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Hillsboro waits for answer from economic developer candidate

New city economic development director hiring could be within days

News editor

An offer is pending to someone to become Hillsboro’s new economic development director, and it’s anyone’s guess what the answer will be.

The city council interviewed five of the 10 applicants for the position, and conducted second interviews with three. Mayor Delores Dalke said city administrator Larry Paine offered the position to one of them last week.

“Larry is gone this week, and they didn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before he left,” Dalke said Tuesday. “So we’re all sitting here not knowing where we’re at.”

The city has been looking for an economic development director since incumbent Clint Seibel announced he would retire at the end of the month.

Discussions about individual candidates have been conducted in executive sessions, but Dalke made it clear the council isn’t looking for a Seibel clone.

“What I have said since day one is that we are not hiring a replacement for Clint, we’re hiring an economic development director,” Dalke said. “We’re not necessarily looking for somebody that has his abilities or ideas. We’re filling a position.”

Council member Byron McCarty said one of his priorities is to hire someone who will work closely with existing businesses.

McCarty also wants a new director to recruit and support businesses that would fill gaps in the local economy. He suggested an “American-style” sit-down restaurant and a clothing store as possibilities.

Hillsboro has advantages that should help the new director recruit, McCarty said.

“We’ve been lucky that most of the places that have come here came because they liked Hillsboro, not because we recruited them,” McCarty said.

Despite recent closures, Dalke was optimistic about possibilities for economic development.

“I told Clint a couple of months ago, ‘You’ve picked the dumbest time in the whole wide world to turn in your resignation — with everything that’s going to happen in the next 12 months, wouldn’t you have liked to be around?’” she said.

The Shari Flaming Center for the Arts at Tabor College is under construction, and work will begin “in the very near future” on a new Hillsboro Community Hospital facility, Dalke said. The two projects will inject millions of dollars in the local economy.

Dalke believes prospects are good for finding tenants for the vacant Alco building because Martens Company, a Wichita commercial real estate firm, is handling the search for a tenant.

“This would be a good time to have that (economic development director) job, because I think they will bring somebody in,” she said. “They don’t just have a listing and wait for somebody to come to them. They go out after them.”

ReeceNichols, a Kansas City area real estate firm, is marketing the former Heartland Foods building, Dalke said.

“You’ve got a lot of help if you just know how to work with those people,” she said.

The salary the city offered might not be high enough to appease the applicant.

“For this particular candidate we may not be offering enough money,” Dalke said.

If the first candidate declines, the council could reopen the search.

“If that candidate says ‘no,’ then we’re off to, I don’t know, maybe starting all over again,” Dalke said.

Last modified June 4, 2015

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