A basic design plan for the signs included in the wayfinding sign pro­posal. Courtesy | Katy Price

Res­i­dents from Hillsdale Eco­nomic Devel­opment Cor­po­ration hope to place wayfinding signs in the City of Hillsdale to direct vis­itors to high­lights around town, and the City Council expressed support for the idea at its meeting on Jan. 20.

These new signs would mirror the design of the blue and white “Welcome to His­toric Hillsdale” signs that Hillsdale College paid to place at entrances to the city in 2016. 

The purpose of the wayfinding signs project is to bring attention to busi­nesses, parks, and schools along M‑99. 

Dean Affholter, chairman of HEDC, is spear­heading the project with fellow HEDC board member, Andrew Gelzer.

“We’re taking the idea of the signs that the college sup­ported,” Affholter said. “By the time you drive through the whole city, you’ll know where every­thing is.”

Investing in wayfinding signs has been a topic of dis­cussion in the council since 2006. 

Four studies showed the signs would be ben­e­ficial for busi­nesses and the city as a whole. 

“The intent is to win the appetite of the causal drive-through people,” Affholter said. “We want them to know what Hillsdale is like and give them a flavor of our city.”

If approved, the pro­posal will be imple­mented in three phases. The total cost of the project is esti­mated at $125,500. 

Coun­cilman Matthew Bell raised a concern about the price of the signs. 

“The initial cost seems a little high,” Bell said. “We’re already scraping to fund a third firetruck, so let’s try to get some private funds.”

City Manager David Mackie assured the council the city is looking for ways to pay for the ini­tiative. 

“We’ve been looking for grants to assist on this, and I think that we’ve found one that will provide some resources toward this project,” Mackie said. “That’s some­thing we’ll be looking at sub­mitting later this spring.”

Addi­tionally, Affholter said he is planning to partner with local busi­nesses, col­leges, and Hillsdale Hos­pital for help in paying for adver­tisement of their ser­vices. 

“The college has been very good about helping,” Affholter said. “We can go to the business dis­trict and have 50 of them give a couple of hundred bucks each.”

The Hillsdale Business Asso­ci­ation, Hillsdale Board of Public Util­ities, and the Tax Increment Finance Authority all support the project.

The signs will high­light Hillsdale College, Jackson College-LeTarte Center, Baw Beese Lake, the golf course, Hillsdale Hos­pital, and the business dis­trict.

Coun­cilman Bill Zeiser sug­gested upgrading the signage. 

“Has there been any con­sid­er­ation of incor­po­rating the new Hillsdale logo into these signs?” Zeiser asked. “The lovely signs put up by the college were erected before we did a logo and this might be a way to reckon that.”

Affholter sup­ported the idea.  

“We have to sell our town,” Affholter said. “The signs will put Hillsdale in their mind and when they come back, they’ll know exactly where things are.”

The coun­cilmembers thanked Affholter and Gelzer for taking the lead on the project and agreed to discuss the funding for the project in future meetings.