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Hillsboro business community blossoms

Staff writer

The economic climate in Hillsboro is more akin to the weather in San Francisco — never too hot, never too cold — than the arctic conditions some small towns are facing.

Two businesses in Hillsboro decided to expand in 2009.

The Lumberyard Inc. added to its current location at 101 N. Ash Street to expand its line of products.

“To create more diversity in our products,” office manager Katherine DeFilippis said, “(We added) kitchen and bath designs.”

Carquest outgrew its current location at 607 N. Ash Street and is moving into a larger complex in Hillsboro Heights in 2010.

“We hope that we can offer more goods,” owner Mike Kleiber said.

The Lumberyard and Carquest are two examples of a growing business community in Hillboro, a community that has remained prosperous even in the face of a national recession. Part of Hillsboro’s strength is that many of its businesses have a long history in Hillsboro.

The Lumberyard has been in business in Hillsboro since 1884.

“I think (Hillsboro) has a good base of everything,” DeFilippis said. “I think we have a wide variety of retail shops, any types of services that you need, pharmacy, and restaurants.”

Ken Koslowsky has owned the Hillsboro True Value hardware store for 24 years. Koslowsky worked at the store — that has been in its location on Main Street for 30 years — even before it was affiliated with True Value.

“We grew up here,” Koslowsky said. “We enjoy the business situation.”

Even though Carquest has only been around seven years, Kleiber said that he has been in business in Hillsboro all his life.

“I think people here are progressive,” Kleiber said. “We have a progressive ag community.”

Another aspect of Hillsboro, that separates it from other small towns, is competition. The Hillsboro business community features multiple auto dealers, grocery stores, banks, hardware stores and fast food chain restaurants.

“What develops a business climate is competition,” Hillsboro economic development director Clint Seibel said. “When the water rises in the business community, it’s good fishing for everybody.”

As the Executive Director of Hillsboro Ventures Inc., Seibel tries to nurture new businesses to health and maintain Hillsboro’s vibrant economic environment.

In the past, the primary strategy for economic development was to focus on business recruitment. Hillsboro looked for a large business from out of town to come in and solve all of their economic problems. That strategy was not very effective because it is hard to lure large businesses to small rural towns, and large companies are quick to move out when their bottom line suffers because there is no hometown loyalty.

Recruitment is still important, but a large part of what Hillsboro is doing now, according to Seibel, is finding local entrepreneurs and helping them develop their business ideas. Two of Hillsboro’s most successful businesses started with meager beginnings.

Golden Heritage Foods LLC started out on a small farm near Hillsboro 50 years ago and has grown into a large food producer.

Containers Services Inc. manufacturers a grocery store icon: the plastic bear-shaped honey container. They started by making the plastic bears in a small plant but expanded into a much larger operation. They began with only one client — Golden Heritage formerly Barkman Honey — and then grew into a national company.

“We want to surround entrepreneurs with the resources they need to be successful,” Seibel said. “As we help them write a business plan we find that the first need is usually financial.”

Seibel is presently working with several business start-ups to set up loans from banks and supplements those costs with E-Community money. He will also look to other sources — Marion County micro loans for instance — for financial assistance.

He also tries to limit the legal hurdles that businesses have to jump.

“Eliminating red tape is an important factor — unnecessary zoning hearings,” Seibel said. “We try to make sure the building lot has all the utilities and all the streets ready to go.”

But, Seibel helps all of the prospective business owners through an extensive application and interview process before anything is approved.

“It all starts with a business plan,” he said. “’What does your company do? Do people want the product? Can you make a profit?’”

He has also been working with young entrepreneurial projects. Austin Jost recently bought an upholstery shop at 107 W. A St. He has already received orders to upholstering furniture and car seats, but his talent lies in graphic design. Jost has painted a few motorcycles and is about to start working on a bike for a client from Nebraska.

“He’s an artist,” Seibel said of Jost. “It takes people that have ideas.”

Seibel is excited for Hillsboro’s growth. Midway Motors is expanding in Hillsboro in the next year and talks continue with a company interested in building a new hospital.

With all of the new developments in Hillsboro, Seibel thinks Hillsboro has the potential to continue thriving and growing.

“It just happens to be Hillsboro’s time right now,” he said. “People are investing their money here because they know it’s a place where their investment will grow.”

Last modified Dec. 30, 2009

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