A mystery business that may begin selling pharmaceuticals, groceries, and fuel in Hillsboro is causing a stir countywide.
Despite repeated protests from some businesses, Hillsboro City Council approved a contract for a national mystery business for the second time Tuesday.
The business, which has not yet been named, but is rumored to sell fuel, groceries, and pharmaceuticals will be developed in Hillsboro industrial park near Dollar General by Hawkins Edwards, Inc.
Hillsboro Economic Development Director Clint Seibel said he did not solicit the business, but it wasn’t his job to turn it away.
“We generally don’t recruit business we don’t need,” he said. “We recruit business to fill a niche, and it’s my job to see that businesses can get space and assist businesses that want to come in.”
Owners of local businesses that might be impacted have spoken against the project.
“It’s not my job to decide what businesses can and can’t come in,” Seibel said. “It’s the public’s responsibility to say yes or no to a certain business.”
The potential business isn’t being well received in Marion, either. Development director Terry Jones said he has had conversations with local business owners concerned about the plan. If negotiations between the developer and Hillsboro stall, he said, he wouldn’t pursue the project for Marion.
“If it were something the city and community wanted me to, I would,” he said. “From the conversations I’ve had with residents and business owners here. I don’t think they want the business even in Hillsboro.”
Top concerns Jones has heard were that the business would hurt local establishments and would not donate to local causes.
“My job is to help existing businesses,” Jones said. “With a big store, the money might stay here, but more likely it will be going up the corporate ladder. If we stay with smaller stores, more money stays here because the owners live and work here.”
While the majority of Jones’ time lately has been spent on marketing city property, he and Siebel have the same philosophy for growing their communities: in manufacturing.
“We’ve got to have people moving to the county, and we’re not growing by leaps and bounds, and it makes things tough,” Siebel said.
Both agree that small manufacturing would bring needed jobs to the area, but Jones is taking his plan further by attempting to create businesses in Marion that keep people here.
“I want to bring in businesses that will complement and find stores like the old Duckwall;s store,” he said. “We need places where people can get clothes, sporting goods, and things they’re driving outside of town for. While they’re out of town they buy gas and eat when they could be spending that money here.”
Jones cited small retail stores, a fast-food burger restaurant with a drive-thru, and a nice sit-down restaurant with an outdoor patio as ideas he’s pursing. He believes a traditional fast-food burger restaurant will be different enough from Wagon Wheel Express in both menu and time so as not to affect its business.
“We’re missing out on substantial traffic along US-56, and they’re driving right by,” he said.
He hopes to build businesses along the highway to stop traffic that might otherwise drive through Marion. A fast-food restaurant might do that and be different enough and far enough from anything in town to not hurt existing businesses, he said.
Jones also is looking for ways to better use the city’s airport and country club, both of which he believes are underused assets.
“If we created a well-rounded business climate, then we can bring in manufacturers,” he said. “If we give people a reason to stop in town, then they’re going to.”