Spotlight: Ezra Hill

Date: August 22, 2019

Hill to host Rep. Hollingsworth during NFIB's Small Business Challenge

On Tuesday, August 27th, NFIB member Ezra Hill will host Congressmen Trey Hollingsworth during NFIB’s Small Business Challenge. At 10:30, Rep. Hollingsworth will see – and do what it takes to run a small business such as Hill’s Whalen Construction. The Small Business Challenge encourages lawmakers to get out and experience the challenges small business owners face every day. The hope is for members of Congress to better understand how the decision they make in Washington D.C. impact the lives of job-creating small business owners like Ezra. Here’s his story.

Do you think about where your water comes from? Probably not – until you turn on the faucet and nothing comes out. If you live in the suburbs of Indianapolis – that’s when you call Ezra Hill. His small business, Whalen Construction, fixes underground water pipes. Ezra will be the first to admit, the service his small business provides isn’t glamorous – but it’s essential to the lives of everyone in his community.

Ezra works on an excavator at his small business, Whalen Construction.

Ezra grew up hanging around the family business, which his grandfather started more than 40 years ago. As a little boy, he spent hours at Whalen, fascinated by the large construction equipment and the unlimited access to playing in the dirt. Years later, after graduating from Purdue University with no real direction, Ezra returned to the family business in hopes of turning his love for dirt into a career. By then, the small business was run by his uncle, who started Ezra at the very bottom, digging trenches and installing industrial piping. He worked his way up without special treatment, something Ezra takes pride in. He’s worn and continues to wear every hat – from IT to HR and accounting to fixing water main breaks – Ezra does it all. Two years ago, Ezra and his younger brother bought Whalen Construction from their uncle and both feel pressure to keep their family’s legacy alive. Ezra says there’s one big obstacle that worries him the most.

Ezra watches his younger brother and crew work from his vantage point in the backhoe.

Ezra employs four crews that makeup 15 employees. He’d like to hire another crew but says finding good people has been a huge challenge. Ezra pays well above minimum wage and tries to entice workers with benefits, but even that doesn’t always work. Ezra says blue-collar work is becoming more important in Indiana, where the labor market is tight, and people have lots of options for employment. He jokes – when you’re little and ask yourself, what do I want to do when I grow up? – the answer is probably not “get dirty and work on water lines.” Joking aside, Ezra worries he may not be able to expand his small business if he can’t find the right workers. That’s one of the reasons he joined NFIB. A quarter of NFIB members have the same problem. Ezra hopes NFIB’s Small Business Challenge, a national campaign that invites lawmakers to spend a day “on the job,” will help his Congressman, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, understand the challenges he faces every day. Ezra hopes after the challenge, Rep. Hollingsworth, a small business owner and NFIB member himself, will better understand the impact his decisions in Washington D.C. have on job creators like him back home in Greenwood, Indiana.

Ezra signs the paperwork to take over the family business from his uncle with his brother and sister-in-law, Libby and Austin Whalen.

Ezra also hopes the next time you turn on your faucet, you think of the “dirty” work small businesses all over the country do every day to keep your life running smoothly – and hydrated.

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