Big-box event a step forward

When the announcement officially came that big box was coming to Marion County I was loud, proud and to some, a little obnoxious.

I am sure many were thinking, ?Who is this guy, he just got here. Why does he care?? Those questions were probably justified. I hadn?t had a chance to meet many of you, and, in the eyes of some people, I probably wasn?t in a place to make such bold statements.

Now that more of you know me, you know I can?t keep my mouth shut and I am a pretty passionate dude. Sometimes that is a dangerous cocktail mix.

I love the newspaper industry, am excited about community building, and I have a knack for being loud about both.

In the letter I wrote months ago in the Free Press I said my words weren?t hollow. I wasn?t just shouting from the rooftops for change and education, but rather that I would help to bring it. It wasn?t an empty promise.

The first step in my process came two weeks ago with the ?Thinking Outside the Big Box? program at Tabor College.

We had a nice turnout of community leaders and business owners and invited experts to work with small businesses in the county who wanted another view of things before big box got up and running.

We invited Tim Smith to be our keynote and work with businesses throughout the week. He was a real treat to have in the county and is an expert in his field. We were fortunate he was able to come.

Marci Penner and Roger Holter rounded out our program of speakers. Both brought a unique perspective from their travels and experiences.

In my opinion, the program was a big success, and we couldn?t have put it on without Terry Jones, economic development director for Marion, Clint Seibel, economic development director for Hillsboro, and Teresa Huffman, economic development director for Marion County.

Those three folks have your best interests at heart and were great help in putting put on the program. We thank them.

That event was just the first step. Let me tell you that the program was videoed by Gene Winkler and will air on Marion County TV Channel 20 at his discretion. It also is available for viewing at: Or you can just go to, hover over the specials menu and then click on the ?Think Outside the Big Box? link.

Now that the event has passed, the ?Thinking Outside the Big Box? brand isn?t dead. If you haven?t already seen it, there is an ad in this week?s Free Press containing information of interest. Sometimes it will be a resource, other times it might be fun facts, and other times it might be a guest column or something else.

That space is more of a living, breathing thing right now. We are going to use it the best way we know how to educate folks and give them resources. It should be a neat deal.

?Thinking Outside the Big Box? was really my first public way? beyond the newspaper?to show you who I am and what I am about.

I hope we know each other a little better now. I plan to have the relationship continue to blossom, as long as you will have me, of course.