LETTERS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN
Marion County will miss the Brazils

Progressive and thinking residents of Marion County will long regret the loss of David and Joanna Brazil’s professionalism and leadership energy. Both of them, in their diverse roles in the community, have demonstrated dedication and respect for concepts that benefited the citizenry throughout the county.

Having been connected with Marion County for 60 years, my observations of hired and volunteer leaders have provided considerable opportunities to evaluate those individuals who uphold the professional and ethical qualities that are essential for working with the public.

My contact with David in a construction issue was handled with efficiency, proper guidance and professional proficiency. It has been regrettable to view from the sidelines the contentious, micro-managed issues that have been the test of David’s professional responsibilities to all Marion County residents.

The years of enjoying Joanna’s energy and enthusiasm as Peabody’s Main Street director make the future without her sound dull and boring.

I am not alone, Joanna and David, in knowing how fortunate your next community is to have your care and dedication. Best wishes! You will be missed.

Neysa Eberhard

Marion County Lake

Eco-devo meeting reveals county’s ills

We were reminded last week why Marion County is becoming a lifeless body of communities drained of all its economic vitality.

As the story goes, about 30 development promoters and public officials met because the county wants rapid economic revitalization and population growth.

As it turns out, the article was an implication of our last economic will and testament and it exposed those who continue to write Marion County’s obituary.

We expected the usual power and political positioning in a room full of promoters and public officials (big fish in a little pond). But we didn’t expect them to expose the development problem they have brought upon the people of Marion County. If we accept what they say, we’re destined to hit the bottom pretty hard.

According to the accounts of those who spoke up at the meeting, we don’t need a director in Marion County until we determine what economic development really means to everyone. But, since our communities can’t get along, we need to use our meager funds to hire consultants to lead us in “visioneering.” Somehow this will bring us together and closer to prosperity.

What a crock!

We anticipate these kind of dead-end solutions from the same people who have ill-served our county’s economic interests for so many years now. These promoters and public officials find meaning in activities aimed at their own definitions and sustainability. So it’s not surprising that they expose further ineptness with comments like, “trust is built through time,” and, “it is good that we continue to meet like this.”

But it is surprising that no one else in the room suggested that we begin by capturing the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in Marion County. Empowering entrepreneurship is really what economic development is about, especially in rural areas. That’s what the director position was all about from the beginning, but self-interests, power and politics cloud the way.

Marion County has squandered numerous opportunities for business growth because those in the room lacked the knowledge to address the needs. The jobs, the households and the prosperity that comes with the successful business development have gone elsewhere.

Sadly, we’re not demonstrating the basic knowledge necessary to capture and protect what we already have in our communities, let alone help new business emerge. Some from outside the room have offered to help, but they have been met with suspicion and rebuffed by those in the room.

In some cases, initiatives from entrepreneurs have been laughed off the table or stolen for community use instead receiving assistance with development programs.

Case in point: Several years ago, the Marion development committee was introduced to an agri-center incubator in the yet-to-be-developed industrial park. The concept addressed needs for developing regional value-added agribusiness with assistance through private development.

All things considered, the Marion city committee scoffed at the idea and suggested their business park was built for direct investments into the community.

How naive. To date, the park consists of a sign reading “Free Lots.” The sign is surrounded by a lot of dirt. How many budding entrepreneurs walk through the doors of the value-added agri center on their way to building businesses in their industrial park?

Seizing the moment, Hillsboro adopted foundation development of an incubator through the “revitalized” Hillsboro Development Corp. Successfully stolen, HDC now intends to profit from the private initiative for the incubator concept and the private resources have never been spoken to again.

The disappointments in economic development continue to bring Marion County to its knees and the backbone of the county commission is mush. We’re not networking among our own communities, so how can we effectively network beyond our borders?

It’s hurt the county for many years and the commission has been informed of the problem many times. The county’s lack of participation in the state’s prosperity initiatives stuck out like a sore thumb several years ago. Those who tried to represent Marion County in regional and state development venues are ignored or silenced by the same people who now meet in a room to support the ideas of “visioneering,” our economic revitalization.

The road to economic recovery in Marion County will take every bit as long as the years of neglect our leaders have put us through so far and there is no end in sight because the same people are still headed down the same self-serving path.

Where’s the courage to do what’s necessary? Perhaps Marion County doesn’t need a economic director now because, so far, no one in the room intends to change the status quo.

Still, the county commission has been told many times and in many ways that the first director will likely be the sacrificial lamb of a difficult process. By hiring a director, at least we establish a county-wide process that circumvents the status quo and concentrates on what really matters-protecting and building our entrepreneurial interests in a non-biased manner, accessing the network of economic development to our county’s better interests and working with community development throughout the county.

After the members in the room have killed the lamb, perhaps we’ll be in a better position to hire a new director and adopt more effective economic development practices that hold more promise and more prosperity for the future of our greater community.

We have so much to do in this county. For the sake of our survival, the days of community protectionism are over. The protectionism of Hillsboro and Marion is killing our county. We are the people who benefit or lose and we deserve promoters and public officials who overcome the protectionism and exemplify our greater community interests.

It sounds so simple but our challenges to do better economically are becoming so great. We really must work together and look at development opportunities in a larger community sense and in areas we have avoided.

This is not a pipe dream. Believe it or not, it’s being done all over the place but not in Marion County. Acquiring businesses is the obvious goal. Part of the success is working together for more regional applications of services that sustain our rural lifestyle.

Our healthcare, recreation, attractions and infrastructure comes to mind. Our unrelenting insistence on self-reliance and community competition is killing our economy and it sends signals to others to stay away.

Unless we hold those in the room accountable, we will lose more businesses and jobs and we will lose our services in the end.

We have so much to do and so much to gain by working with our neighbors. McPherson County ranks among the top per-capita prosperity in the state. What can we learn from them? How can we work together with them?

Rice County is comparable to Marion as a rural county. Rice is flush with county-wide foundation development and they have been doing it for years. Why hasn’t Marion County done the same?

Community development foundations are more effective on a county-wide basis but our communities can’t get along so we continue to struggle for the funds and fiercely compete for parallel projects like hospitals and swimming pools.

Chase County is another example. Chase is at the bottom of the statewide economic barrel. It is one of the poorest counties in Kansas and it is where Marion County is headed.

But Chase County managed to pull its head out long enough to recognize that they must begin to work together in a greater community sense. It will be a long road to recovery for Chase County, but they are demonstrating a united front. They are learning how to work together or suffer further devastating economic consequences.

Better economic development doesn’t happen on its own and it doesn’t happen overnight. Someone has to do it and it requires a lot of hard work. All the “visioneering” in the world won’t change that.

If Marion County is to succeed, sweeping changes in economic development must occur. It takes courage and self-sacrifice, and for Marion County, these changes are way past due.

The comments and questions from those in the room signal the writing of an economic epitaph for Marion County unless something drastic is done. The people of Marion County should consider it an edict for change.

Stan Thiessen

Hillsboro

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