One for the team

? Clint Seibel retires after eight years as point man for Hillsboro economic development.

Clint Seibel

After eight years as economic development director for the city of Hillsboro and executive director of the Hillsboro Development Corp., Clint Seibel says the secret to community success isn?t so secret after all.

?Some think if we could just hire the right person our town would really grow,? said Seibel, who completed his tenure in those roles June 30. ?While that is true to some extent, the fact is that no one person is solely responsible for any success the town has experienced.?

Seibel said many people comprise the economic development team in Hills?boro. His list begins with a committed board of directors for HDC and its not-for-profit corporation called Hillsboro Ventures Inc.

But the roster goes well beyond that. Seibel credits the city?s mayor, administrator, council and dedicated employees for their positive involvement.

?Hillsboro is fortunate to have an outstanding team that works well together,? he said. ?Working with our team has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my experience.?

Leaders from HDC and the city are quick to return the compliment.

Lyman Adams, chair of the HDC board, said one of Seibel?s most important accomplishments was to unify the board?s work with the city?s.

?His personality and respect in the community, and his abilities to work with both parties, was very instrumental,? Adams said.

?The beauty of it is, we can move forward even without him now,? he added. ?It?s set up for the future, which makes the future of the Hillsboro a community a lot brighter when we?re both working together for the same goal.?

City Administrator Larry Paine echoed that sentiment.

?There?s a lot of people who have worked together in order to make this stuff work,? said Paine, who came on board with the city about the same time Seibel did.

?That?s one reason why you don?t hear Clint tooting his horn,? he added. ?That?s not him, and it?s not me. We don?t really care about taking personal credit for (what happens), as long as the community is getting the benefit from that process.

?I think that?s the secret to success.?

Evidences of success

One of the first accomplishments of the HDC/city economic effort was finding a viable business to fill the former McDonald?s location along D Street.

?(Mayor Delores Dalke) said, ?Guys, I?d like to get something in that McDon?ald?s,?? Paine recalled. ?So we took up the challenge. (Seibel) put together a plan, got some investors, found somebody to be the franchisee over there?and now here?s Wendy?s.

?I think that process started setting the tone: Hey, we?ll go after it.?

Seibel, Paine and Adams all point to Hillsboro being accepted as an ?E-Commun?ity? in 2009 by the NetWork Kansas program as another significant initiative. The ?E? stands for ?Entrepreneurial.?

?This allowed us to raise $300,000 through the sale of tax credits for a revolving loan fund to assist local businesses,? Seibel said. ?To date we have made eight E-Com?munity loans, helping four business start-ups, three business expansions and one business acquisition.

?The total amount loaned out is about $225,000, which has leveraged an additional $1 million for business development. We have several more loan applications that are pending.?

Adams added: ?E-Com?munity has been very instrumental in helping start-up businesses, and even established businesses grow and become a part of Hills?boro.?

The E-Community program speaks to the economic development strategy Hills?boro has pursued during Seibel?s tenure.

?He?s figured out that the big picture for economic development in a rural community is finding a small business that wants to grow and add to their portfolio of work, then help them develop that,? Paine said.

?We?re not going to get a big manufacturing plant,? he added. ?We don?t expect that, but what we do expect is that we do have businesses like Container Services and Barkman Honey that start small and grow larger.?

Paine said a recent review of the city?s economic experiences during Seibel?s tenure indicates a net of at least 60 new jobs related to his economic development efforts.

Harder to quantify are the behind-the-scenes connections that take time to bear fruit?if in fact they do.

?Team is a good way to talk about economic development because it is a slow process,? Adams said. ?(Seibel) had patience to not expect great things over?night, but he persisted and contacted people to check out leads and everything else.

?Economic development is one of those things where you can go a long time and not see any results, then all of a sudden you see it.?

Hometown advantage

Seibel is a hometown product, having graduated from Hillsboro High School and Tabor College. He then worked for 10 years as a local real estate broker and auctioneer.

Seibel left Hillsboro to attain a seminary degree and then was a pastor in Colorado for several years before returning to Tabor to help with fundraising.

Paine said having a strong hometown connection had the potential to both aid and hinder Seibel?s work in economic development.

?On the side of people who know who he is, there is a comfort level?I know you, I went to school with you, I?ve worked with you,? Paine said. ?It?s a lot easier than going to somebody about whom you have no clue and tell him your aspirations and kind of bear your soul.

?On the other hand, being a local can create a barrier, too?you know who I am, and I?m not sure I want to tell you some of this stuff.?

Seibel sees his hometown heritage as a positive thing.

?Being involved in promoting economic development in Hillsboro for the past eight years has been exciting and challenging,? he said. ?To be given the opportunity to help develop and promote the town that I have learned to love and appreciate has been a real privilege.?

Seibel said Hillsboro had a strong track record in economic development long before he came to the role.

?In a time when many small towns in America are on the decline, Hillsboro has remained economically strong,? he said. ?I believe we are reaping the results of progressive leadership that started years ago.

?The Hillsboro Industrial Park is an example of local leaders putting themselves on the line, some 45 years ago, which has turned out to be a great benefit to the community today.?

Seibel equates the establishment of the Hillsboro Community Foundation on a similar level of significance, calling it ?one of the greatest things that has happened in Hillsboro over the past 10 years.?

?This is an example of a group of people joining together to make some?thing happen for the community,? he said. ?The foundation is now approaching $2 million in assets, proceeds of which come back to support community activities and organizations.

?Even though HDC/HVI had nothing to do with starting and operating HCF, it plays a key role in bringing economic stability to our community.?

Personal reflections

Seibel said he will look with satisfaction on his years in economic development.

?It has been very rewarding to work with various entrepreneurs, helping them with starting or expanding their business,? he said.

?I found out early on that an economic director will never know the answers to all the questions that come up. So it is important to learn to know who to turn to for the answers.

?We have made some great connections with the Kansas Department of Com?merce, NetWork Kansas and the Kansas Small Business Development Center to name a few.?

Seibel said if the city can maintain its progressive attitude, he believes it has a great future ahead, and every resident has a part in making it happen.

?If we want to attract people and businesses to our community we have to be attractive,? he said. ?That includes both a physical attractiveness as well as an attractive attitude of its citizens.

?Again, that is something that can?t be done by one person alone. It takes all of us who live here to make our town look inviting.?

Seibel is convinced a successful city in these times needs more than that, though.

?While it takes an entire community to make things happen, there needs to be someone who will lead the way,? he said. ?Even though I am stepping aside as economic director, I have agreed to be available to help make the transition to new leadership.

?I will always be a promoter of our great city.?

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