For more than 30 years, Bryan Hisel has been all business in Mitchell.
And while he's not sure how easily he will be able to leave all that knowledge and experience, he said now is the time to let someone else take over and lead Palace City's business community.
Hisel, 67, has worked for 33 years in a dual role, leading the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce and the Mitchell Area Development Corporation. He will officially retire next week. Hisel is being replaced in both roles by Mark Vaux, who previously worked in business development roles in both North and South Dakota.
Both will be on hand for an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. today at the Chamber offices at 601 N. Main St., which will also welcome Jared Indahl, who is taking over as the Mitchell Main Street and Beyond Director and works in the same offices.
Hisel said he's especially thankful that the community of Mitchell let him grow and develop with the job, working to build economic development in the region.
"I've really been one lucky dog," he said. "I'm thankful that I've gotten the chance to really grow with this."
Over the span of years Hisel has worked in Mitchell, some things have stayed true. Agriculture remains a key barometer of how business and communities are doing. He noted specifically that when he arrived in 1985, the farm crisis then was "our housing crisis of the late 2000s." At the same time, Mitchell remains closely connected to its area towns and trade area, with smaller communities being key to Mitchell having success and vice-versa. He tried to bring some of that small-town common sense to the job.
"I've always felt that Mitchell thought like a city with 1,000 people multiplied by 15," he said.
A native of Centerville, Hisel knew much of the region through his three-plus years of work at District III Planning and Development in Yankton. Then-Mitchell Mayor Paul Tobin was the main recruiter of Hisel, and at the time, both the chamber and the MADC decided they would have one person lead both positions for the first time, while each organization kept its own structure.
The same metrics have always been evaluated for how Mitchell is doing - population growth, taxable sales, property values, job creation and household income - and Hisel said he focused on small, steady growth. He noted that Mitchell has grown about 0.5 percent per year and about 5 percent per decade in recent years.
"That's been pretty well accepted around here," he said. "The boom-and-bust economy was never going to be good for Mitchell, and we always thought, 'Let's grow but let's not screw the place up.'"
Two big accomplishments shine through for Hisel. One, he says, is the development around Interstate 90 around the year 2000, with the arrival of Cabela's, which spurred more retail development and eventually dovetailed into investments from private industry, as well as Avera Health, Dakota Wesleyan University and Mitchell Technical Institute.
"It was the definition of public-private partnership," he said. "For so many people, that's Mitchell."
The other is the development of the northern end of the city, ranging from the 500 "very good" jobs that have been created in the technology sector by CHR Solutions, Innovative Systems and Vantage Point Solutions. Similarly, Hisel noted all of the professional businesses that have opened on that end of the city.
"To me, that's the deep structure that's critical to the city," he said. "And I think that's why Mitchell has a promising future."
From the start of his tenure to now, Hisel said the city's manufacturing jobs have grown from about 700 to 2,500. And he noted the city got through a tight rental period earlier in the decade with the development of about 400 rental units and more twin homes.
A regret, he said, was that the city didn't create a tax-increment financing district for downtown Mitchell to help fund public infrastructure improvements in the 1990s. Hisel cited a couple of new bank buildings and renovations in the downtown district that could have spurred some of the growth. He said investing in the city's central core of aging buildings - both homes and businesses - is the most pressing problem that will continue to face the city over the next 10-20 years.
"Unfortunately, the buildings will get worse, not better," Hisel said. "They're going to fall down and it's not going to be a cheap or particularly fun experience, but it is critical to the city's future."
He credited the city and the downtown business owners for implementing the Business Improvement District for a special assessment to help fund Main Street infrastructure upgrades, because it shows the businesses have "some skin in the game."
Hisel said he's not exactly sure how he will spend his free time, but he wants to stay busy. He expects to do more hunting and fishing while tending to projects at his lake house near Aberdeen. At the same time, he doesn't expect that he'll be able to walk away from work cold, and he plans to keep his phone nearby to stay in touch with his colleagues in the Mitchell area he's gotten to know so well.
"I've gotten to know a lot of people in the state and in this community," Hisel said, joking that he knows both too little and too much now in 2018. "In a lot of ways, I am my job and I'll still find some ways to work part-time. ... But at some point, the baton handoff has to occur."