Bring businesses back: Mayoral candidates address concerned citizens
There’s no place to get pie after 8 p.m. How would you fix it?
When Don Voss moved to Hillsboro 10 years ago, he said Hillsboro businesses were booming. He could go downtown and have breakfast in the morning or a cup of coffee and his favorite slice of pie past 8 p.m.
But as the years have passed, Voss has had fewer options on where he can eat or shop.
“This town has gone downhill since I’ve been here,” Voss told Hillsboro mayoral candidates Charlotte Kennedy Takahashi and Lou Thurston during a candidate forum with Tabor College’s Lifelong Learning session Friday.
Voss, along with many others in attendance, wanted to know how Takahashi and Thurston would reverse this trend if elected mayor.
“One of the key things that … needs to be worked on at the top of the priority list is just that,” Thurston said. “That we have a restaurant — a full-service restaurant, a destination restaurant, if you will — that draws people down there where you can go get bacon and eggs in the morning or you can go get a piece of pie and a cup of coffee in the evening.
“My folks used to enjoy very much at the end of the day meeting their friends. There was a lot of pie eating and coffee drinking back in those days, and we need to bring that back,” he continued.
Thurston said entrepreneurship is the way to make that happen.
“One of the things we have done in the past is work with people to develop things as part of Hillsboro Economic Development (Corporation). In our partnership with Network Kansas we’ve got loan money to help support things like that,” he said. “That’s something that as mayor I will have at the top of my priority list.”
Takahashi said she is familiar with business development and because of that, she knows a community must have a good development plan.
“Hillsboro has done fine, but I think it can be professionalized,” she said. “I think it can be very assertive in comparison to the past. We can go after businesses and measure whether they would be successful or not. I agree with the restaurant, but I am talking more broadly.
“Established businesses bring profits more quickly than entrepreneurs,” she continued. “I have no problem with entrepreneurs because I’ve been one. I do believe in entrepreneurship, I don’t want you to go away with that, but the point is we have to put our eggs in more than the entrepreneurial basket.”
To do so, she said Hillsboro must go after corporations.
“I can really help because I have built a multimillion corporation and I know how to do it,” she said. “I am very good at representing to corporations. I have worked with corporations, I have worked in corporations. I think we do need to bring in corporate investment. I think there’s an entrepreneurial answer, there’s also a corporate answer.”
In the only other question from the audience, candidates were asked “Why are young people leaving Hillsboro?” All other questions were given to the candidates beforehand and both had prepared statements.
“I’m a young person who left Hillsboro,” Takahashi said. “The number of jobs that college students can have in Hillsboro is limited. The professional field is much greater and bigger in other cities when you come out with a college degree.
“I think some people stay, and I think some people would like to stay, but the opportunity to advance in entrepreneurship has limitations,” she continued. “But I think it would be really nice if we would capture our Tabor students. I found my professional opportunity (elsewhere), and I think that’s true of most people.”
But Takahashi came back, and she said she hopes Hillsboro will be a place young people will want to return to.
Likewise, Thurston said he wants Hillsboro to be a place where people want to come back.
“It’s a numbers thing. Everything from farming doesn’t take as many people, so we’re not keeping,” he said. “We don’t have that ag group of people that maybe we used to, but again it is creating that opportunity for people to come back.”
Thurston said Hillsboro needs to continue to develop the city so that those opportunities exist.
“Part of it is making sure Hillsboro is a nice place to live for families and focusing on those young folks because those kids coming up, we’ve got to have those kids in our schools and in our community,” he said. “And going back to that entrepreneurial thing, we have to be working more closely with Tabor to develop, to create that entrepreneurial center and getting those students working in Hillsboro businesses.”
After the one-hour forum, Voss said that after hearing from both mayoral candidates, he can only think of the young, blonde woman who worked at the coffee shop he frequented who then went to culinary school and had no desire to start her own business here.
“They have so much to mend here, I don’t think it will ever be mended,” he said.
The candidate elected will replace mayor Delores Dalke, who has served as mayor for more than 20 years.
Last modified Sept. 20, 2017