1 of 7
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Adam Long, who with his wife, Brooke, runs five businesses in the Uinta Basin, talks about the economy in the area on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. The Longs are feeling the pinch due to plummeting oil prices leading to huge layoffs, but they're helping their customers as much as they can, bartering services and doing payment plans.

The negotiator: Adam and Brooke Long, small-business owners in Vernal.

VERNAL — Adam and Brooke Long are the parents of seven children, Uinta Basin natives and small-business owners who've been through the skyrocketing and tumbling times of the volatile oil and gas industry.

This latest bust has them worried.

"In 2008 when this was going on, everybody said it was bad, but I don't see it as being as dramatic as this one. This is worse" she said.

His take?

"It's way worse. It's times 10 from what I see."

The Longs say business income is down somewhat — but they're not yet hurting, not like many of their customers or others in town. They have a home, rental property, albeit vacant, and their cars are paid for.

Their businesses are a collision repair shop, towing services and wrecking yard, an auto parts and graphics store.

The parts business is down, but people are still getting in wrecks, Adam Long said.

"If you're unemployed, you tend to do a lot more driving."

Since October of 2014, Uintah County's jobless rate has more than doubled to 8.4 percent, and with those loss of jobs average wages are dropping, too.

Families are trimming costs where they can.

"Because we are a state impound lot, we are seeing a lot of impounds because people can't afford to pay their insurance premiums" she said.

Car repairs, however, are often nonnegotiable, especially for those desperate for work and who need their car to get around in this rural area.

"When you have an accident it is not the best time of your life. You have to come up with a $1,000 deductible, you need your car and it doesn't matter what time of year it is, it is never a good time," he said.

Adam Long, sitting in his office with his wife and surrounded by family photos, shares the story of a customer trying to make a deal with him over fixing the front fender of his Jeep. Another customer was willing to trade a drop-down DVD player to cut some off his bill. Long accepted it in exchange for parts, even though he already has two.

"I wish there was more I could do to help," he said. "I think I have become immune to it because I've become so used to working with people any way I can to make it work. … The community has been good to us, so we try to help."

He hopes that the economy will turn around, that the layoffs will stop and the community will begin to heal, to get back to its good times.

But he wonders when.

"I think the biggest problem is that in any of the other declines we have seen, we all knew it was temporary," he said. "We don't now if this is temporary or not."

Twitter: amyjoi16