Construction business owner Leon Miller is planning to make 2018 his busiest year yet. Born and raised in Fairbury, Miller has built a reputation for himself as a hard-working “jack of all trades.” The 32-year-old-local-boy-turned-business-owner says he was mowing lawns and has had his own checking account since he was 12.
    “I’ve always been pretty independent,” Miller said. “I was ready to move out of my parents’ house long before they were. Over the years, I’ve had different young men talk to me about work. They often ask me why I work so much and it’s because I think you have to work while you’re young — that’s when you’re healthy. As you get older, life gets more complicated.”
    Miller figured out he wanted to work in the construction industry while he was in high school. He took all of the woodworking classes Prairie Central High School offered and during his junior and senior year, in 2003 and 2004, he took building trades courses at the Livingston Area Career Center in Pontiac.
    “I learned most of what I need to know today from all the high school courses, combined with what I learned from my dad,” Miller said. “I never felt the need to continue after high school. I figured they can teach you all the carpentry they want out of a book, but it’s not going to teach you how to hold that saw and make a straight cut, you know?”
    Even in high school, Miller was working. During the academic year, he worked part-time as a bagger at Dave’s Supermarket. In the summer he was mowing lawns for people and also working on roofing projects with his father and greatest influence, the late Russell Miller, through Jon Zimmerman Construction.
    “You have to work to earn a living,” Miller said. “I learned everything about work ethic from my dad. He is also the one that came up with my company name, Miller-Built Construction. Since he has passed away, I’ve dedicated everything I do to him.”
    Miller graduated from Prairie Central in May 2004 and kept working, but he didn’t officially start his own business until he bought his first home in April of 2006. He set up his shop in the home’s garage.
    “For, a while I was working for myself full-time, but during 2007 and 2008, when we were going through the recession, I picked up hours at Dave’s Supermarket again. Then, in 2011, I found out they were needing someone with construction and carpentry knowledge to work at NuForm Counter Top and I’ve had a pretty good relationship working there ever since.
    “We’ve got a deal worked out where they have me build cabinets. If I’m not working out there, I’m doing jobs for my business. I’ve really started getting busy with my business over the last two or three years and I’m proud because I’ve been slowly working at it since I graduated.”
    Miller’s typical day begins at 7 a.m. and may last until 5 or 6 p.m. Whether he’s working at NuForm Counter Top or working on different jobs for his own business, he said it’s not uncommon for him to have two or three projects going at a time.
    “When things get really busy, I’ll split up my time and work on one project in the morning and another in the afternoon,” Miller said. “Some days I’m so busy working in the summer, I might work from the morning until it gets dark.”
    Miller stays busy throughout the year because he is willing to take on a variety of different jobs. When the construction business is slow, he takes side jobs like snow removal in the winter or mowing lawns in the summer.
    “If all else fails, I can work in my shop to make a cabinet for someone,” Miller said. “Being in the construction trade, I’ve found you have to work really hard during the summer so that you can slow down a little bit in the winter.”
    Miller believes working hard is part of his family’s heritage. He can recall stories of his grandfather, Bill Schauble, who worked as a contractor in Fairbury.
    “He was always a worker, too,” Miller said. “On the days he wasn’t working, I can remember him talking about things he was working on while he was sitting around and resting.
    “To be honest, I’ve never been the type who likes to sit around doing nothing. I feel better and less anxious if I’m accomplishing something. Don’t get me wrong, I do go through my hard times like anybody else, but it’s the projects I’m working on that keep me going.
    “I believe the best appreciation you’re going to have for something is when you’ve worked to earn it yourself,” Miller added. “I’ve never been the type to want to boast, but every once in a while, you have got to give yourself something to brag about.”
    Because he doesn’t do much advertising, most of Miller’s work comes from word-of-mouth suggestions and social media posts on Facebook.
    “Actually, social media has been one of the best advertisers for me,” Miller said. “It puts you on the same playing field as the bigger companies and I believe your work speaks for itself. I’m also a member of the Fairbury Chamber of Commerce, they share my work and it helps get my name out there.”
    Miller recently finished up a hardwood floor repair and is also building a display cabinet for a customer in Pontiac. During the winter, he prefers to do indoor jobs, which usually include cabinet and or trim installation.
    “Overall, the work is much easier now than it was when I first started,” Miller said. “I think that’s because I’ve gained a lot of skills and I have a better understanding for figuring out different ways to build things.
    “I work by myself quite a bit, so I have to figure out ways to do two-person tasks by myself. I’ve just learned different tricks to make the job easier. I love what I do and I look forward to getting up and going to work.”