By Cole Short, Hillsboro Banner
The Hillsboro Business Association’s annual Christmas Cash campaign returns Tuesday, kicking off the 32nd year of the popular interest-free loan program in Hillsboro.
The holiday promotion has generated more than $1.5 million in sales for local merchants the past decade, according to HBA President Randy Habeck.
“It’s an important program for our members,” Habeck, owner of Hillsboro Drug, said Tuesday.
“There are people in town who wait until Christmas to make their big purchases for the year. It helps some HBA members get business this time of year that they wouldn’t normally see.”
Dakota Heritage Bank and The Goose River Bank will be overseeing the loan program again this year.
The community banks processed 114 loan applications amounting to $115,500 in loans a year ago.
The Hillsboro Economic Development Corp., a co-sponsor of the promotion, chipped in an additional $11,500, allowing borrowers to receive 10 percent more for their loans.
A point of emphasis for this year’s loan program will be educating the public on the difference between Christmas Cash and Hillsboro Bucks, Habeck said.
Betsy Tate of Dakota Heritage Bank said participants in the Christmas Cash campaign are eligible to apply for loans of up to $1,000 starting Tuesday through Dec. 31.
Borrowers who max out their loans will be given $1,100, which must be paid back in 2020.
Tate said around 25 businesses are expected to participate in the promotion.
Unlike Christmas Cash, Hillsboro Bucks are not associated with loans and can be used at any HBA member business in Hillsboro that accepts them, Tate said.
“Hillsboro Bucks are like paying someone with cash,” she said.
Tate said interested borrowers have been calling and sending inquiries to Dakota Heritage Bank to find out when the Christmas Cash promotion starts.
Tom Olsen, owner of Olsen Hardware in Hillsboro, said his store along Caledonia Avenue sees an uptick in business following the start of the promotion.
Shoppers interested in refrigerators, stoves, washing machines and dryers will wait until the holidays to take out Christmas Cash loans to capitalize on the 10 percent bonus coming from HEDC, he said.
“This last quarter of the year is better than the rest of our year as far as sales due to Christmas Cash,” Olsen said Tuesday. “We bring up (the promotion) to customers so they know it is available.
“If people don’t know about it or stop using it, Christmas Cash would probably just fade away.”
Olsen listed his store, Sorum Oil for its fuel oil sales and Hillsboro Lumber as three businesses that may benefit most from the holiday loans.
Habeck said the loans aren’t limited to applicants in Hillsboro, but the promotion provides a strong financial incentive to residents to spend money with their local merchants.
“Keeping things local and shopping in town are important,” he said.