Ever since the Hillsboro and Marion Chambers of Commerce held their annual meetings as a joint event last month, I’ve been thinking of more ways the two major Marion County cities could join forces for future success. The conclusion I came to was simple: Let’s just merge the two cities into one.
Implausible, you say? Perhaps. I’m no expert in the realms of economics or the legalities of stretching city limit boundaries across roughly 10 miles of sparsely populated agriculture. Yet, there may be some benefits from such a plan.
This is part one in a double-decker column that will outline some of the positive aspects I see in these two communities joining forces.
I’ll start first with the big one: small-town economy.
Let’s face it: in our culture bigger is progressively becoming better, and smaller communities that offer adequate products and services are frivolously passed over for bigger-city luxuries. (I won’t use the W word.)
Obviously the merging of both cities would automatically create the image of a larger population: well over 5,000, including Tabor students.
By eliminating the fruitless community-based rivalry that Hillsboro and Marion have managed to sustain, we as a combined population would be able to work together, with a larger pool of creativity and resources, to produce stronger and more effective events, services, job opportunities and incentives that could repel the magnetism of larger nearby cities such as McPherson and Newton.
Giving reason to keep locals in town and offering incentive to bring visitors in would bring and keep more money right here, where it deserves to be.
How else might this plan keep more money local? It’s simple: the basic economic law of supply and demand.
By merging Marion and Hillsboro, local consumers would immediately benefit from higher supply. More competition among several similar business in the same city (four local florists, for example) would create the necessity for each to find new and more attractive ways to woo customers, giving local consumers the best deals.
The flip side is that, with better and more affordable services, consumers who might otherwise not have considered buying non-necessities might be drawn in, bringing more business for that industry.
And finally, sales taxes in the merged city would go into one big pot, which would create greater resources and better opportunities for economic sustainability and community improvements.
While the economic payback of a merger is certainly important to city leaders and business owners, I’m sure the rest of us will find the cultural benefits quite attractive.
Hillsboro and Marion both offer a wide variety of community events that are available to be enjoyed by any person of no particular allegiance. Yet, I think that citizens of each community tend to stick to their hometown instead of venturing east or west for a bit of variety.
By joining forces, Hillsboroans, for example, might be more apt to take in the Old Settlers or Chingawassa events, and Marionites might feel more at home at the county fairgrounds.
Plus, instead of trying to host conflicting events—Art in the Park versus the Arts and Crafts Fair, for example, or multiple farmer’s markets—the joint effort of the newly aligned city would offer bigger and better occasions, creating destination events to draw crowds. (And the crowd’s money.)
Locals will also benefit. While city amenities of one community are available to citizens of the other, fusing Hillsboro and Marion would give citizens of both a greater feeling of ownership of all the recreational opportunities, causing people to be more open to make use of all resources.
With two city parks, a hearty choice of baseball, softball and soccer fields, a handful of tennis courts, an indoor and outdoor pool, and more, we would all find that there is plenty of opportunity for recreational activity.
And let’s not forget the local cuisine! Hillsboro and Marion are like night and day (well, maybe dawn and dusk) when it comes to the restaurant options.
While Hillsboro seems to have a strong base of franchised restaurants (Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Sonic, Subway, etc.), Marion has shown its ability to sustain a wide variety of locally owned “mom and pop” eateries.
Sharing community ownership of all these options will add greater coloring to the culture of a combined city.
As for church options…. Well, we’d have plenty. Eighteen by my count.
Not convinced that merging Marion and Hillsboro is feasible? I’m not going to argue with you. But in two weeks I’ll be back to discuss how our schools could also benefit from it, and how the future of a combined Hillsboro and Marion might look.