Aeschliman selected for Hall of Fame

Local business owner Mark Aeschliman understands the important role of economic development in order for communities to grow.

In 2018, Aeschliman organized an economic development group in the county to learn and explore ideas that resulted in the formation of the Jackson County Community Foundation and the reinstatement of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. 

“We need to make more effort in making economic development a priority in our community. As we grow as a community, our kids want to come back and live and work here. We’re also competing against other communities for people to come and stay here,” Aeschliman said. “Our businesses need employees. I do feel optimistic, but it takes someone to help drive that and being active in organizing an economic development effort. It’s a major part of a community. Not having an economic development committee is like sailing down the river just wherever the wind blows instead of having a direction and a focus.”

Aeschliman will be recognized as part of the Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023, along with Gene Clark, David and Connie Powls and Gary and Marian Schlaegel.  

A native of Nemaha County, Aeschliman grew up on a farm four miles of east of Bern, graduating from Bern High School where he developed a love for building things. 

“I was always outside working with my hands on the farm. I was inspired to enter the building trades after taking shop class in high school where I built my own furniture,” he said. 

He graduated from a building trades program in Manhattan and was soon living and working in Topeka for a framing company. 

“I started doing side jobs in the evenings and weekends for people wanting this or that. I worked really hard to put my name out there, and after a certain point, I had enough projects where I decided to take that leap of faith and tried to go on my own,” he said.

He established Aeschliman Construction 28 years ago in April of 1994, and he now runs the business alongside his youngest son, Dylan. 

“The important thing about what I’m doing is working for all the great people,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in that it’s not just a house, it’s a home for your family. Your home is where you share all your memories and it’s where your heart is.”

After living in the Topeka area for 10 years, Aeschliman and his wife, Janice, and their two sons, Andrew and Dylan, moved to Holton in 2004 to be closer to his mother.

“We didn’t know anybody when we moved here, but over time, word got out around the area so we were doing more jobs locally instead of driving to Topeka to do jobs,” he said. “Holton sold itself – great schools, a thriving downtown Square, lakes and easy access to Topeka. As we got to meet more people, we enjoyed the community and the people, and it felt like home.” 

Several years ago, Dylan was home with a group of his friends, and Aeschliman asked them what they wanted to do when they graduated and where they saw themselves in five years. 

“I was shocked by how many said they would love to be back in this area because they love our community and the quality of life is high here,” he said. “I went to be bed that night thinking ‘They all want to move back here, but where are they going to work and where are they going to live?’”

Aeschliman began organizing economic development meetings in Holton in 2018 to try to answer those questions. 

“We learned a lot of interesting things. We had speakers and people came in and taught us a lot of things,” he said, noting that two “really good things” resulted from those meetings. 

First, the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which offers tax rebates to individuals and businesses owners for new construction and new remodels to county property, was reestablished in the county.  

“It was sitting inactive, but with the help of the county commissioners at the time, it went back into effect,” he said. 

The plan offers several years of tax rebates to owners of eligible residential and commercial properties with new improvements planned that are valued at $15,000 or more.

The program does not decrease the amount of county taxes currently being collected but defers the taxes on the new improvements to those participating in the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan over a five or seven-year period.

The second thing discovered through the economic development meetings was that a community foundation had been established in the county but was also “sitting inactive.”

“We decided to form a board and restart the Jackson County Community Foundation, which has done some remarkable things,” he said. “It’s basically a vehicle where non-profits can put their funds into and people can use those donations as tax write offs and as charitable contributions.”

Currently, there are 27 funds listed through the JCCF that support various causes.

Aeschliman serves on the JCCF board of directors, and members of the board are gearing up for its second annual Thoughtful Giving Day planned for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, at Holton Community Theater. Last year, more than $100,000 was given in one day. 

In addition to providing jobs for people who want to move to Jackson County, Aeschliman said the communities also need to address a lack of housing. 

“We need to plan ahead and foresee issues before they are big problems,” he said. “We need houses at every level – for rentals, for first-time homebuyers or your dream home. We need to focus on supplying all those needs to be a healthy community.”

To read the rest of the article, subscribe to The Holton Recorder. 

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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