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Mining People Magazine

The Little Guy Is Alive and Well

by Debra McCown Thomas

Staff Writer / Field Reporter

man owned a little fabrication shop

with a couple of employees. It was

a small business that did small

projects, and he made a decent


One day, someone from the state highway

department asked if he could take on a

project repairing guardrails. It was a big

project, many times larger than anything

he had done before. He didn’t have the

equipment. He didn’t have the expertise.

But he said he’d be glad to.

That week, he went out and leased the

equipment he would need to do the job. He

sought out people he could consult to get

up to speed on how to do this kind of work

– and he spent day and night learning. He

made it happen.

He did such a good job on the project, he

was offered a contract to continue doing this

kind of work year-round – and his company

grew by leaps and bounds. Now he’s a

major highway contractor for the state, and

these days he makes far more than just a

basic living.

Why did this happen? Because he was

willing to try. Because he said yes, took

the risk, figured it out, and made it happen.

Because when opportunity came knocking,

he took the leap.

You could call this man a lot of things. A

successful business owner. A rich guy. A

picture of the American Dream. That used to

be something we celebrated; now, it seems

like the Internet and social media are full of

naysayers denouncing people who achieve


Inexplicably, it’s awfully popular these days

to blame guys like him for the country’s

problems – people who started with nothing

and built something. To hear people talk,

you’d think that our economy is in the toilet,

thatAmericans are suffering, that the little guy

can’t make it anymore in a corrupt economy

dominated by unethical conglomerates.

My generation, the millennials, seem

particularly bad these days for spreading

this claptrap. The narrative goes something

like this: burdened by debt, underemployed,

with a bachelor’s degree and no opportunity

but to work as a coffee shop barista earning

less than a living wage. How tragic that such

a life is all there is. Surely someone else

besides them must be to blame.

But those doom-and-gloomers are wrong –

dead wrong. The proof is all around us, from

the big factory that just went up down the

road to the little hole-in-the-wall shops tucked

away along so many Southern highways, to

the steel mills and factories ramping up so

fast there’s no way the trucking companies

can keep up.

When you’re out on the road, the reality

becomes apparent pretty quick. Writing for

Mining People Magazine

, I can’t tell you

how many times I’ve encountered good,

solid family businesses – great people

with a great story, and sometimes multiple

generations. They’re all over the country,

and they operate in every industry you can


And the big companies – they’re full of good

people too. It’s not unusual to find places

where multiple family members – even

multiple generations of family members –

work together for the same company or even

at the same mine. These are not faceless

corporations; they are made up of the faces

of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters,

cousins and uncles and aunts.

My husband, whoworks in the steel business,

observes the same thing when he’s out on

the road; it seems like every week he comes

home with another story about a guy – just

an average guy – with an incredible story