Early in March the announcement was made by the Hillyard Companies that it would acquire the WireCo property north of its current location for future expansion. While the final closure of WireCo, formally Wire Rope, made the headlines, the real story was about Hillyard’s commitment to St. Joseph.
Newton S. Hillyard founded the company in 1907, as a cleaning supplies manufacturer. It is also forever associated with the game of basketball because of Hillyard’s early involvement in amateur basketball and the company’s invention of cleaning supplies that made basketball courts “less oily.” Since that time the company has continued to grow and is now one of the leading companies in the cleaning supply industry in the United States, employing more than 200 in St. Joseph.
As Hillyard has grown its need for manufacturing space has grown as well. Over the years it acquired space in several older buildings in the downtown area. In recent years it became apparent it had exhausted opportunities to expand in its current location and officials began looking at opportunities to expand locally, as well as outside the city. Fortunately the opportunity came along to acquire the WireCo property.
If you have seen the property you will appreciate that Hillyard officials have a challenge in redeveloping the land for their needs. As they discussed their options I was impressed with their decisiveness to move forward in spite of the challenge. They saw it as an opportunity. They understood that as a company they had been successful in St. Joseph. This is where the company was born and where the family members of N.S. Hillyard had raised their families. This was their home and they were committed to St. Joseph. Over the years we have seen companies with long histories in the community leave. Companies like Mead, Quaker Oats and most recently, WireCo. But not Hillyard. They wanted something better for their community. They understood that St. Joseph was part of their success and turning a blighted property into a modern manufacturing campus was a way that both Hillyard and St. Joseph could continue a long history of success.
In this day when it seems there is little emphasis placed on the value of commitment, it is inspiring to see the commitment to St. Joseph made by Hillyard. They did not have to do it, they wanted to! The project itself is a huge win for St. Joseph and the downtown area. It will represent new investment, secure jobs and lead to future success of a home grown company.
Perhaps just as importantly is the recognition of the level of success that can be built when there is commitment between a community and a business. A foundation that bodes well for the future of St. Joseph.
R. Patt Lilly