Economic development looks to local leadership

The year 2015 began with a locally organized training program to prepare retail business owners to compete with ?big box? stores like the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, which opened in Hillsboro in April. The year ended with a new Dollar General Store opening in Marion.

In between, local businesses experienced transitions in leadership and services, and the city?s of Marion and Hillsboro ended the year with an opening in economic development leadership as their economic development directors departed.

Area farmers harvested above-average wheat, corn and soybean crops, but also faced declining prices for their grains.

January

About 55 people signed in as participants at ?Thinking Outside the Big Box,? the free training program designed to enhance small businesses in Marion County. Marion City Admin?i??strator Roger Holter opened the event with a presentation on the way ?big-box? stores operate, based on his 40 years? experience in the field prior to his retirement.

On the Corner Cafe in Florence, formerly Auntie M?s Diner, became a dream come true for new owner Tammy Britton, who opened for business Jan. 2.

In keeping with Marion?s recent tag line of ?Honoring the Past, Enjoying the Pre?sent, Building for the Future,? the gazebo in Cen?tral Park is being repurposed for storage or fishery activities at Luta Creek.

More than 200 members and guests attended the fourth annual joint Marion-Hillsboro Chamber of Com?merce banquet at the Marion Community Center. This year?s speaker was Jim Hoy, professor of English and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University.

February

Greg Bowers retired as a commercial loan officer at Central National Bank after 38 years of service.

In response to spirited criticism by ?George? Fei Yang, owner of the former Quick Flick/Radio Shack building in Hillsboro, the city council reviewed its decision in December to adopt the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code. Yang said the cost of meeting the code would make his project unaffordable.

The Kansas Press Asso?ci?ation appointed Joey Young, Hillsboro Free Press majority owner, to its board of directors, effective Feb. 20.

March

Mission Health Com?mun??ities, LLC, a provider of senior living and skilled rehabilitation communities in the southeast and midwest, took over management and operations of Peabody Care Center, LLC.

April

Dry grass, lack of rain, wind and humidity kept Marion County firefighters busy, according to local officials.

Greenhaw Pharmacy owners Eric and Tami Driggers say their decision to build a 3,500-square-foot facility is more about a long-held desire to improve service to the community than the arrival of a potential competitor. The new building will offer a drive-up window with more parking area, plus a larger space inside for retail products as well as a consulting room that will provide privacy for clients.

Wal-Mart Neigh?borhood Market opened its doors April 8 with a grand opening that drew about 100 people to its Hills?boro Heights location. Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke said the company never asked for any financial breaks or special considerations after it announ?ced its intention to build the store.

May

Following a strong debut in April, organizers of the Cedar Street Salvage Co. are preparing for an encore performance. Eight longtime collectors from Marion County put their heads?and their wares?together to launch a monthly market weekend with the hope of drawing potential buyers from within and beyond the county.

Cool, moist spring weather seemed to be building toward a potentially excellent crop year. Corn is emerging in strong stands, the potential looks good for soybean planting and the winter wheat heads are headed for maturity. Marion County Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said he remains ?cautiously optimistic? for this year?s wheat crop and perhaps the other two crops as well.

Hillsboro Post Office employees Leonard Frantz, Kathy Woelk and Eddie Weber started their careers within eight months of each other. Now, more than 30 years later, they say they still enjoy their jobs and each other.

June

Three Hillsboro businesses were recognized for their economic and civic contributions to the community during the June 9 Cham???ber of Com?merce luncheon. Supreme Floor Co., Dale?s Supermarket and Coopera?tive Grain & Supply each received a Merit Award from the Kansas Department of Com?merce as part of its ?Business Appreci?ation Month.?

The 2015 wheat crop, which was lacking moisture early in the year, then received an abundance of moisture right before harvest, has come through ?a little above average,? accord???ing to at least one local expert. Dick Tippin, grain coordinator for Cooperative Grain and Supply based in Hillsboro, reported yields ranging from 40 to 70 bushels per acre, with an average test weight of 59 compared to the usual benchmark of 60.

July

Hillsboro native Alisa Schmidt completed her final residency rotation at Hills?boro Community Hospital and Clinic June 26, then began her family medical practice at HCH July 20 as a full-time physician.

Marion?s newest physician, Mark (Tim) McVay, 46, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, is a new physician at St. Luke Hos?pital and Living Center.

Clint Seibel retired after eight years as economic development director for the city of Hillsboro and executive director of the Hillsboro Development Corp.

Marion County Agricul?tural Extension Agent Rickey Roberts said the importance of the 21?2-inch general rain in early July can hardly be overemphasized. ?At this point, I?m generally optimistic for all the (fall) crops,? Roberts said. ?The bigger question for beans is not when they?re planted, but how much time they will have to grow before we get fall frost??

The CEO of the company that owns Hillsboro Com?munity Hospital said July 31 it is one step away from securing a USDA construction loan to build a long-awaited new medical facility?but it will take action by the city council to bring the project to the starting line.

August

Lisa Geis, Durham, received the award for champion breeding doe at the Tri-State Royal of Champions livestock show in Goodland. To qualify, competitors must win at their county fair across three states: Kansas Colorado and Nebraska. Geis, a member of the Tampa Triple T?s 4-H Club, qualified at the Marion County Fair with three animals.

Economic development entities from Marion, Hills?boro and Marion County joined forces with three state organizations to sponsor an 11-week Growing Rural Businesses Entrepre?neurial Certificate Program starting Sept. 10. The program is designed to inform participants about business principles necessary for rural communities.

Dirt work started Aug. 10 on Marion?s new Dollar General store located in Batt Industrial Park off U.S. Highway 56. According to Terry Jones, the city?s economic development director, the new store is expected to generate taxable sales of more than $1 million.

When the Marion City Council approved a $7,000 feasibility study five months ago, the plan was to see if the town could support a hotel/motel at Batt Indus?trial Park. Before the final draft of the study was presented, the developer backed out.

St. Luke Hospital Auxili?ary committed to donate $20,000 to St. Luke Hospital for a renovation project that would include the radiology department waiting room and the hallway that leads to cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation, the computerized tomography (CT) scanner, ultrasound suite and the DEXA (bone density) scanning unit.

Hillsboro Community Hospital physician Greg Erb cut the ceremonial ribbon Aug. 27 for the opening of the hospital?s downtown clinic at 122 N. Main. Joining Erb as lead medical professional at the clinic is Laurie Methvin, advanced registered nurse practitioner. HCH will continue to operate the clinic near the hospital facility, which will be led by physician Alisa Schmidt and physician assistant Joshua Smith. Plans call for a united medical clinic to be attached to the new hospital facility to be built at U.S. Highway 56 and Industrial Road.

It?s not every day a daughter succeeds her mother as president of a family-owned bank that isn?t theirs. That?s what happened when daughter Jessie (Nikkel) Wiebe succeeded her mom, Cynthia Fleming, as Hillsboro State Bank president. Fleming stepped down as HSB president Sept. 25 after more than 50 years in the banking industry.

September

After more than two years of research, followed by extensive renovations, the former Florence opera house was successfully transformed into a full service grocery store. Owner Jenny Lee said she loves the charm of small-town Florence and believes it?s the right time to launch the Flint Hills Market & Bakery.

November

For the past several summers, Marion Reservoir has been a regular on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment?s list of state reservoirs and lakes afflicted with blue-green algae blooms. This year, the reservoir went off the list in mid-July?and hasn?t been listed since. Although the reservoir office didn?t have statistical proof, Torey Hett, administrative office clerk, believes being off the warning list had a positive impact on lake use during the summer tourist season.

Members of three regional farm cooperatives?Agri Producers Inc., with headquarters at Tampa; Alida Pearl Cooperative, with headquarters at Chap?man; and North Central Kansas Cooperatives with headquarters at Hope?voted to combine into a new Agri Trails Cooperative with headquarters at Hope by March.The final vote of the three mem?berships was 379-21.

Almost $10,000 was raised at the Marion County Alterna?tive Gift Market at the Marion Community Center. The idea of the market is to give a gift that will help people in need of food, education, medicine or other support, according to Jackie Volbrecht, one of the organizers.

December

One of Hillsboro?s most familiar downtown stores, Nancy?s Fashions, closed its doors after 27 years in business. Owner Nancy Klaassen has retired.

Almost one year after the Marion City Council learned Dollar General Corp. was interested in building at Batt Industrial Park, the store opened Dec. 13. The store?s manager, Tina Hare, said she is happy to be here. Prior to coming, she was the assistant store manager in Herington.