As the news of the Hillsboro Wal-Mart closure became public, my phone started blowing up with messages of congratulations through text, e-mail and phone conversation.
My opposition to the Wal-Mart locating in Hillsboro, its value to the community, and our refusal of advertising dollars from Wal-Mart has a lot of people thinking we were jumping for joy over in the Free Press office on Friday.
While I do feel like Friday’s decision to close 270 big box stores throughout the country will help rural folks understand my point on Wal-Mart better, it is no grand victory for the community of Hillsboro, in my eyes.
If you want my thoughts on Wal-Mart and the damage I feel they are inflicting on our country, feel free to go to our website and look under the opinion tab for “From the Publisher,” and you will find a September 2014 column I wrote to our readers in Marion County outlining my thoughts.
Instead of rehashing all of that, I would rather focus my attention on those who are left behind the wake of the big box store.
First of all, everyone in Hillsboro should walk into Dale’s, Greenhaw and the other county local stores competing with Wal-Mart and thank them for sticking with it and seeing the big box arrival as an opportunity several months ago.
Not every community with a Wal-Mart entering the fray was so lucky. Rose Hill, population 4,000, is currently without a grocery store at all. The story is similar in Clearwater where Wal-Mart didn’t want competition and bought out the local pharmacist, leaving that community without a pharmacy now. More stories like this are out there.
In comparison with many communities in Kansas, Hillsboro was one of the lucky ones, as the same things you could buy while Wal-Mart was here you can, and always could, buy from a local small business that cares.
With those businesses intact, Hillsboro still has plenty to offer an incoming family or other business, but another large, difficult-to-fill, building will be left vacant along Highway 56, and that is a challenge economically.
A plan will be needed to put Hillsboro back on track and fill those empty buildings with strong, community-oriented, tax-paying businesses. Several folks are without jobs now that Wal-Mart has left, and it would be nice if a local place could fill the void there too.
Finally, we must stay positive and not feed the trolls. Hillsboro is one of the best and most vibrant communities I have ever had the pleasure of working within. So when something rough happens, don’t go around town telling everyone the town is dying, because I have heard that a few times already.
Complaining hasn’t ever built a vibrant community. Instead, we must work together on solutions that make sense for Hillsboro.
Every town has warts and problems. Every single one. Staying positive doesn’t mean ignoring those problems, but rather working together to fix those problems instead of complaining about them.
Pick up a paint brush and freshen up that house or business this spring. Ask young people to be on your board and honestly care about what they have to say when they speak. Simple things like this can do a world of good and reinvigorate a community with a new look and fresh ideas.
Wal-Mart leaving isn’t going to be the reason Hillsboro or Marion County are successful and it never was. Their short-lived exposure to our rural communities will barely be a blip on the map in a few years.
I just hope their exit is not a reason for Marion County folks to drive to Newton or McPherson to shop at another lifeless big box. If you frequented the Wal-Mart, take time and visit your neighbors running a local business here. I promise it will be worth your time, and your dollar will go a lot further being re-circulated in this county rather than being shipped off to some billionaire’s pocket.