Buxton list of business prospects is “underwhelming”

The list of retailers interested in coming to Hillsboro as the result of Buxton Co. market research was described as ?underwhelming? by members of the Hillsboro City Council during its Feb. 20 special meeting.

?The list tilts significantly toward the fast-food industry,? City Administrator Larry Paine said. ?Like more than half of them on that list fit the fast-food category, which disappointed me.

?The surprising thing is that our good friend McDonald?s was on that list,? he added. ?Under?standing the reason they left Hillsboro, and they way they did it, and then to see them back on the list was somewhat surprising and not so surprising.?

Last fall the city hired the Texas-based firm to study the retail needs in the Hillsboro primary and secondary markets. The company shares the information with retail companies interested in expanding into specific kinds of markets.

Once a city receives the list of potential retailers, it can begin to recruit them. The council had previously agreed the city would not recruit retailers that would compete with existing local businesses.

Several retailers on the list could be described as competitors, with hardware stores and lumber yards cited as examples.

?Most of the ones recommended we didn?t have that particular company, but we already had something like that,? Councilor Bob Watson said.

?We?re going to have to look at those things hard and try to figure out exactly what the right companies are,? Paine said.

He said he had marked eight companies that he thought merited attention.

Paine also said he was surprised by the kind of businesses that weren?t on the list, given Buxton?s data on how area consumers spend their money.

?What I saw on our priority list, the way that we spend our money with the major portion going to automotive?nothing on the list,? he said.

?The next one was food at home and food away from home. There was one kind of generic sit-down restaurant. That one looked like a reasonably good candidate.?

Mayor Delores Dalke said the list underlines the economic-development challenges facing small towns in rural areas.

?I think this narrows it down to what our real prospects are, but it also tells us why it?s been so hard to recruit over the years, when we have called and called and written letters and get no responses,? she said.

?Now they?ve told us the companies we were going after didn?t want to see us.?

Business park progress

During the engineer?s report, Paine said he had made two decisions in regard to the development of the new Hillsboro Business Park.

His first decision was to make sure engineering documents were ?completed and ready to go if and when something happens regarding a decision from a potential business to occupy the park.?

The second decision was to plan for an acceleration-deceleration lane along U.S. Highway 56 that would run the full length of the new park, from Ash to what will become an extension of Washington Street.

?It will cost us a little bit more, but in the end I think it will be the right thing,? Paine said. ?We won?t have to undo a lot of things (later).?

Other business

In other business, the council:

  • approved extending tax abatements to Container Services Inc. A review of the agreement is required each year.
  • approved the mayor?s appointments to the following civic boards: Larry Paine, reappointed to the Marion County Economic Development Council for a full three-year term; Gay?lord Goertzen and Lynn Penner, reappointed to the Hillsboro Planning & Development Commission; Paul Jantzen, Alvin Hett and Cheryl Bartel, reappointed to the Tree Board; Tim Unruh, appointed to the Museums Advisory Board to replace Dale Honeck, who has resigned; Frances Wahl, Sheryl Lehr, Brenda Coryea and Lola Unruh, reappointed to the Convention & Visitors Bureau, and to appoint Edith Rempel as a new member; reappoint Max Heinrichs to the Recreation Commission.
  • approved the appointment of Councilor Shane Marler to the Surface Water Advisory Board as a voting member for one year.
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