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Economic developer seeks personal and professional balance in Hillsboro mystery store debate

Staff writer

Two Hillsboro businessmen opposed to the mystery business to be built in Hillsboro Industrial Park praised Marion Economic Development Director Terry Jones Thursday for assistance they said he had provided in their battle.

However, Jones denied giving any guidance to Eric Driggers or Jon Hefley, although he acknowledged accepting an invitation from them to attend Tuesday’s meeting of Hillsboro City Council where the mystery business was discussed.

“My job response is to remain neutral, but as the son-in-law of a local grocery store owner I am concerned, because the business will have an effect on my family’s business,” Jones said. “I’m keeping both separated because it’s not in my job to better my family’s business.”

While officially neutral, Jones said personally he does not want the business built in Hillsboro.

“It is bad enough that residents currently travel out of town to shop at similar big box businesses like Wal-Mart,” Jones said.

“If there’s one only 9 miles away, it will only send more money from our town out, and money that would have been spent at local business won’t be,” he said.

Jones said the consensus he perceives from business owners in Marion and Hillsboro is they are against the business being located within the county.

“I haven’t talked to many residents because I don’t think they care,” he said, “but the town is basically going to die so they should care. My job is trying to stay in the middle of the road. I’m hearing very much against the business and very little for, so I’m following the feedback of the community. I would like to assist the people in Hillsboro but right now there’s not much I can do.”

Driggers, owner of Greenhaw Pharmacy, and Hefley, owner of The Lumberyard in Hillsboro, said Jones has been a help and provided encouragement to their cause against the mystery business.

“Marion is very lucky to have him,” Hefley said. “We think very highly of him.”

Driggers said Jones has expressed concern about the business and has offered opinions and guidance to the group. Jones also made the group aware of other businesses such as banks and retail stores within Hillsboro and Marion that share their concerns.

“The company coming in affects everyone,” Hefley said. “They come in and sell what they want in a store and make millions a day. What’s it to them to drive out local busineses?”

Along with other local business owners, Driggers and Hefley see their mission to be informing residents about what a big box store could do to small businesses in the area. The group isn’t doing anything to actively keep the business from locating in Hillsboro, Driggers said, but is putting up fliers with information they’ve found about when box stores come into towns.

“The community needs to see what local businesses do for the community verses a box store,” he said. “The jobs and money stay in the community with small businesses.”

The secret nature of the business has Hefley concerned about unanswered questions.

“People need to know how they operate so they have both sides,” he said. “If all else fails we can at least saw we tried and bringing Marion and Hillsboro together and stop fighting to join in a goal.”

“We’re not giving up but at the same time concerned about what it will do to business in the town. People need to know and we need local customers to stay with us.”

Last modified Aug. 28, 2014

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