Roger Holter, the new economic development director in Marion, plans to keep one finger on the pulse of the community while looking at ways to enhance its economic vitality.
?The message we want to get out is that Marion and Marion County are wide open for business,? Holter said.
Prior to accepting the job in Marion, Holter?s career in the retail industry spanned more than 40 years in 16 different cities across the country.
?I am a Kansas native born in Kansas City, but I have worked in Olathe, Garden City, Wichita, Salina, Topeka and Kansas City.? he said. ?I got to know the state very well.?
Holter said his jobs also took him to several major metropolitan areas, including St. Louis, Louisville and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
?I worked for Fortune 40 companies?Sears Roebuck & Co. for 30 years, Lowe?s for nine years and one company most people don?t even remember?Mont?gomery Ward as regional manager in Kansas City,? he said.
Holter?s most recent position was as store manager of a Lowe?s Home Improve?ment store in Topeka.
As a store manager, regional manager and district manager for these major retailers, Holter said he was on ?the other side of the table? as far as deciding which community to choose for placing a store and what their marketing strategy was going to be.
?I bring all that knowledge based on what companies are looking for,? he said.
Holter said he can also better market what Marion has to offer prospective companies or individuals.
In addition to his work with established firms, he said he has also owned and operated small businesses three different times.
One of his major roles, he said, will be working to attract and develop businesses in Marion.
He said he plans to assist existing businesses by helping them with their business models and other input.
?A lot of challenges face businesses on a day-to-day basis and I will bring my experience to the table to share with them,? Holter said. ?Obviously, it is their business and they will run it the way they want to. I would be there only as a consultant and adviser to help owners prosper and continue to grow.?
Holter said based on recent statistics 65 percent of businesses started during the past two years have already failed, and most of them failed because the business model didn?t project a phasing process.
As an example, he said a business owner wanting to accomplish something in six months really needs to be working on that plan today.
?Most small businesses don?t understand the cause-and-effect relationship,? he said. ?I am here to try to help (local businesses) by basically asking questions.?
Talk about it
By talking with Holter, he can ask questions about the goals of a business and the timeline in which it hopes to achieve them.
?My role is to be a liaison, not just with the city in getting through government regulations, licensing and permitting, but also as an advocate for county and state by assisting in developing and making a business successful,? he said.
By becoming a conduit for information, Holter said he will identify potentially useful programs, incentives and grants.
?Another part of what I have been allowed to do is work on creating events and festivals to attract people to build on Marion County and Hillsboro,? he said, citing Marion?s Art in the Park and the Arts and Crafts Fair in Hillsboro as ?huge events.?
An advantage of his position, Holter said, is the opportunity he has to work with his counterparts in and around the county.
?Through working together and from a cooperation standpoint, our city and county can grow everyone,? he said.
Part of Holter?s background was as the marketing manager for Sears in St. Louis.
?One of our big opportunities (in St. Louis) was being able to offer superior school systems and superior civic facilities,? he said.
In Marion, Holter said the Marion Aquatic and Sports Center, the Performing Arts Center and the Community Center, to name a few, are unequaled anywhere in a town this size.
?Those are the things we need to get the word out about and there?s one other piece to this,? he said. ?In the world economy today, and a concern everyone has, is what is our legacy and what are we leaving for our children??
The answer, Holter said, is Marion County.
?Family values here are solid and they don?t change,? he said. ?These are the same values as our parents and grandparents shared with us?there?s no better community.?
Citing a February 2011 report from Gov. Sam Brownback to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Holter said in an average year 7,000 businesses start up and 6,750 close. Also in a year, 18,758 businesses expand while 17,950 contract.
?Across the U.S. economy and in Kansas, we have got to help new start-up businesses understand what they are really in for,? he said, ?and help through the initial planning stage and drive success rates higher.?
Holter said he is working closely with Marion Economic Development Inc. and Marion Advancement Campaign.
Holter and wife Janell live at Marion County Lake and have four grown children, two grandchildren and one 4-year-old great-granddaughter.
?I have one son in Los Angeles, Calif., another in Salina, a daughter in Omaha, Neb., and the oldest daughter is in Dubuque, Iowa,? he said. ?As we moved around the country, they found an area they liked the most and went back.?
For Holter and his wife, living and working in Marion is an answer to their prayers.
?We have been looking for opportunities (here) and the cabin (at Marion County Lake) was an anniversary gift from my wife,? he said.
Once they had a taste of the Marion community, Holter said, they have been looking at how they could fully integrate and become part of it on a full-time basis.
?People here are wonderful, and God has given us a chance,? he said. ?These are the values I stand for and grew up with, and it is so rewarding to get back into a community that is about family.?
Holter said economic development is about growth and building a future, and that?s what excites him.
?We can all grow together or we can all struggle together,? he said. ?But I much prefer growing together.?
Holter can be reached by phone at 620-382-3703 or by e-mail at roger@marionKS.net.