A Sign Of The Times

One shop owner sounds off on the “stimulus” package while giving credit where credit is due.


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Steve Deam Sr. recently placed the sign shown to the right outside his Fort Wayne, Indiana shop. As you read it, you’re eyes are likely drawn to the bottom phrase: “ZERO stimulus dollars at work here!” Mr. Deam, owner of CNC Industries, says he didn’t create and display this sign for political reasons, and by no means is he complaining that the government isn’t doing something specifically to help his particular business. Rather, this is his way of letting the public know that he has yet to identify anything in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will help small shops like his actually create jobs. Small businesses, which provide the lion’s share of jobs in this country, are being overlooked despite the huge sum of money allocated for “stimulus,” he contends. That said, this is not the sign’s main message.

When I visited CNC Industries last year (and profiled it in this article), the shop employed 65 people with the intent of increasing that number to 100. Today, due to requisite layoffs, the shop employs less than half of that original workforce. Customer demand for machined components for aerospace, defense and other markets simply isn’t what it once was. This forced the shop to make the types of difficult business decisions that all companies have had to grudgingly make during this recession.

While the sign’s second phrase is provocative, it’s the top one—100% hard-working people here—that is the crux of Mr. Deam’s message. CNC Industries is founded upon a group of talented, dedicated people who simply want to do a good job and carve out a decent living for themselves, he says. The sign is his way of giving props to his peeps.

Plus, he wants to continue to be a source of steady, good-paying jobs for those in the community for years to come.

Mr. Deam doesn’t expect to receive any direct help from the government, and that’s fine by him. He says the shop will make it through this recession in the same way it emerged from past difficult conditions. It will endure and succeed by operating as efficiently as possible while aggressively seeking new customers.

The sign highlights the frustration that many small businesses have with respect to the current economic climate. Small shops like CNC Industries need more than political lip service to thrive in this country, but I doubt they’re looking for government handouts. I think they simply want government to provide the environment to allow them to reach their potential with a dedicated bunch of hardworking Americans doing what they do best: adding value.