Challenge the local discourse

I spent last Saturday at Allen Field House. I’ve never invested much emotionally into competitive athletics, but there’s something that gets me excited watching the Jayhawks live. It’s not that I’m physically in the room, or that I’m overcome with the emotion conjured by the pump-up videos, announcer and pep band.

What it is, I think, is being in the middle of hundreds of fans cheering as one, and that’s inspiring.

If news of the Hillsboro Walmart’s closing accomplished anything, it opened a window to a slice of the public’s perception of our local economic climate. That Friday afternoon, my Facebook feed spun with opinion, and I took notes. Here’s a sampling of comments that seemed to demonstrate the over-arching sentiment:

“Goodbye, retail in Hillsboro!” “This is awful. We need the one in Hillsboro.” “Open just long enough to screw things up around town.” “Now we’ll have another empty building?” “There are no jobs (in Hillsboro) that would support…having a family. What will it be like 10 years from now?” “Seems like Hillsboro is dying.”

Ouch. If you’re in business in Hillsboro, those comments should hurt. Never mind the fact that these statements simply are not true (No business in competition closed during Walmart’s nine-month residence, retail is alive in Hillsboro, and substantial jobs do exist.), it’s not hard to see the source of these concerns. For example, in just two years, seven retail storefronts–by my count–have been shuttered, not to mention other service-providing businesses that have either closed or relocated.

It will always be easier to see the bad, but take a step back: New businesses have come to town, businesses with incredible legacies are transitioning into fresh ownership, young families are moving back to call Hillsboro home. And for heaven’s sake, why are we not celebrating businesses and the owners who continue to plug away despite the negativity, challenges and competition?

Friends, it is time to challenge the local discourse.

The way to do that is together as a business community. It will require time, energy and decisiveness, which means taking off the goggles we use to focus on the everyday tasks in front of us, stepping out of apathy and being active and present in the community.

This will look different for each of us. It may simply be to stop spreading the gloom yourself. It may be to attend the next Chamber luncheon or join an organization or board (hint: and show up). Talk about the good, brag about your growth, acknowledge the challenges but seek the possibilities.

Changing the way your friends, neighbors and customers see Hillsboro can begin to turn negativity into optimism, which opens new doors for growth, development and success in Hillsboro. That, in turn, will create new opportunities for you. We’re all rooting for the same team, and that team can win.

So cheer loud.

This column was original published in the February 2016 Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce Communicator newsletter.

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