keep a roof over our heads. We’re waiting until my wife graduates, and we can move to a location where we can both find decent jobs,” Miller stated.

The continuation of the economic decline has also taken a toll on many people’s faith in government policies. With an unemployment rate of 14.2 percent, Douglas County residents are wondering why the stimulus package wasn’t effective here.

“Until we change our policies,” Miller said, “we are going to continue to see a decline in the economy. I truly believe it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.