Summit probes Hillsboro?s economic future

Nearly 40 community leaders in business, education and city government gathered Friday for a day-long conversation about the future and economic development of Hillsboro.

Billed as the Hillsboro Economic Development Strategy Summit, participants heard presentations on four topics?entrepreneurship, wealth retention, youth attraction and community leadership?then formed breakout groups on each of the topics.

The four groups returned for one last plenary session with ideas for implementation written on sheets of newsprint. Participants then afixed adhesive stars on each sheet to support the ideas they felt had the most merit or importance.

?We got some good feedback from the breakout sessions, and I believe we developed some consensus on some of the areas that we want to move forward on,? said Clint Seibel, executive director of Hillsboro Develop?ment Corp., one of five entities that sponsored the summit.

The other four sponsors were city of Hillsboro, Hillsboro Community Foundation, Unified School District 410 and Tabor College. The event was at Hills?boro Mennonite Brethren Church.

Seibel said the summit was the outgrowth of a four-day series of meetings on the same four topics presented in central Kansas by HomeTown Competitiveness, a Nebraska-based resource for rural communities.

Seibel attended all four sessions; other residents attended a session, according to topic.

?I felt that having spent that much time and energy, and because the content had a lot of value for the local community, I didn?t want to let it die,? Seibel said about the decision to develop the local summit.

He called together a steering committee of six people who organized the gathering. The committee included the four topical presenters (Seibel, Brad Bartel, Steve Noble and Larry Paine) plus Mayor Delores Dalke and Jim Elliott, who moderated the summit.

Financial sponsors were recruited to help underwrite the cost.

Four presentations

Seibel gave the presentation on entrepreneurship, which he called ?the engine that drives economic development.? He said most of Hillsboro?s business successes have come through the development of home-grown enterprises rather than ?elephant hunting? for a huge national corporation.

Seibel challenged the group to consider ways to identify, develop and recognize business entrepreneurs for the city?s future.

Bartel, representing Hills?boro Community Foundation, introduced Sandi Fruit to speak on wealth retention. Fruit is the executive director of the Central Kansas Community Foundation, of which HCF is an affiliate.

Fruit said the United States will experience a transfer of wealth between generations of $66 billion over the next 12 years; she projected that Marion County?s portion between 2011 and 2020 would be about $209 million.

Since most wealth leaves a hometown when parental estates are settled, Fruit said it is important to have a community foundation in place to receive maybe a 5 percent donation. In Marion County, 5 percent would amount to about $10 million.

?Wouldn?t it be great if both Hillsboro and Marion had an endowment of $5 million each?? Fruit asked.

An endowment of that size would generate up to $500,000 a year that could be reinvested in projects that would benefit the entire community, she said.

USD 410 superintendent Steve Noble, speaking on the topic of youth attraction, referenced a recent survey reported in the Wichita Eagle. It asked local 25-to-40-year-olds what they were looking for from their hometown; 20 percent indicated they would be leaving the area in the next four years.

?How are we like Wichita, and how are we different?? he asked.

Noble characterized youth as falling into one of three categories: stayers (who join the local work force), seekers (usually military), achievers (college-bound) and returners (who come back after several years away).

Noble said the three pillars of attracting youth are to equip, engage and support them.

In the question time following his presentation, there was widespread agreement that Hillsboro offers local youth a good place to live and raise a family, but the critical need is for jobs that can support them adequately.

In the fourth presentation, City Administrator Larry Paine spoke on community leadership, calling it the component that fuels success in the other three areas, and the primary determinant of community health.

He defined leadership as ?the ability to accomplish what needs to be done.?

Participants energized

The summit, which went from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., seemed to energize participants.

?I think there are two results that come from this kind of summit,? Seibel said. ?One is tangible results. We have action plans that came out of this that we would like to organize and get done.

?Secondly, there?s just a lot of intangible results. I visited with one person who said, ?Man, I learned a lot about some things I didn?t know about before.? Another person said, ?I had never met So-and-so before. He was a real quality individual.?

?People left feeling like they had learned things. I think there was some consensus building.?

Participants for the summit were chosen for their involvement in the community, Seibel said. Sixty-five invitations were issued; 38 people attended.

?I was very pleased with the turnout, the fact that there were a lot of community leaders there who sacrificed their time to be there,? Seibel said. ?That tells me they considered this an important part of what we should be doing here in Hillsboro.

?I was real pleased, not only at their attendance, but with their participation,? he added. ?It?s pretty easy to come to an event and hear some presentations. But then the hard work starts when you go into your breakout sessions and say, ?Now what are we going to do???

Recommendations from the breakout groups will be reviewed by the steering committee, which will then attempt to find a local organization or institution that will ?own it and implement it.?

The participants are listed below according to their breakout group.

? Entrepreneurship: Clint Seibel (leader), Shelby Dirks, Alan Goldsby, Jared Jost, Kim Kaufman, Joel Klaassen, Rod Koons, Mike Ryan, Phil Wyssenbach.

? Wealth retention: Brad Bartel (leader), Lyman Adams, Diane Claassen, Delores Dalke, Marilyn Ensz, Mike Padget, Kelly Schlehuber, Glenn Thiessen, Clark Wiebe.

? Youth attraction: Steve Noble (leader), Rusty Allen, Marlene Fast, Mike Kleiber, Linda Ogden, Grant Overstake, Don Ratzlaff, Ben Steketee, Eddie Weber.

? Leadership development: Larry Paine (leader), Jeanie Bartel, Greg Brown, Don Dahl, Jim Elliott, Jules Glanzer, Jayson Hanschu, Keith Harder, Lu Janzen, Lori Soo Hoo.

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