County reps get down to business

Marion County Commissioner Randy Dallke (holding microphone) moderates the conversation about economic development Feb. 18 at the Marion Community Center.More than 50 people attended a public meeting Thursday at the Marion Community Center moderated by Randy Dallke, Marion County commissioner.

?We want to know what businesses need, what they want and how we (as commissioners) can help,? he said.

Nearly every city in the county was represented with discussions ranging from how to attract more young people and promoting entrepreneurs to consolidating jobs, agri-tourism and more.

Chris Hernandez, financial advisor at Edward Jones in Marion, said the lake and reservoir are among the county?s strengths.

?I also think the municipalities of Hillsboro and Marion are strengths, but we have strong schools, too,? he said.

It doesn?t stop at just having good schools, though, he said.

?Having a good education is all for not if we are losing our kids,? Hernandez said.

If young people major in engineering, pre-med, or other specialized degrees, he said they could need a more urban area to raise their families.

?It doesn?t mean they don?t want to come back,? Hernandez said. ?Everybody has a soft spot in their heart where they were raised.

?What our job is as Marionites is to create jobs.?

Consolidating job

Marion County and the cities of Hillsboro and Marion all have a budget for economic development, Hernandez said.

?I can?t name a major corporation today with three CFOs (chief financial officers),? he said. ?Corporations only have one because with three all they would do is fight about the budget.?

What makes more sense Hernandez said is to give one CFO an appropriate amount of money.

?Why can?t we combine that asset together and have one economic development director with a larger budget,? he said.

?We would say we don?t want to see you in Marion County except on Fridays. Monday through Thursday we will see you out in the competitor?s area.?

Nobody gives out gold watches anymore, Hernandez said, because nobody sticks to a job for any long period of time.

?My grandfather spent 30 to 40 years at a job, but that just doesn?t happen anymore,? he said.

Negativity in print

Doug Kjellin, former city administrator of Marion, and now co-owner of Dona?hue Trailers in Durham, said he has lived in the area for 50 years.

?What anyone can find on Internet will sway potential recruits,? he said. ?Sometimes are motto should be we eat our young.?

Kjellin said it?s important to eliminate any negativity, or at least try to modulate the negativity within the ranks.

?This includes the press, and especially the written press in our county,? he said. ?I think there is a possibility of leaving necessary negative articles off the front page.?

Kjellin?s words were followed by applause from other attendees.

?We can have journalism integrity without glorifying the inadequacies or the misconceptions that make our county great,? he said.

?Why do we celebrate the crap??

A clean town

Trayce Warner, Florence City councilwoman, talked about Jenny Lee, a 25-year-old who is owner and operator of a bakery and grocery store in Florence.

?I spoke to her this past week,? Warner said, ?and asked what she would like to see in Florence.?

Lee said she would like to see residents clean up the town of Florence.

But, in order to make that happen, Warner said it would take the cooperation of constituents.

Another concern involves housing, and people who own a lot of property, but don?t want to do anything with it.

?These property owners just want to own them,? Warner said. ?They use them for storage, but don?t necessarily want to rent them and don?t necessarily want to fix them up over even sell them.?

Warner asked what can be done to convince these people that the town of Florence is not going to grow as a community unless there is housing.

?That?s a tough question,? Dallke said.

Barkman Honey

Brent Barkman, owner of Barkman Honey, said he wanted to talk about the aging population.

?I saw statistics not too long ago which showed Marion County at 12,208 people, but by 2064 it would be 4,000,? he said.

As one of the largest employers in Marion County, Barkman said he is almost constantly looking for people.

?How do we attract young people back to Marion County?? he asked.

One thing, he said, is in giving young people hope that there?s continued growth happening and that the county is progressive.

?I don?t have a solution,? he said, ?and maybe it?s as simple as having Internet cafes.?

Joining together?

Tammy Ensey, an entrepreneur in Marion, asked how the community and county can join together in supporting one another in its business endeavors.

?We have no sort of signage on U.S. Highway 56. We have to tell people to stop in,? she said.

Ensey said she would encourage everyone to start thinking outside the box and look at marketing efforts as a whole.

Dallke said the commissioners tried working with the Neighborhood Revitalization Campaign thinking it would draw people.

?It really hasn?t drawn the number of people we thought,? he said.

Another concern, Hernandez said involves friction and factions between municipalities and the county.

?People need to get over it,? he said.

Judy Mills of Florence said she wasn?t aware of friction or the animosities between Hillsboro and Marion for many years after she arrived.

?It did start rubbing off on me, but I didn?t know where it came from?whether it was school rivalries (or something else),? she said.

Whatever or however it started, though, Mills said it needs to stop.

?We are all in the same county, and we all want the county to survive, whether from Hillsboro, Florence or wherever, it shouldn?t make any difference,? she said.

Warner agreed.

?We have divisions between the cities and county, and we have to change or we have to let the young people take over,? she said. ?We can?t keep bringing that old business up when we are trying to do new things.?

Max Hiebert said he has seen Hillsboro and Marion at one another?s throat for 50 years.

?It hasn?t helped anything. Florence has the best water in the world, and we have two of the best sausage makers in Hillsboro and Peabody,? he said about the good things in the county.

New ventures

EJ Pickett of Marion said she is planning to open a new eating establishment in Marion called, ?MacGregor?s Restaurant & Bar.?

The new business will locate in the Suffield building on Main Street sometime in May.

?We are not opening a restaurant because we want to work hard,? she said, ?but because we think Marion needs it.?

The business will have a full menu with live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays, she said.

?We want all of Marion County to support it. We can?t make it with just Marion,? she said.

Pickett also agreed with others in that young people need to come back to the county.

?I love it here,? she said.

Davey Hett, who owns and operates Hett Construction, said his ancestors (on both sides) have been here since 1860.

?I enjoy working in every community in this county,? he said. ?I like them all.?

What Hett said he would like to see happen would be to see Marion County Lake property further developed.

?I believe the highest dollar property is out at Marion County Lake,? he said. ?It?s gone from $7,000-$8,000 in the 1970s to upwards of $400,000.?

Whenever someone builds a house on that property, Hett said, that?s an increase in the tax base.

?I would like to see more of that land turned over for further development,? he said, ?and see some baby-boomers looking for places to retire.?

Agriculture is our main industry, he said, and even in Hillsboro?s industrial park are ag-related businesses.

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