IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Hillsboro mayoral forum (Part 4 of 4)

What do you want Hillsboro to be like in 10 years?

CHARLOTTE KENNEDY-TAKAHASHI: I know we need a new restaurant. I’d like to see a quarter of downtown pulled down even though my family built some of if. I’d like to see downtown as the center of life again. My mom always talked about how exciting Hillsboro was on Saturdays. I don’t if we’ll ever regain that, but I vision downtown as central for walking and doing all kinds of things. I think we need to have a renewed downtown with different functions.

I also think the Arts & Crafts Fair has become dull. I think we need to learn to work on more entertainment. There should be a fair where we really have some excitement going there. I think we’re allowing people to come to our city and sell their stuff. I think we should revitalize that fair.

I think an 18-hole golf course is something my husband would like very much. Whether that’s possible, I don’t know, but the nine-hole one is fantastic.

I definitely think we need to landscape. Why don’t we make this a city of gardens? Why don’t we make it a city of trees? Why don’t we make it a beautiful city? I was just looking at a TV program about a city that is a city of tulips. I’m not saying we need to do that, but we should do something to make this city beautiful. Don’t you want to live in a beautiful city? I want to live in a beautiful city.

We do have sources of beauty in this city, we just need more.

LOU THURSTON: In 10 years I hope we can look back and see positive changes in the areas I’ve mentioned.

I hope Hillsboro remains a growing and vibrant, relevant community. That our business parks are full and bustling, that our Main Street is busy, and especially seeing growth in our schools because that will mean families are moving to Hillsboro.

I hope Hillsboro is a center of excellence for entrepreneurship. I believe strongly in entrepreneurship. The business we have stayed in Hillsboro with entrepreneurial-based operations. They have been key to our growth in the past, they’ll continue to be our key to growth in the future.

So I want to see Hillsboro as a center of excellence in entrepreneurship, in starting and growing new businesses—that the next generation sees Hillsboro as a place they want to be, a place where they want to raise their family and a place where they want to be involved in making Hills­boro better than before.

We have a great foundation to build on. I’ll end with another quote from Simon Sinek: “Vision is like a dream, it will disappear unless you do something with it.”

I look forward to growing Hillsboro together with you.

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QUESTIONS FROM

THE AUDIENCE

Given that several businesses have left town in past years, how can we reverse that trend?

THURSTON: As I said before, I think it’s critical that we get the restaurant back on Main Street. We’ve got some development going on, we’ve got a very strong young man (Anthony Roy) running our running our development office right now.

One of the key things he has identified, and we need to be working on at the top of the priority list, is just that: that we have a full-service restaurant, a destination restaurant if you will, that draws people downtown, where you can get bacon and eggs, where you can go to get a piece of pie and cup of coffee in the evening.

My folks used to enjoy very much at the end of the day meeting with friends at what used to be the Guest House and then the Iron Kettle. There was a lot of coffee drunk and a lot of conversation in those days, We need to bring that back.

Some things we’ve done in the past is to work with people to develop things. Part of Hillsboro Develop­ment Corp. and our partnership with NetWork Kansas is we have loan money available to help support things like that.

That’s something, as mayor, that I’m going to have at the top of my priority list to make sure that we see about getting that done.

KENNEDY-TAKAHASHI: I’ve been quite familiar with business development, but in another context. Thirty-six American U.S. states have offices in Japan. I worked closely with them because they’re trying to get a vision from overseas.

One of the things I see by watching that is that you really have to have a good process of business development. I think Hillsboro has done fine, but I think it can be professionalized. I think it can be very assertive in comparison to the past, where we can really go after business and measure whether they would be successful or not.

One of the things we should really look at is what kind of businesses we want here and go after them. Established businesses bring profits more quickly than entrepreneur businesses. I have no problem with entrepreneurs. Starting with $30,000 cash and turning it into a multi-million dollar business, I tried to make investments here and I find that sometimes the professional skills we’re dealing with aren’t high enough that we trust to do business. So, we need to develop the professionalism of our businesses so they can handle more businesses.

I’m looking at it from the point of view of a person who has started a corporation. We had a lot to do in the process of attracting business, we had a lot to do in understanding, for example, entrepreneurs who try to start businesses and have no business plan and they’re failing. Of course they’re failing!

At Tabor, I taught business planning. I had a lot of the kids make plans for Hills­boro to grow economically. The kids made really good plans, better than most of downtown would ever do. So, we really have to look at the business skills. We find that a lot of business skills are outmoded, they need to be made more up-to-date.

I’ve had a chance to buy a couple of businesses, but there’s been little or no response from them about the process of buying it. So, I don’t mean to condemn the community in this area, but I can really help because I have I have built a multi-million corporation, and I know how to do it.

I do believe in entrepreneurship, I want you to go away with that. The reality is, 85 percent won’t succeed. I am very good at representing to corporations. I’ve worked with corporations and these kinds of business.

Wal-Mart is a business and they made a corporate decision. It had nothing to do with Hillsboro. We have to be careful about what kind of corporations we bring in.

My husband is president of a pharmaceutical company in Japan and also a bio-tech company. Both of us really have experience and assets to solve some of this.

Why are our young people leaving Hillsboro?

KENNEDY-TAKAHASHI: I’m one of those people who left Hillsboro. I think we have a college here, but the jobs that college students can have in Hillsboro are limited. The professional field is much greater in the big cities.

I think some people stay, and more people would like to stay. But the opportunities to advance entrepreneurship has limitations. I think it’s all kinds of reasons why people don’t stay. I think that’s true for all small towns in America, not just Hillsboro.

I think it would be really nice if we would capture some of the Tabor students who want to be entrepreneurs and help them start their first business here in Hillsboro.

THURSTON: I certainly echo a number of things that Charlotte said. If we think of farming, it doesn’t take as many people to farm as many acres of land as it used to. We’re not keeping them because we don’t have that ag base of people like we used to.

 But again, it is creating that opportunity for people to come back. We’ve had a number of classmates of mine, and their children, who have moved back to Hillsboro because they desire what we’ve got. We need to continue to develop Hillsboro so those opportunities that caused our daughter to move back to the community attract others, too.

From an employ­ment standpoint, I’ve had to work outside of Hillsboro for most of my career, but I’ve chosen to live in Hillsboro. So, part of it is to ensure that Hills­boro is a good place to live and attractive for families. We’ve got to have those kids in our schools and our community.

We need to be working more closely with Tabor, and that’s something I’ve talked with Jules Glanzer about. We’re working with Tabor to create that entrepreneurial center, and having Tabor students working in Hillsboro businesses.

My folks employed Tabor students in their business very successfully. Integrat­ing Tabor students with Hillsboro with internships or city government is what we need to work on.