New economic report hard for some to swallow?at first


When you envision the typical consumer who lives within a 15-minute drive of Hillsboro, what image comes to mind?

How about ?Mayberry-ville??

In the words of Gomer Pyle: ?Surprise, surprise, surprise!?

At first blush, local leaders got their dander up a bit when they first read the colorful characterizations used by the Buxton Co. to describe some of the dominant segments of the local market.

The Texas-based company delivered its finding last month.

?My first reaction was I thought we were better than that,? admitted Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke.

But she said as she studied the definitions for each segment, it began to ring true.

?The more I look at the report, the more pleased I am,? she said. ?And I do think the report is accurate, I really do.?

City Administrator Larry Paine, on the job for six months now, had a similar initial response.

?My first reaction to the Hillsboro population was that with a college here, you have a considerable number of upper middle class professionals that would be part of your community,? he said.

?Then I had to go back and think more closely. The map is not just Hillsboro. It represents a 15-minute drive that includes quite a bit of property outside the boundaries (of the city).

?The population does say we are a lower-middle class community,? he said. ?There are some big fish, but at the same time I think these descriptors accurately portray who we are.?

In all, Buxton identified 11 ?dominant segments? among 66 profiles it has compiled. (See sidebar below.) To be identified as a dominant segment, a profile must match at least 3 percent of the consumers in a given trade area.

The city of Hillsboro contracted last fall with Buxton to do this retail site assessment. By tapping various databanks, the company profiles a market area and estimates the dollar potential available in various major retail categories.

The company also profiles potential retailers who are seeking locations to open new stores. Buxton then matches community profiles with retailer profiles for the possibility for mutual recruitment.

City leaders have stated they will not recruit new businesses to Hillsboro that would compete with existing businesses.

In fact, the Buxton information is being shared at no charge with local business owners as a resource for considering how they might expand their existing inventory to meet market opportunities.

?I think those reports are very important to work with our current retailers,? Dalke said. ?Maybe some of them don?t realize how much money people are spending on items that aren?t available here in Hillsboro, and if we would add those things, how much more we could sell.?

The report suggests the primary market within a 15-minute drive of Hillsboro has an estimated dollar potential of nearly $120.5 million in 14 identified categories. (See sidebar above.)

The report then breaks down each of the 14 categories into more specific detail.

The contract with Buxton is costing local taxpayers $50,000, but Paine said he believes the potential increase in sales tax generated by new and existing retailers will more than cover the investment.

Beyond the economic impact, Paine said the information within the report is helpful to him as a city administrator and planner.

?I see some stuff that we?ll be able to use from a demographic point of view to sell the community,? he said.

Not all the news is good. For example, the report indicates that population within the market area is declining.

?The nature of the work that we do really depends on growth,? Paine said.

City government needs a growing tax base to pay for the kinds of services and programs residents expect, he said.

?We have the same streets, same sewer lines and same water treatment plant to maintain whether we have a growing population or a declining one,? Paine said.

By identifying an accurate picture of the community, he said, positive trends can be exploited and negative ones can be addressed.

?There?s a lot of stuff in there for us as folks managing local government,? Paine said.

For example, the demographic information indicates the potential need to expand city recreation programs beyond children and beyond athletic endeavors to meet the need of middle-age to senior adults.

?This kind of thing is really kind of fun for me to sit and look and see what kind of people we really have here,? he said.

Colorful consumer profiles underline area's rural reality

The Buxton Co. retail site assessment identified 11 of 66 descriptors to characterize the dominant population segments it found within a 15-minute drive of Hillsboro. Here are the top five segments based on percentage of population, with Buxton?s accompanying definitions.

1. BLUE HIGHWAYS (19.7%). On maps, Blue Highways are often two-lane roads that wind through stretches of American landscape. Among lifestyles, Blue Highways is the standout for lower-middle-class couples and families who live in isolated towns and farmsteads. Here, Boomer men like to hunt and fish; the women enjoy sewing and crafts, and everyone looks forward to going out to a country music concert.

2. BACK COUNTRY FOLKS (11.5%). Strewn among remote farm communities across the nation, Back County Folks are a long way from economic paradise. The residents tend to be poor, over 55 years old and living in older, modest-sized homes and manufactured housing. Typically, life in this segment is a throwback to an earlier era when farming dominated the American landscape.

3. MAYBERRY-VILLE (10.9%). Like the old ?Andy Griffith Show? set in a quaint picturesque berg, Mayberry-ville harks back to an old-fashioned way of life. In these small towns, middle-class couples and families like to fish and hunt during the day and stay home and watch TV at night. With lucrative blue-collar jobs and moderately priced housing, residents use their discretionary cash to purchase boats, campers, motorcycles and pickup trucks.

4. SIMPLE PLEASURES (8.9%). With more than two-thirds of its residents over 65 years old, Simple Pleasures is mostly a retirement lifestyle: a neighborhood of lower-middle-class singles and couples living in modestly priced homes. Many are high-school educated seniors who held blue-collar jobs before their retirement, and a disproportionate number served in the military; no segment has more members of veterans clubs.

5. GOLDEN PONDS (8.1%). Golden Ponds is mostly a retirement lifestyle, dominated by downscale singles and couples over 65 years old. Found in small bucolic towns around the country, these high-school educated seniors live in small apartments on less than $25,000 a year; one in five resides in a nursing home. For these elderly residents, daily life is often a succession of sedentary activities such as reading, watching TV, playing bingo and doing craft projects.

Money to spend…

The following table from the Buxton Co. outlines the estimated dollar potential available in major retail categories located within the trade area within a 15-minute drive of Hillsboro.

Consumer category Total estimated dollars

Food at home $15,394,810
Food away from home $12,510,900
Alcoholic beverages $3,587,630
Smoking products/supplies $2,779,920
Personal care products/services $2,552,050
Day Care $608,030
Household furnishings/services $16,224,530
Housing expenses $2,996,860
Apparel $9,681,400
Sports & recreation $3,459,250
Miscellaneous $7,651,170
Education $4,027,860
Automotive $26,561,290
Health care $12,445,900
TOTAL $120,481,600
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