“We are a tale of two towns. The old one is our downtown area and the new is out by the interstate. We are working on improving our old and cleaning up our entrances into the town to make us more attractive,” Jack Harper, city manager of Hillsboro, TX (population 8,232), was telling me about the community in a tour of the town prior to my talk there for the regional Heart of Texas Workforce Employer Symposium.
Hillsboro has a wonderful downtown area with a massive old courthouse on the square. The courthouse was gutted by fire on New Years Day in 1994 but has been completely restored. The town has been part of the Texas Main Street program for the past 25 years, with some wonderful tax credits and other incentives for the restoration of the historic area.
Harper told me, “We were hit hard by the recession of 2001, losing five industries. But we’ve worked hard to fill all five of those plants and are rebounding. One of those we brought in is the only producer of nails left in the USA.” Hillsboro is trying to refocus from commodity product production to more high tech and value added products.
A few miles up the road from Hillsboro is the Willie Nelson Theater, an 850 seat facility that is being rebuilt at Carl’s Corner, which Nelson hopes to build into another Branson. Willie was born in nearby Abbott, TX (population 300). He also has one of his Bio Willie Diesel Fuel plants at Carl’s Corner.
Hillsboro was identified as one of our “golden eagles” in researching BoomtownUSA. It is strategically located an hour south of Dallas and Fort Worth where the two I-35s merge into one and has some wonderful recreational assets like the 23,560 acre Lake Whitney and 3,020 acre Lake Aquilla; both located less than 15 miles west of town. Hillsboro has some huge potential.