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Heartbreaking Scenes From A Small Business Layoff In Ohio

It just breaks my heart to read about these small businesses, foundation of their communities, cut to the bone or even closed: MINERVA, Ohio -- Worke

It just breaks my heart to read about these small businesses, foundation of their communities, cut to the bone or even closed:

MINERVA, Ohio -- Workers at Summitville Tiles Inc. gathered on the factory floor Wednesday morning to hear their boss -- using a bullhorn to pierce the cavernous space -- tell them he was laying off a third of the staff.

To pull through this crisis, owner David Johnson said, the company must "cut to the bone."

Huddled around half-century-old kilns for warmth, some workers masked their anxiety with nervous optimism. "I'll go back to hang drywall," said Dustin Bourne, a lanky 22-year-old, chatting with three high-school buddies. Of course, they all knew the truth: Mr. Bourne took a job here last year because drywall work had disappeared.

Rosanne Dangelo, a mother of two grown children, was stoic at the prospect of unemployment. "I'll get by," she said, then quipped, "I don't need the Internet."

The U.S. is losing jobs at a pace not seen since the 1940s. Monday alone, 65,000 fresh layoffs were announced at giants including Caterpillar and Home Depot.

But tiny firms like Summitville Tiles have an outsized role in employment. For the past decade, small businesses have created 60% to 80% of net new jobs. Small companies of 500 or fewer people employ more than half of the country's private-sector workers.

Many of these small companies are staffed with people who have spent their entire lives in one place, creating tight factory-floor communities, but also making it harder to land a new job.

"That woman's mother was my grandfather's secretary for years," said Mr. Johnson, the third generation of his family to head Summitville, pointing toward a worker packing boxes of tiles.

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