Letters (Week of August 29, 2007)


Blood drive exceeded goal of organizers

 

We would like to thank the people who came to donate blood at the American Red Cross blood drive Aug. 19 and also to all who volunteered to help make everything work smoothly.

We can feel proud that each had a part in making blood available for those who need it.

There were 61 productive pints with five first-time donors. We exceeded our goal.

The next blood drive will be Oct. 15 at the Hillsboro Menno­nite Brethren Church.

Shirley Kasper & Gladys Funk

Blood drive chairpersons

Hillsboro

 

County has failed to act on good ideas

 

The Free Press column titled View From the Hill by Paul Penner just developed tunnel vision.

For years, the Marion County Commission has received specific suggestions for economic development. Years ago, the suggestions included creating Community Foundation, which by now would have amounted to millions of dollars like our neighboring counties have generated through their programs.

The suggestions to the commission included participation in state and local initiatives like the Prosperity Summit. The county sent no one despite the county’s financial support for organizations such as Marion County Economic Development Council.

MCEDC supposedly represents our communities, but in reality has been a destructive force to Marion County economic growth because of the lack of program knowledge.

Knowledge of and participation in organizations at the state and regional level is essential because of the connections to state and federal programs. We need them for economic development, but these programs should never be considered the end-all of rural development.

The timely participation in these programs would have fostered growth in Marion County by now. Instead, MCEDC developed contempt for those who tried to represent Marion County, and their attitudes influenced the county commission.

Specific suggestions to the commission included county participation in housing developments that would have drawn families to Marion County from events like the return of the Big Red One to Fort Riley.

The commission ignored the timely information while other communities and counties within the same proximity went to work on housing projects. Those counties now welcome new families to their communities.

For years, the commission received specific suggestions to hire an economic development director. The Hillsboro mayor’s office, in concert with MCEDC, run by Hillsboro, managed to block the hiring until recently.

Finally, the Marion County Commission hired an inexperienced, underpaid director. So far the program scope appears desperately lacking and as desperately underfunded. Programs for lending have been created but there is no sign of creating new jobs.

Retaining business for community (county) growth is quite a different challenge that has yet to be addressed. While small business lending will occur under the present programs, there is no indication the programs will create jobs or that the businesses created will be sustainable.

The commission received specific suggestions for generating income from industrial development, wind energy, recreational trails, a casino and an expanded criminal justice center just to name a few.

Some of these suggestions may work and some definitely would not, but the county will never know because the commission doesn’t know how to engage the process of working through these project proposals for our regional advantage.

Instead, we have continually declining communities that are left to fend for themselves with no help from the county and we continue to lose ground, as View From The Hill aptly noted.

Hillsboro, on the other hand, is the only community in Marion County that truly prospers.

Hillsboro’s development consists of nothing more, and nothing less, than a corral of the political and affluent community cowboys. They accept the funding of so called innovative initiatives, such as the incubator, without ever understanding the significance of regional development in their own back yard.

They successfully initiate a community foundation but do not consider the growth advantages beyond the city limits.

The commission recently received specific suggestions for marketing Marion County to McPherson County, where there is a critical shortage of employees to fill the burgeoning industrial development.

The commission responded by saying they had purchased some advertising spots in Wichita that heralded Marion County as the place to live.

Meanwhile, Hutchinson assigned a task force to address the local advantages of developing housing that specifically fits the employment needs of McPherson and Harvey counties.

What does Hutchinson know that Marion County doesn’t? They know that families that live in Reno County pay local taxes and build homes and send their children to local schools and look for local jobs. Eventually the community builds prosperity.

The comparison is striking. While Reno County comes up with a plan that helps rebuild its economy, Marion County wastes our money on ill-placed ads that nobody sees, cares about or connects to in an economic sense.

Could the Marion County commission be more out of touch? Could MCEDC be any less effective? Could the communities be more contentious?

Hardly.

There are destructive political forces at work in our county. Our county is a field of community foes that contend for everything from hospitals to water parks. In the end our region will lose valuable community services when together we could have achieved phenomenal financial growth like our nearest neighboring counties.

How can we help the Marion County commission more? The answer is not more homework. The answer is not for the critics to be more forthcoming with community vision.

The answer to the vision is already resident within the people of Marion County. Yes, the people have differences and they are sometimes difficult to sort out. But the county has to be willing to engage the lengthy process if we are to reverse the ominous trends.

The answer is not for the critics to have more courage to step forward and come to the table. That’s been done and the critics have been silenced.

Leadership needs to first understand the county dilemma as pointed out by View From the Hill. Penner’s column basically points out that Marion County is going downhill. There’s nothing new in that information and the county has been warned about it for years.

To reverse the slide, Marion County needs better leadership more than it needs anything else right now. We may not count on that leadership from the present commission or groups like the Hillsboro cowboys. Leadership can come from any group that is willing to plan a better future.

Stan Thiessen

Hillsboro


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