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Business is in hot water -- and that's good

Managing editor

There is more probability of businesses moving to smaller communities like Hillsboro because of connections to the community than any other reason.

Such was the case with the most recent new business to choose Hillsboro as its home.

Larry and Sherri Cole were living in Phillipsburg and wanted to create a warehouse in the Midwest. Larry Cole said they looked in the Phillipsburg area for adequate space but could not find any that was suitable. He started looking at cold space in Wichita when his wife, a Hillsboro native, asked him to consider Hillsboro.

Four year ago, the Coles moved their spa distributorship from Phillipsburg to Hillsboro.

Cole has been in the spa business since 1991, becoming an independent salesman four years ago. His supplier, Kent Thompson of Oceanside, Calif., visited the Coles in Hillsboro and fell in love with Hillsboro. About 18 months ago, Kent and his wife, Kande, and their two sons returned to Hillsboro for another visit. At that time, they talked to Clint Seibel, executive director of Hillsboro Development Corporation, and members of the HDC board of directors about the possibility of moving the business to Hillsboro.

“Kent said he found ‘Mayberry’,” Cole said.

Several weeks ago, trucks loaded with equipment arrived and workers have been busy installing manufacturing equipment in part of the former AMPI building, now owned by the City of Hillsboro. It’s in the same part of the building that Cole had his spa warehouse.

HDC officials and Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke received a sneak-peek Monday morning of the new manufacturing operation.

One of Thompson’s lead employees, Freddie Zapien, explained the operation to the group.

He said there were 16 different forms of varying sizes and types to manufacture hot tubs, providing various amenities to customers.

Forms are molded with heat — one million BTUs, to be exact. When the molds cool, Fiberglas resin is sprayed in the tub in a special spray booth. From there, the mold goes to a cutting table to be trimmed.

Holes are drilled for water jets and additional plumbing is installed. After being water-tested, the tub is wrapped and prepared for shipping.

Thus far, there are two orders to be filled at the Hillsboro site — one to be shipped to Switzerland, the other to France.

Cole said he anticipates the facility to be in full-operation within three to four weeks with six to eight employees. Southwest Spas International office will remain in Oceanside for the next couple of years until the owners’ two sons graduate from high school. The Thompsons then plan to relocate the entire operation to Hillsboro and move here.

“I’ve been helping them with this move,” Seibel said, including bringing the state exporting representative to help the company export their products.

Two of Thompson’s lead employees, Zapien and his brother, Jerry Zapien, and their families will relocate from California to Hillsboro to oversee the manufacturing operation.

Cole believes having the manufacturer located in the central part of the country will reduce freight costs for both U.S. and foreign destinations.

No stranger to development, Cole said he has started eight businesses from scratch — mostly retail.

“This is my last hurrah,” he said with a smile.

Yes, the power of connections sometimes is not known for a long time, if ever, or until something like this happens.

Last modified Feb. 25, 2009

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