Development chief knows
goals will come in phases

Staff writer

Roger Holter understands that business can move at a geological pace. Like the shifting of fault lines, it happens below the surface and takes lots of time.

Holter worked in retail for 40 years — as a store manager, general manger, and regional manager. He’s dealt with permits and zoning issues. He’s taken the steps to build financial plans, establishing a budget, timeline, and return. He’s gone through the phases to take an empty plot of ground and replace it with a Lowe’s in a year — wading through a river of inspections, zoning, advertising, and construction contractors.

Holter has worked in Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis, Wichita, and most recently Topeka. At Lowe’s, he was part of a team encouraging small business development — connecting entrepreneurs to financial resources and providing the photo-ready advertising.

Among his lengthy tenures at retail giants Lowe’s and Sears and Roebuck, Holter has worked as a junior achievement sponsor in Wichita; he provided training for the origins of a small business and business administration.

What Holter has not done is work as an economic development director. His whole experience is on the opposite side of the table from government officials; he’s never been one.

“I don’t know, what I don’t know,” he said.

At the beginning of his new job as Marion Economic Development Director, it’s about phasing. Holter said phasing is a crucial component at the beginning of a business.

“If I want to do this in six months, I need to do this next week,” he explained.

The first phase for Holter as economic development director is meeting individually with Marion business owners.

“I feel my responsibility is to find out from current business operators what is their vision for the future,” he said.

Holter said 65 percent of business failures stem from flaws in financial planning. If business owners cannot prove to a bank that it will net a return, they will have to go back three to four times before they will be able to do anything.

Holter is looking to prevent those situations by providing sound guidance. He is going to act as a liaison between entrepreneurs and the right officials, whether that’s city, state, or federal representatives or financial help. He knows his years of experience have produced a web of contacts.

“Entrepreneurs, for all individuals, will grow in a way they wish to grow,” he said.

While the wealth of Holter’s experience comes from his work with large corporations, he has run three small businesses with his wife Janell. He said Janell has been the creative force behind a bridal shop, flower business, and Mountain Man Candy Shop. He has provided the financial and physical, with some hands on building, infrastructures for those projects.

Holter can relate to business owners in Marion, which would have, at most, 30 employees.

“If you look at the economic recovery, it’s not being driven by large businesses,” he said. “It’s coming from businesses with 20, 30, 50 employees.”

He is planning to sell Marion to prospective businesses by emphasizing the educational excellence in the community and the community support and involvement. Educational excellence is both the work of the local district but also the distinct skills of much of the workforce spawned from agriculture experience.

Holter also knows Marion. He and Janell have had a cabin as a vacation home at Marion County Lake for 12 years, stopping in about every month. Their planning to move into the cabin full-time after he takes the economic development director position.

 

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