Republic County Economic Development is extremely excited to retain a pivotal business that will continue to impact and support housing development in our county and region. Not to mention this is business succession brings a county alum who left, gained valuable experiences, and is now “rural by choice” .
Loan would help couple buy established lumber yard in Belleville
By Deb Hadachek
The Belleville Telescope editor
A deal that has been building for more than a year came a step closer to reality Monday. Pending completion of final loan and sale documents, Dan and Monica Douglas, Belleville, plan to become the new owners of Geo. W. Hays and Son lumber companies in Belleville and Clyde August 1.
Republic County Commissioners approved a loan to Douglas for the acquisition in the amount of $420,000 from the Republic County revolving loan fund on Monday. The loan is subject to environmental reviews on the state level before it can be formally approved.
Commissioners also approved a $70,000 loan to the Belleville High Banks Hall of Fame for an addition to the museum on US81 Highway (see related story). These two loans commit most of the $525,000 available in the revolving loan fund, Mikel Hadachek, RCD chairman, told commissioners Monday. The committee received good news this week, however–the county may be able to leverage additional loan funds from the NetWork Kansas E-Communities program for a third project in the development stages. The project requested $28,000 of the available $71,000.00 in the Republic County E-Community Fund.
Republic County is designated as an “Entrepreneurial community” by NetWork Kansas, and has the opportunity to access more loan funds, as well as business training and resources from other state sources.
“Members of the (RCD) committee have been concerned because we’ve had such a large amount of money available to loan and no applicants,” Hadachek said. “But we knew there were several projects pending that we would use that money.”
The revolving loan fund was created in 1984 when the county received a state grant to loan to a Republic County business for an expansion project. With Monday’s loan approvals, the county has made an even 100 loans totaling $2.8 million to other county businesses to create or retain jobs.
Current interest rate on loans from the fund is four percent. “The first year, businesses make interest-only payments to help them get on their feet,” says Kay Shoemaker, RCD secretary in the Republic County Treasurer’s office. “That’s what makes the fund attractive to businesses.”
Becoming owner of a lumber and building company is part of a career that Douglas has literally built from the ground up. A 1997 graduate of Belleville High School, Douglas attended Hutchinson Community College and Kansas State University. While in Manhattan, Douglas worked for Mead Lumber Company.
“It was a job I enjoyed, and I ended up sticking with it,” he says. When he and his wife, Monica, decided to move to Kansas City, his boss at Mead Lumber called Prime Source Building products, a wholesale supplier, and recommended they hire Douglas. He held several positions in that company, including operations manager at the Kansas City warehouse for five years.
When Prime Source decided they needed a salesman for a territory from Lawrence to Goodland north of I-70, they asked Douglas if he was interested in the job. “They knew I was from Belleville, and Belleville was the midpoint of the territory,” he said. “I wasn’t looking to change positions, but it was (an offer) too good to be true to advance my career and to be able to get outside the city.”
When the Douglases moved to Belleville four years ago, a friend asked Douglas if he moved back to buy the local lumberyard. “I hadn’t ever thought about that,” Douglas
laughs. “I always saw my future with Prime Source.”
But the idea stuck in the back of Douglas’s mind, and 14 months ago he approached fourth generation Geo. W. Hays owner Jack Ransopher and asked if he would ever be interested in selling the business.
“He was interested, and we’ve been working on it since,” Douglas says. “Jack has been so good to work with and so forthright with all the information I needed to see if the idea was feasible. I am very grateful to him for his help.”
Douglas said owners of the lumberyards in Axtell and Marysville, have partnered with him in the venture. Douglas said he plans to keep the affiliation with True Value Hardware and
maintain current employment at seven, with hopes to add more jobs in the future. The name of the business will be changed to Belleville Hometown Lumber,
“Being on the wholesale side of the business, I’ve come across some ideas to help generate more revenue, and some ideas I’ve seen work in other lumber yards,” he says. “I’d like to grow our contractor business, and I see opportunities in manufacturing.”
In approving the loan, county commissioner Frank Rytych said the proposed sale continues a good trend for the county with longtime businesses passing into the hands of a new generation.
“This is the third business transition we’ve seen in a short period of time,” he said, citing examples of M&T Appliance in Courtland and Cole’s Appliance Center in Belleville. (RCED would like to note 6th Street Fashions & Footwear also recently succeeded the former House of Shoes in Belleville.)