Expecting a great year in 2015

This year certainly has been a blur, and I?m sure 2015 is going to bring many new amazing experiences and intrigue into my life.

Without question, 2014 has been one of the most memorable years of my 30 years on Earth.

The biggest reason was, back in April, Joel Klaassen entrusted this media company he and Don Ratzlaff built from the ground up to me and my wife, Lindsey.

We are intensely grateful and will continue to be humbled by that experience. The people of Marion County have been an absolute joy to get to know, and I can?t wait to embark on many journeys with the people this newspaper serves.

2015 is going to bring at least one challenge for Marion County?the arrival of a major big box store in Hillsboro. Yes, I know I have beat this drum before, but stay with me, as this time it?s to a slightly different beat.

In an open letter I put in the Free Press earlier this year, I wrote about my personal disdain for a certain big box store, the reasons why I had those feelings, and a promise that we were going to do something to help.

Some of you may have noticed our first aid package for our area small businesses. It comes in the form of a program set up by me and area economic development directors in Marion County for Jan. 8.

The program is designed to help our area grocers, pharmacists and retailers adapt to the incoming changing business environment that is coming to Marion County.

Some are upset that the big box is coming, others are happy. But one thing can be certain about its arrival: the Marion County business environment will need to change.

The changes can be minimal and painless with some preparation, and that?s what our program is really designed to do: be the first step in preparing for big box arrival.

There will be more to do after that program, as I am not one to think a job is done after setting up the framework. This is an ongoing mission for me and this newspaper. We want to see Marion County thrive in this new marketplace and are willing to put our money where our mouth is to make it happen.

Not an area business person? That?s OK; this program isn?t really set up for you, but it does benefit one who hopefully shops in the area.

Also, if you keep an eye on the newspaper (I know you do), you will find resources coming after the program that might be of interest as well.

If you can?t tell, I am pretty excited about this program and our first big challenge of 2015. I know from my time in Marion County, interacting with the people here, and getting a chance to work closely with the Free Press staff since April, that I made the right choice to plant a flag here and align my future with Marion County?s.

This is one of the neatest places with some of the greatest people I have had an opportunity to be around, so let?s tackle 2015 with gusto. I am looking forward to doing so with you.