Did you know there is a brain drain affecting rural Kansas? There is. Not only is much of rural Kansas experiencing a population loss, the rate of out-migration is higher among those with higher levels of education.
Now, a person shouldn't necessarily equate more brains with higher degrees of education, but the point is that rural Kansas is at risk of losing our best students.
How do we counter a brain drain? Today we will meet someone who is doing so, through community leadership and a long-time commitment to rural Kansas.
I'm talking about Larry Williams. Larry is Chairman of the Board of the Halstead Bank in Halstead, Kansas. Halstead is a town of 2,015 people in Harvey County, in south central Kansas.
Did I say Larry has a long-time commitment to rural Kansas? Well, listen to this: He has a cancelled check which his great-grandfather wrote to purchase a bank in Bentley, Kansas. The check is dated 1909. Now that's a long-time commitment.
Bentley is where the Williams family first got started in the banking business. It is a town in Sedgwick County with a population of 360 -- now that's rural!
Bentley is also where Larry Williams grew up. The original bank building in Bentley is still in use.
Larry says with quiet pride that there have been five generations of his family working in that same bank building. Then he laughs, "My wife says all that proves is that we don't build a new building very often!"
But in fact the Williams family has been quite progressive. The family updated and modernized the bank, while retaining the community flavor of it. The family also acquired the bank in Halstead.
Larry graduated from K-State with a degree in business and returned to the family banking business. He met his wife at K-State and they had four children. One is a junior at K-State today.
Larry speaks very modestly of his achievements. But one measure of the respect he has earned among his peers is this: Among all the bankers of Kansas, in small towns and large, he has been elected President-elect of the Kansas Bankers Association.
That's quite an honor. But Larry is quick to give credit to his staff and family. He also speaks proudly of the community.
He says, "We are quite fortunate in Halstead. We have a medical center with 40 doctors which provides service to a large part of our region."
That provides a good economic base for the town. It includes Halstead Hospital and Hertzler Clinic.
There is also the fact of proximity to Wichita. The urban center is close enough that people can commute in to jobs in the city while enjoying the smaller town lifestyle.
Larry says, "It is a very good life here. We had a flooding problem, and now that is solved. There is also a new access road to Highway 96, which will help traffic to Wichita."
But what about this brain drain? Well, Larry Williams is modest about his many achievements. But he does point with pride to the fact that his son and daughter are back in rural Kansas.
The son is managing an insurance agency in Halstead. The daughter is living on the site of the original family homestead.
Larry says, "My daughter and her husband graduated from KU and could have gone anywhere. But she has chosen to come back to Halstead and serve as an officer in the bank."
Her husband is an outdoorsman, and he likes the wildlife and hunting along the river. It's a part of that quality of life which Larry Williams believes in.
Larry says, "In our town, kids can ride their bikes downtown, ride their bikes to the park, and their parents know that they will be safe. It makes rural Kansas an attractive place for raising a family."
Yes, rural Kansas is experiencing a brain drain. But through the efforts of leaders like Larry Williams, the rural quality of life can be enhanced. That will make a difference by attracting our best and brightest back to rural Kansas, and turning a brain drain into a brain gain.
Today let's meet a woman with several titles. You could call her "Woman of the year" -- she recently received that award. You could call her Madam Chairperson -- she is the chair of the Kansas Rural Development Council. You could call her "Nurse" -- that was her original occupation. Thousands of people call her "Senator" -- and 7 young people call her "Mother."
I'm speaking of Norma Daniels, a wife, mother and community and state leader. Norma lives in Valley Center, a town of 4,000 people in Sedgwick County, in south central Kansas.
Norma was born in Yates Center, a town of 1815 people in Woodson County -- and that's rural. She was raised in Kansas City, Missouri and did her undergraduate work at St. Louis University. After becoming an RN, she met a young medical student at a hospital in Kansas City. He went on for an internship at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, and while there, the two were married.
Upon graduation, the young doctor and his bride looked for a community to start in family practice. The place they chose was Valley Center, near Wichita.
Norma says, "I've been here since and I love it." She and Bob have raised 6 daughters and one son. At one point, they had five children at K-State in the same year! Norma says, "We own a piece of the rock!"
Their son, by the way, played football for K-State. He won the academic trophy from the Independence Bowl, the last time K-State went to a bowl game.
Norma tells of the day that her husband said to her, "You have a lot of talents that you should share with the community." She said, "Oh Bob, I've already been involved with all the volunteer activities; PTA, PTO, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts." He said, "That's not what I mean: I think you should run for city council."
Norma says, "I was shocked. I didn't know anything about it and didn't care for politics."
Sometime later, she was paying her city water bill and somewhat timidly asked the city clerk what it would take to run for city council. The city clerk asked who wanted to know. He said, "Certainly not you, Norma." She answered, "Why not?" He said, "City business is like big business, and women just don't understand it."
That did it. It was the motivation that she needed. Norma said, "Where do I sign?"
The rest is history. She won that first election and has never lost one since.
She says, "I knew I was a novice, so I became a student of government." She read the ordinance book and pored over the state laws. She went to every educational meeting possible and visited the police station and fire department and dispatch office.
The work paid off. Her career as a city council member was so successful that people encouraged her to run for the State Senate. She said, "I knew I couldn't win, since my opponent was a millionaire and a senior senator, but I gave it a try." She won by 176 votes out of nearly 23,000 cast.
She says, "The media called it a fluke." But she was re-elected in '84 and '88. In January 1993, she retired from the Senate but remains very active with the state rural development council.
The list of her honors and activities is remarkable, but she keeps it all in perspective. She was one of seven Kansans selected to represent Kansas in Tokyo at the first Japan - America Grassroots Summit -- but she was also founder of the Valley Center Swim Club and a co-leader of the Girl Scouts.
Through it all, she is a believer in rural Kansas. She says, "That's where the real diamonds of family life are found."
Yes, she is a woman of many titles. But she says, "I find greatest happiness in serving my family and serving others, and in making life a little better for those who need a hand." That is making a difference in rural America.
High Plains Corridor
Today, for a change, we're not going to meet a person. We're going to meet an idea.
It's an interesting idea, and it has to do with north-south trade.
On January 1, 1994, a sweeping new trade treaty took effect. It's the North American Free Trade Agreement. It means that tariff barriers between the U.S. and Mexico are coming down.
What will this treaty really mean to Kansas? Well, I don't think experts expect an immediate impact. But there are those who have been thinking about an idea which could support and expand such trade in the long-term.
It's called the High Plains Corridor. The idea is a trade and business development zone running from Canada to Mexico through the central plains states.
This concept was brought to the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development by a member of our Board of Directors. He asked the Institute to study it. The more we studied it, the more we liked it.
First, we looked at the six High Plains states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Those six states by themselves produce 53 percent of the nation's cattle slaughter, 22 percent of the nation's corn, 80 percent of the nation's grain sorghum, 80 percent of the nation's sunflowers, and 55 percent of the nation's cattle slaughter.
Much of that cattle slaughter is found in southwest Kansas, where beef is processed and shipped out on semi trucks. This led us to look at traffic counts in that region. We found that the count of heavy trucks in the Garden City/Dodge City region has gone up by nearly 200 percent over twenty years.
That led us to think about highways. Are new highways needed, and what would they cost? Then we learned of other proposals which have been made, such as a Rocky Mountain Trade Corridor. But when you compare the cost of building through mountainous areas or urban areas, you find that what you would logically expect holds true: it is less expensive to build highways through rural, flatland or rolling areas than it would be to do so through mountains or cities.
Let's take a look at the market. Our study shows that the Mexican economy is booming. In the last five years, U.S. exports to Mexico increased from $12.4 billion to $33.3 billion, twice as fast as U.S. exports to the rest of the world. U.S. ag exports rose 173 percent to $3 billion. Consumer goods tripled to $3.4 billion. Capital goods surged from $5 billion to $11.3 billion.
Not only are Mexican consumers buying more, they are very interested in things American. USDA studies show that as the Mexican economy improves, just as in any developing country, there are two food items which their consumers want more of: more meat in their diet, and more processed foods.
That got me excited. Here in the High Plains, we produce more of that meat than anyone. And we produce bulk goods: Now we need to add value and process those goods to respond to this market opportunity.
So what would be involved in this High Plains Corridor? That remains to be seen, but it could include an improved, intermodal north-south transportation system, including a high-speed, high-capacity highway. It would involve development of industrial processing facilities throughout this zone, and technical assistance from land-grant universities and others.
I don't want people to think of this corridor only in terms of a highway. There may be benefits in developing north-south linkages in terms of telecommunications and educational partnerships.
In 1993, the Board wanted to gain a first-hand look at the economy and the transportation needs of the High Plains region. Their solution was a set of car keys. The High Plains Journal sponsored the trip. They provided me a car and put me on the road.
I drove every mile from Kansas into Mexico and then up into Canada and back. It took 34 days and 9,257 miles. My saddle-sores were more than offset by the great hospitality I encountered. And I came away believing there are exciting possibilities for a High Plains Corridor.
Now, you have been introduced to an idea. It's a very timely one, with NAFTA newly in effect, but it is long-term in nature. If Kansas wants to pursue this idea, it is one which can make a difference in the future for trade and our state.
Today let's meet an international business. This business is importing goods from Italy, Spain and Denmark. They are selling products from Texas to Utah.
And where is the headquarters? Not Wichita or Kansas City. The company headquarters is Atwood, Kansas.
Atwood is a town of 1,388 people in Rawlins County, in northwest Kansas. It is the home base for Beaver Valley Supply Company. The owner of Beaver Valley Supply is Frank Chvatal.
Frank is a native son, born and bred in Atwood. Over the years, he has seen his company grow and change.
It may seem unlikely to find an international company based in Atwood, but upon further study, you find this company fits with the region in which it is located.
Beaver Valley Supply is a wholesale farm and ranch equipment distribution company. They sell short-line equipment, such as the various attachments which go on tractors. In other words, they don't sell the tractors, but they sell the dozer blades and other things that go on them.
They also sell grain augers, cattle chutes, combine sieves (for cleaning grain), combine headers, and header trailers. These are the necessary, smaller pieces of equipment, not the big, very expensive main items.
It's a niche market. It's like hitting lots of singles, rather than going for one home run.
Those singles have added up to a winning business for Frank Chvatal.
Frank started with the company in 1952 as a high school student. After a stint in Korea with the service, he returned to the company and worked his way up the ranks.
The business had started as a feed company and then diversified. In 1974, Frank and a partner bought the company from the retiring owner. Frank's partner passed away in 1983, and now Frank and his sons run the company.
Today what started as a little feed company is serving equipment needs in nine states. Frank Chvatal owns some or all of similar stores in Atwood, Denver, Salt Lake City, Clinton, Oklahoma, and Waco, Texas. He also has the territory for the Snapper lawnmower company in some of those states.
"In Atwood, during the last ten years, business has really grown," Frank says. And what is the reason for success?
"Everybody works," Frank answers. Two sons are in Atwood and one is in Denver. Two partners are in the out-of-state stores. Each store has a sales staff. But they all go on the road as necessary to make sales and serve customers.
Frank's company sells through a dealer's organization. Lots of John Deere and Case IH dealers offer Frank's equipment.
It's a big business. Frank's company has 25 acres of equipment storage at Atwood. They load out three trucks a day to take equipment to customers in the High Plains.
He says, "Our biggest problem is we can't get direct truck service from, say, Bismarck to Atwood. It has to go through Omaha."
Given the international nature of the business, I always ask a business like this if it would be easier to relocate to an urban area.
Frank says, "With the way we do things, it would be a detriment to be in a city. We deliver 95 percent of what we sell anyway. And in Atwood, we can enjoy the lower cost of living and don't have to fight the city crowd."
Frank says, "We can go hunting or play golf in five minutes. We're happy here."
Today we've met an international business. Yes, it's involved in lots of trade, but it's maintained its heart in Atwood. That's where the hard work and commitment of Frank Chvatal is making a difference.
Remember how 1992 was ballyhooed as the "year of the woman?" Well, with all due respect to the media, I think they missed it by a couple of years. 1994 is the year of the woman, at least in one sense.
Take Kansas agricultural organizations, for example. Agriculture is big business in Kansas. It's also been a male-dominated business. So, it's big news when a woman gets elected as president of one of these statewide organizations.
And that is happening in 1994. Not just once, not just twice, but would you believe that there are three statewide agricultural organizations that are being headed up by women in 1994?
Well, it's true. Today we begin a series on the three women presidents of these Kansas organizations.
We will start in Greeley, Kansas. Greeley is a town of 339 people -- and that's rural. It's located in Anderson County, in east central Kansas.
There we will find Roberta Donohue. Roberta is manager and co-owner of Greeley Seed Company. And in late January 1994, Roberta will assume the presidency of the Kansas Seed Industry Association, or KSIA. KSIA is the trade association of the seed business in Kansas.
Roberta is a native of Anderson County. She came from Garnett originally and graduated from K-State in 1965. She married a young man from her home county and returned there to his family farm. For two years, she was a news editor in Garnett, and then along came a pair of twins. So, she stayed home for 10 years to raise their boy and girl before returning to the business world.
Roberta says, "My husband is a life-long rancher and farmer, but he also likes to try new things." The new thing they tried was the seed business.
Greeley Seed Company had existed since the 1940s, but it closed after tough times in the 1970s. The business' buildings had been abandoned for two years when Roberta and her husband bought them.
Roberta says, "The place had cobwebs, a card table, a lightbulb, and a hand-crank adding machine -- and no business."
So they started from scratch. They cleaned up the facility and reopened the seed plant. The plant purchases lespedeza, brome, and red clover seed grown by local producers.
And then the business began to grow and diversify. Roberta says, "There were times when the business grew by leaps and bounds -- but then, we were starting from zero, or below!"
The business grew by responding to demand from customers. She says, "For example, ten years ago we didn't stock birdseed. Now we sell tons of it."
Today Greeley Seed Company includes seed purchasing as well as warehousing. The company wholesales and retails all kinds of seed, from native grass to small grains to lawn seed. They also own a truck line, plus her husband's cattle operation.
Roberta says, "My husband has supported me all along the way. And we've had the good fortune to have great employees."
So why not move the business to a larger city with more population? Roberta says, "It's easier to do business here than it would be in a city. Being in a rural place is a plus, not a minus. We have good, competitively-priced labor, good transportation, and generally lower overhead."
And how did Roberta get involved with the Kansas Seed Industry Association? She says, "Getting involved with the trade organization was one of the things we did immediately. And women were scarce. In fact, some of the older men weren't quite sure about trading seed with a woman. Now, it's common acceptance."
Roberta believes strongly in the benefits of KSIA. She says, "Without it, we wouldn't do half the business we do. It builds contacts within the industry. And it's been fun. People in the seed business are first class, and the friendships are a bonus."
Yes, I think 1994 is the year of the woman. In Kansas, we're seeing women in leadership positions like never before. And they are leaders and entrepreneurs like Roberta Donohue, who are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's go to Hollywood, to the president of Warner Brothers. Here we pass Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford. And there in the executive suite, hanging on the wall, is the most incredible black-and-white print of a wilderness scene that you've ever laid eyes on.
It's a beautiful print, valued at several thousands of dollars. Prints like these are found in LA or on Wall Street in New York. And how would you contact the artist who produces these exclusive works? Well, don't go looking for him in New York or Hollywood: instead, try Caldwell, Kansas.
Caldwell is a town of 1,351 people in Sumner County, just north of the Oklahoma line.
And in Caldwell we find R. Charles Phillips. To say that Charles is a photographer is like saying that Joe Montana plays ball. Charles is a nationally renowned fine-arts photographer.
He was born in Phoenix, but was raised in Kansas on his grandparent's farm near Syracuse. When he turned eight years old, he received a special birthday gift: a camera. That simple little camera was to change a life.
His interest in photography grew and grew. At age 19, he knew he wanted to be a fine arts photographer. So he loaded up in a 1948 Willis jeep and drove to California, where he studied under the legendary Ansel Adams. Then he worked in photo labs and in sales, developing the craft of black and white photography.
He envisioned a new frontier of high tech photo art, using sophisticated equipment. But this equipment was expensive. For several years, he worked on oil rigs 100 miles from land in the Gulf of Mexico. With the money he made, he purchased the photo equipment he needed.
Meanwhile, Charles' brother had graduated from K-State with a degree in Animal Science and taken a job as manager of a ranch in Wyoming. Charles went there for a visit. His brother said, "What do you want to take pictures of?" Charles replied, "Well, I'd like to get up into those mountains, but I don't know how." His brother said, "Grab your checkbook and follow me."
The next thing you know, Charles had bought a packmule named Missy and the rig to go with her. And Charles packed his photo equipment up into the remote mountains, where he found the most beautiful natural scenery. He captured it on film.
And people began to buy. His main customers were sophisticated art collectors in LA and New York.
Charles lived in Wichita for three years, but his business outgrew his facility. He needed large buildings for his large equipment, and he found his way to Caldwell.
Today Charles is operating in four buildings in downtown Caldwell, where his business has created jobs for five people. He has a lab, a finishing area, a shop in which he and his staff adapt or develop the equipment they need, and another building which will, in the future, be a gallery to display his works.
Charles uses special cameras with computer-designed lenses to take these photos. Then he produces huge prints, in the 32 by 40 or 56 by 72 inch range, and uses computer-controlled enlargers to produce these striking images from the wilderness. The technology is borrowed from aerial surveillance techniques.
And art collectors want to buy.
Charles continues to market his works to art collectors on the coasts and in between. He has sold to CEOs of such companies as Tektronix, Rothschilds, Goldman Sachs, Dreyfuss, and J.P. Morgan. You will understand why when I tell you that his prints sell for 1,100 to ten thousand dollars apiece.
So why remain in Caldwell? Charles says, "It is handy because I do need to market to both coasts. I needed big buildings that I could afford, and I really like the rural atmosphere. We have a nice clean environment, no crime to speak of, and a high quality of life."
Yes, we can go to Hollywood to the president of Warner Brothers and there we will find prints from Charles Phillips on display, just as we can find them on Wall Street. But where we find the artist himself is in Caldwell, Kansas, where he's using his talents and entrepreneurial spirit to make a difference.
Today we'll have the Number 2 program in our three-part series about Number Ones....Did you catch all that math? I'll translate.
Today is the second program in our three-part series. The series is about Number Ones; that is, the presidents of certain statewide organizations.
The organizations I'm speaking of are Kansas agricultural associations. Their presidents are remarkable people in their own right, but the following facts make 1994 especially significant: each of these presidents is a woman, each is the first woman president that their organization has had, and there are three such organizations with women presidents all in the same year.
It must be a good year for Kansas women. Today, we'll meet Sharon Schwartz. She and her husband farm near Washington, a town of 1304 people in north central Kansas. Sharon grew up on a dairy farm near Hanover, just 15 miles away. Hanover is a town of 696 people -- now that's rural.
Sharon's husband Leo came from a dairy farm too. So when they married and started farming, they started milking cows. But when they looked at the potential cost of upgrading the dairy, they decided to sell the cows and invest in feeder pigs. What a decision that would turn out to be.
Today, thirty years later, the Schwartz' are successful farmers and Sharon is President of the Kansas Pork Producers Council, called KPPC.
Their two children both attended K-State, which brings up an interesting story. Daughter Cheri was involved with the K-State chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association, or NAMA. Each year NAMA has teams of students put together marketing presentations that are judged in national competition in Washington DC.
One year Cheri Schwartz was on the K-State team that placed number 1 in the nation. The second place team was from Oregon State. A young man from Oregon State approached Cheri to see what secrets of success he could learn. He got more than he bargained for: today that young man and Cheri are husband and wife in Oregon.
It sounds to me that Oregon turned out to be a winner too.
Meanwhile, the Schwartz' son has returned to the farm and is managing the finishing hog operation as well as all the responsibility of planting and grain handling. The family farms 3,300 acres of grain and runs a 400 sow farrow-to-finish hog operation, called Porkchop Acres.
As one example of innovation, the family raises sunflowers in addition to the traditional crops of corn, beans, and wheat. In fact, they are thinking about trying some striped sunflowers for birdseed as a way of expanding demand.
Sharon says, "I farmed here along with everybody else. But as farming has become a business, it demands more time in the office with marketing and record-keeping. So I ended up as the business manager."
She says, "Leo was always a member of KPPC. Since I was involved in the business too, I went to every meeting. When our daughter became state pork queen, I got involved in the promotional side of the activities."
She got so involved that she was elected as a director from Kansas to the National Live Stock and Meat Board. That meant she also served on the executive board of the KPPC.
Two years ago, she was elected president-elect of KPPC, followed by a year as president. In fact, in November 1993, she was re-elected for a second term.
She says, "Our organization is becoming more producer-focused. That means we're emphasizing service to members."
She says, "The reason I love being involved with agriculture is the many things Kansas has to offer. I like our diversified climate, the interaction with our members, and the less dense population."
Today we've heard about our second Number One. She has become number one through her commitment and service to her industry and her organization. For men and women, that leadership is making a difference in rural Kansas.
Lightning may strike once. Lightning may strike twice. But what are the odds of lightning striking three times?
Well, it's highly unusual. And it's highly unusual for Kansas agricultural organizations to elect women as their presidents. Historically, it's the men who have been in leadership positions.
But this year, you do find women as presidents of these organizations: Not once, not twice, but three times.
Today is the third and final program in our series on these women in leadership positions. And the one we will visit today represents the oldest and largest of the organizations we have discussed.
I'm talking about Jan Lyons, president of the Kansas Livestock Association. Jan lives on an Angus ranch on the McDowell Creek Road south of Manhattan.
She is originally from an Angus farm in Ohio. Growing up, she joined 4-H. She got an Angus steer as her livestock project. And that humble beginning was the start of a lifelong interest in the cattle industry.
Her husband Frank was also from Ohio, and was a medical doctor in the military. In 1974, he was transferred to Irwin Army Hospital at Fort Riley.
Jan says, "We came to Manhattan and loved it." After Frank completed his military service, he went into private practice in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Jan's love for the country led her to look for a place to live outside of town. They found the ranch near Manhattan, and started to put together a cattle herd.
Today the nationally-known Lyons Angus herd consists of 175 to 200 mother cows. It is a family operation, with help from the Lyons' two married daughters. In fact, both daughters graduated from K-State in agriculture, and both were state 4-H winners in beef. Sounds like it came naturally.
Jan says, "We are a purebred operation, selling seedstock to the commercial cattle industry." The family conducts a bull sale annually on the first Monday in March.
Jan says, "When we were first getting started in the cattle business, the Kansas Livestock Association (or KLA) was recommended to us highly. We joined, and it was logical for me to go to the meetings since I was the one working with the business day-to-day."
She got involved, and worked her way through the ranks of various beef industry associations. For example, she was president of the Kansas Angus Association, chairman of the KLA purebred council, and chairman of the bull test committee.
Now, to the layman, a "bull test" may sound like something they need in Congress, but it's actually a scientific method of evaluating potential herd sires.
The point is that Jan worked hard to improve her herd and the industry, and her peers took note. In December 1992, she was elected president-elect of KLA, and last December she took the reins as President -- the first time ever that a woman has filled that role.
She says, "Women have been involved in all aspects of the business for many years. In fact, KLA had a woman on the board in the 1920's. I've found the doors to be open."
Jan says, "KLA is 100 years old this year. We are a grass-roots driven organization. That's the strength of it."
She says, "There have been a lot of outstanding leaders in the organization over the years. I'm honored to be chosen to represent the KLA."
And how does this transplanted Ohioan feel about Kansas now? She says, "It's not only the beauty of the Flint Hills, there's something special about Kansans. They are friendly, and vital -- there's creative energy. They are able to pull up resources from within."
Lightning may strike once. It may even strike twice or three times. But for the three women who are presidents of Kansas agricultural organizations, this is no lightning strike. Their achievements are no accident of luck. These are strong and capable individuals, who have earned their accomplishments through hard work and commitment. Like Jan Lyons, they are making a difference for men and women all across rural Kansas.
Here we are at a meeting of the Governor's Task Force on Rural Kansas. The task force members are the type of people you would expect: an extension agent, a rural doctor, a small-town businessman, and the mayor of Kansas City.
Wait a minute. Did I say the mayor of Kansas City? How did a big-city mayor get on a rural task force?
The answer to that question is a very interesting one. It turns out that this mayor of Kansas City is right at home on a rural task force.
Meet Joe Steineger. Joe is mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, in Wyandotte County. Kansas City is the second largest city in the state of Kansas, after Wichita.
Now, on this program, we often talk about towns with 150 people or 1500 people. Today, we're talking about the leader of a city of more than 150,000 people.
But even though Joe Steineger is a big-city mayor, he has genuine rural roots.
Joe and his family still live on land that his grandfather came to from Switzerland in 1860. The land is within the Kansas City boundary, and is still being farmed. Joe now leases out the farmland, which his youngest son is farming in partnership.
After growing up there, Joe attended Wyandotte Community College, got married, and started farming and raising a family.
Joe comes across as quite a caring person. And so as he raised a family and saw changes in his community, it was only natural that he would serve on the local school board. He served in that capacity for a time, and then along came the C-word: consolidation.
When it was all said and done, Joe's school was consolidated with a larger system nearby. Joe served on the consolidated school board. He did so well that he later served on the state board of education. In all, he put in 30 years of service on various boards supporting education.
But with his caring nature, he saw a phenomenon that caused him concern.
Joe says, "As a school board member, I saw lots of wonderful young people. At the end of the year, I would give diplomas to these wonderful young people -- and then I never saw them again."
Joe saw the brain drain first-hand. He saw these outstanding students, but then he saw them move away for jobs elsewhere. And he was concerned about the people his area was losing. Kansas City had lost 30,000 people during the past 30 years.
So he decided to run for mayor. But everyone knows that takes a lot of money, especially in a city.
Joe says, "Everybody I talked to told me "no way," but I felt destined to do it. I put $400 in a campaign account, and started walkin' and talkin'."
He says he started knocking on doors, talking to anyone who would talk to him.
And the grass-roots approach paid off. He raised $43,000 in private, voluntary contributions for his campaign. In 1987, he was elected mayor of Kansas City and was re-elected in 1991.
Now Kansas City is building 200 houses a year. And Joe says with pride that in 1992, Kansas City, Kansas was recognized as one of the nation's 10 All-American cities. That award took Joe to the Rose Garden at the White House for a special ceremony.
So why does this big-city mayor care about rural Kansas? Joe says, "It's my personal background, but it's also important to our city and state. Our city was built on agriculture. Our industry started with the packing plants, and now they're all gone. The declining ag base has had a devastating effect. We have just a few farmers left in Wyandotte County, but they are successful family farmers. We need to find new ways to raise and sell our crops profitably."
Now Joe's efforts to help the city are paying off. He says, "We're now building about 200 houses a year. And we're emphasizing tourism. We have the Woodlands. We're also working on a Wizard of Oz theme park, which would be a $460 million project."
Joe's caring concern continues to expand. In 1993, he was elected president of the League of Kansas Municipalities.
Well, it's time to leave this meeting of the Governor's Task Force on Rural Kansas. We now know that this big-city mayor fits right in. Joe Steineger is mayor of a big city, and he also has a big heart. That caring makes a difference as it extends to communities across the state of Kansas.
Look, up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. Well, this isn't a Superman show, so it is a plane.
When you see a plane flying over rural Kansas, it could be the man we will meet today. His name is Dan Barker. His home base is Brewster, Kansas.
Brewster is a town in northwest Kansas of 296 people. Now, that's rural. It is located on the west side of Thomas county. I don't mean to suggest that it's a long way out there, but it's located about two miles from mountain time.
Here in Brewster is the office of Barker Farm Services. The specific farm service which the company provides is custom aerial application of pest controls onto farmer's crops. In other words, they fly the planes which spray the fields to keep bugs and worms from eating the grain that makes your breakfast cereal.
The owner and manager of this company is Dan Barker.
Dan was raised on a farm near Morton in the panhandle of Texas. When he was six years old, his daddy's cotton crop was threatened by an infestation of insects. His father brought in a pilot to spray the cotton and save the crop. And Dan Barker told his daddy, "That's what I want to do."
By the age of 19, he was doing it. A friend of Dan's parents by the name of N. H. Steed was a pilot and instructor. He gave Dan flying lessons before and after school, and two or three on weekends, plus ground school two nights a week. Today, N.H. says, "Dan has a natural ability -- one of the best. He was the youngest ag pilot in all of west Texas."
Dan went through training and got his commercial pilot's license. He then got more specific training for ag needs.
N.H. and then Dan flew for the same company. Then in 1979, Dan started his own aerial application business.
In the spring of 1981, a call came from Oklahoma. The greenbugs were damaging the wheat crop there. N.H. and Dan flew up to help, and then into Kansas. They worked around Haven, and then around Brewster.
In the process, Dan got acquainted with the owner of the aerial application business there in Brewster. And in 1991 when the owner was ready to sell the company, Dan and his wife decided to buy it. They made the move from Texas to Kansas.
Dan says, "People here jumped right in. Immediately we had lots of good support. They were encouraging and gave us business." Crops were good and the business grew.
Then came May 26, 1992. In the space of a few hours, the temperature plummeted to 23 degrees. It killed the growing corn and the wheat crop that was ripening in the fields. And the weather service said the coldest spot in the whole region was Brewster, Kansas.
Dan says, "Ninety-nine percent of the crop was lost." And without a crop, there was no reason to spray for pests.
Dan says, "We wouldn't have made it if not for the community telling us to hang in there." Dan broadened his base, and found business in eastern Kansas. He persevered through the hard times, built relations with customers, and the result was success.
In 1993, his business increased from 25,000 acres of coverage to 45,000 acres. And Dan is responding. Like a farmer after a good year, he is buying a new tractor. The difference is,
this is a high-powered airplane called an "air tractor." I wonder if Michael Jordan will be doing ads for those...
In the old days, we called people in this business cropdusters. Today we call them aerial applicators. And if your vision of these people is of a daredevil pilot in goggles and a muffler, think again.
Dan says, "We've come a long way from the early cropdusters. There have been leaps in technology. Safety has been improved more than ten-fold. And if you're not a professional, you just won't be in the business." Some aerial applicators even use technology derived from satellite surveillance..
So how does this transplanted Texan feel about Kansas now? He says, "Brewster is a great place to live. It has everything you need there, and it doesn't have the things you don't want. There's no metal detectors at our school; we don't need 'em. And the people are closeknit. If someone has an illness, people rally around and help. I wouldn't trade it for Wichita or Kansas City."
Look, up in the sky. It's not a bird, but it's a plane, and maybe it's a Super man too. Dan Barker has a commitment to small-town America that is super in my book, and it's making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's visit a facility with high-tech equipment. On the shop floor, we see precision equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars. And up on the wall, above our heads, we see -- a basketball goal?
What is a basketball goal doing in the middle of this high-tech facility? It's not exactly your typical wall-hanging.
The answer is simple. It was originally put up outside on what used to be the back of the building -- just like the goal over your garage door at home. But as the business grew, more space was needed. A new building was added on to the back of the old building, and the basketball goal remained in place.
The point is that the business grew around it. Today we'll hear about that growth.
Let's meet Gail Boller. He is president of Natoma Corporation in Norton, Kansas. Norton is a town of 3,017 people in Norton County in northwest Kansas.
The corporation name, however, comes from Natoma, the original hometown of Gail Boller. Natoma is an Osborne County town of 392 people. Now, that's rural.
After growing up at Natoma, Gail went to Fort Hays State University. In 1977, he moved to Florida where his brother lived and went to work for the Piper company. After a few years, he decided he wanted to get his son out of the schools in Florida so they moved back to Kansas.
He set up his own machine shop in Natoma in 1982. And in 1984, he made the move to Norton.
Did I say that this company experienced growth? This company which started with two guys now employs 20. And annual gross revenues have gone from $100,000 to $600,000.
Today the Natoma Corporation is a contract manufacturer of precision machined parts. The company primarily serves the aerospace, medical, and laboratory instrument industries. 75 percent of their business is outside the state of Kansas.
Their customers range from California to Florida. One of their customers is the largest maker of disposable hypodermic needles and syringes in the world.
This requires the highest quality work. Let me give you an idea. On one of their typical jobs, the tolerance of precision on a milled metal product is plus-or-minus one-thousandth of one inch. And on a grinding project, the tolerance is one ten-thousandth of an inch. Meanwhile, most of us still can't hit an eight-foot wide parking place just right...
Because of this high precision, 90 percent of their work is computer-controlled milling and turning. Much of it is in stainless steel and aluminum, but they work in plastics as well.
A typical piece of equipment in Gail Boller's shop would be valued at $80,000 new. In fact, he just bought a $30,000 inspection tool which produces a computer printout of the findings.
Most recently, Gail Boller purchased the tool company up the street where they design and build automated assembly equipment.
Even now, the challenge is getting in the door to potential customers. Gail says, "Urban buyers want somebody down the street." Getting skilled employees is another issue, which Gail is addressing. He says, "Every employee here over two years owns a piece of the company."
And in the corporation brochure, there is a message from Gail. It says, "The key to our growth and success...is shown in the picture above." And above it on the page is a group photo of all the company's employees.
So why would this company remain in Norton, Kansas? Gail Boller says, "We have better labor costs and quality of labor than in a city. Just the cost of real estate is one-tenth of what it would be in Denver."
He says, "We can compete with any shop in the country from here. The Japanese can't even compete with us."
Gail says, "The key is doing what the customer wanted -- even if it means working 7 days a week."
The hard work has paid off. Gail gives the example of a company in Florida which started by ordering three different parts from them. Now they order more than 400.
Yes, in the middle of this high-tech facility we find a basketball goal. It's a sign of the way this business has grown around it, through the vision and effort of Gail Boller who is making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's meet an interesting young couple in north central Kansas. Listen carefully to their career tracks. One graduated from college with a degree in ag economics, the other in ag education. Now one is working in a bank, and the other at a college. But don't assume anything: the one who is an economist is at the college, and the one whose degree was in education is the banker.
Perhaps that's a reverse of what you might expect. It's just another example of the versatility of these two remarkable people. I'm speaking of Deb and Tim Ohlde.
Deb works in Concordia. That's a town of 6,167 people. Tim, however, works in Clyde. That's a town of 793 people. They both went to high school in Linn. That's a town of 472 people. Currently they live near Palmer. That's a town of 121 people. Now, that's rural.
Today we'll meet Deb Carlson Ohlde. She grew up on a farm near Palmer. She was active in school activities, such as Future Homemakers of America, called FHA. In those days, she was starting to think about seeking a state or national office in FHA. And at the same time, there was a young man from Linn High School who was seeking a national office in Future Farmers of America, or FFA. She wrote him a note to wish him well.
It was just like in the movies. That note led to a relationship. Both of them ended up serving as state officers of their respective organizations. In fact, Deb was elected to a national office in FHA. And on Valentine's Day 1987, Deb and Tim were married.
Deb graduated from K-State in ag economics and is now pursuing her masters in public administration. Meanwhile, she worked in Clay Center before taking a position with Cloud County Community College.
In September 1990, she became the college's Community Development Resource Coordinator. In this role, she serves as a liaison between the college resources and economic development entities in their 12 county service area.
The years since have produced several achievements. One was the formation of the first-ever, North Central Kansas Rural Development Council. It is one of a kind in Kansas.
It began with 9 county representatives meeting informally. Now it has grown to having 11 counties contributing to a budget.
The Council has a regional marketing and promotion brochure which includes information on communities throughout the region. The Council is building a regional identity. It has letterhead. It sponsors speakers. It meets monthly.
Deb says, "The best part is in simply getting together for problem-solving."
In February, a business relocation conference was held in California. Through the Council, two individuals attended from the region. The leads they bring back will be shared with the other members.
Deb says, "That's something they would not have been able to do on their own." I think it's an excellent example of regional, multi-community cooperation, which is especially important now as we seek to get the most of our limited dollars.
Another success story is the assistance which Deb organized for small business people. This took the form of a one-hour class which was structured so as to respond to local input and needs. Typically this included management assistance.
Deb says, "We had enrollments of 25 to 30 a class. The classes have been offered in nine of the twelve counties in the service area."
Again, a partnership with the private sector was vital. Local lenders helped market the class to their customers and others.
Deb is an outstanding leader and student. She is helping reverse the rural brain drain through her commitment to Kansas.
She says, "I know I could work on Wall Street if I wanted to, but I choose not to. I prefer safety, wide open spaces, nature, and family. In an urban area, it's harder to get involved and make a difference."
She took the words right out of my mouth. Regardless of whether her degree was in education or economics, she is involved and committed to making her rural region even better. And next time, we'll meet the young man who is the other half of this husband-and-wife team that is building rural Kansas.
Today is the second in our two-part series about a husband-and-wife team that is building rural Kansas. Last time, we heard about the wife. Today we'll hear about the husband.
Tim Ohlde grew up on a dairy farm near Linn. Linn is a town of 472 people in Washington County, in north central Kansas.
After graduating from K-State, Tim returned to his home area. The truth is, he wanted to farm. The Linn State Bank had an opening and hired Tim on a part-time basis.
It was meant to be. Tim took to banking. In five months, he was working at the bank full-time. And in 1986, he helped some stockholders put together the purchase of the Elk State Bank in Clyde, Kansas. Today Tim is an officer of that bank.
Often what happens with these Kansas farm-boys is that they go off to college and get their education, and then go off for a job in the big city. Sure enough, this happened with Tim Ohlde. He left Linn, a town of 400-plus, and went off to the big city of Clyde, a town of 793 people. I suppose New York City is next...
Clyde is located in Cloud County, where Tim's wife Deb also works. She does economic and rural development for the community college. And in Clyde, Tim's involvement in that community started to make a difference.
He put together a group of volunteers called the Clyde Community Development Resource Committee or CCDRC. He says, "A bunch of us got together. We didn't know what we were doing, but we were concerned about our community."
The group grew. Three years ago, it was given official status by the Clyde city council.
More importantly, the group accomplished a lot of things. They did a community profile. They surveyed the alumni of the school. They did a strategic plan. They raised money for a brochure. They met with the high school graduating classes. They helped to establish a housing committee to clean up uninhabitable housing. They assisted in the formation of a community foundation, which collects money for community needs.
One issue facing the community had to do with medical service. There was only one doctor in Clyde, and he did business from an office in a house. When he retired, he recruited a doctor from Clay Center who was willing to offer service. Soon, the new doctor outgrew the existing facility.
Meanwhile, through CCDRC's efforts, a team of college students came to Clyde as part of the K-State Community Service Program. They were to do a study and to work on solving this problem.
One of the students asked, "What's that big building next to the Catholic church used for?" "Oh," the answer was, "that's the old convent. It's been closed for several years." "Well," the student said, "can we go see it?"
And they did. What they found is that the numerous little rooms where the nuns lived were perfect for a professional services building. Today that convent has been remodeled and is a full-time medical clinic employing two doctors, one physician's assistant and four full-time support staff.
Clyde's community spirit and grass-roots commitment is evident in a remarkably strong retail sector. How many towns of less than 800 still have two banks, two car dealerships, two grocery stores, two gas stations, a historic hotel, a day care center, a nursing home, restaurants, a lumberyard, hardware store, clothing store, and a jewelry store? The answer is, not many.
Now, there are those who have given up on rural America. They say the land should be taken by the government and turned into a Buffalo Commons. A very good argument against that idea can be found in Clyde.
What is the secret of Clyde's success? Is it an inflow of government money? Far from it. The politicians hardly notice a town this size. Instead, the answer came from within. It came from the grass-roots. It came from a community with self-reliance, determination, and pride. It came from people who care enough about their community to keep it up and make it even better.
One of those people is Tim Ohlde. He says, "If we want something more, we're an hour and fifteen minutes from Manhattan, Salina, or Lincoln, Nebraska. So why should I fight the traffic every day? We want to live in a rural area."
This concludes our two-part series on a husband-and-wife team that is building rural Kansas. Like his wife Deb, Tim Ohlde is committed to making these rural communities better, and in so doing, he is making a difference for the future.
Do you ever complain about the weather? Well, I do. But sometimes this crazy Kansas weather can turn into a blessing. And would you believe that a Kansas snowstorm could change a family's history?
Well, it did. And it happened in Scandia, Kansas.
Scandia is a town in Republic County in north central Kansas. It has 421 residents. Now, that's rural. And in that town, a snowstorm occurred with far-reaching consequences.
The resident of Scandia who told me this story is Mister H.W. "Bill" Reece. The story is about his father. Mr. Reece's dad was from Iowa, and he attended barber college there before World War I. Then he decided to go to Arizona to find business among the mining camps there. One winter, he was headed back to Iowa for Christmas. He was enroute when suddenly a blizzard hit and he got snowed in.
Do you want to guess where? That's right. Scandia, Kansas. While he was stuck there, he met a young lady -- Emily Loring. Emily was a farmer's daughter working in the post office. Well, you can guess the rest of this story. He went on to Iowa but returned to Kansas to make this young lady his bride. And the young couple settled in Scandia.
Mr. Reece practiced his barber trade in Scandia and did other business too. He even got into the construction business. Then in 1926, he formed a partnership to do road-building. The company's first work was a six mile stretch of road to be graded in Brown County. The work was done with slips and fresnos, whatever those are, and horses and mules.
Shortly after that, Mr. Reece made a strategic decision: He would concentrate on people and their potential for building roads and structures rather than on mules. And that was the beginning of the growth of Reece Construction Company.
These construction jobs took the Reece family, with four children, all over Kansas. Bill Reece says, "I was in 12 different schools before the fourth grade." But they came back to Scandia where he finished school.
Bill went to KU, served in the Navy, and returned to the family business. In 1955, the partnership was re-formed into a corporation. And the new president of the company was Bill Reece.
Today Reece Construction Company is diversified, providing rental equipment as well as road and concrete construction services. The company has offices in Salina, Grand Island and Kearny, Nebraska, and North Texas. But the home office of the company remains in Scandia.
Bill Reece is a remarkable individual. His wife is as well. For fourteen years, Mary Nell Reece served as the Republican National Committeewoman from Kansas.
Bill is very involved, having served as president of the Kansas chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. He has been on the national board and served as chair of its national highway division.
He is an innovator too. His latest product is called Chempruf concrete. It is a new and improved concrete material.
Specifically, it is a sulfur-based concrete, and thus is different from the Portland cement concrete widely used today. It is relatively twice as strong as typical concrete, and will not deteriorate from salts or most mineral acids.
The benefits of such an innovative product to safety and the environment are obvious. Bill was instrumental in putting together a consortium to form a national company to advance the idea. Other participants are from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee, Washington state, and Copenhagen, Denmark.
Even with this international vision, Bill Reece continues to live in Scandia. And why? One obvious reason is family. Bill's mother -- the postmaster's employee -- still lives there. She is now 96 and still driving a car.
And Bill adds, "For our business, it doesn't matter where the office is. This is an inexpensive place to live and keep the office."
And Bill is committed to high ideals and private enterprise. As their materials say, "A company is only as good as its people. A nation is only as good as its citizens."
Well, the next time you complain about the weather, remember that it can be a blessing. Remember that Kansas snowstorm, which changed Mr. Reece's life in Scandia. And remember Bill Reece, whose entrepreneurial spirit is making a difference in rural Kansas.
Burn-out. It's a fact of life in rural Kansas.
No, I'm not referring to the end of pasture-burning season, or the old building that burned down on Main Street. I'm talking about the burn-out of our community leaders in smaller towns.
Many professions experience burn-out. It's that phenomenon of working so hard for so long that you just run out of energy to keep going. It's a real problem in rural America, where volunteers are so important but there are fewer people to do the work.
So how do we keep the fire going? How do we replenish the ranks of leaders in our state -- particularly in a rural setting?
For one answer, let's meet David Cross in Edwards County, Kansas. Edwards County is located in western, south central Kansas. Did you catch all that? It is due west of Hutchinson, close to Dodge City.
David farms and ranches near Lewis along with his brother, Rob. Lewis is a town of 451 people. Now, that's rural.
He was born and raised in Edwards County, graduated from Fort Hays State in Agriculture, and returned to the farm. He and his wife have three children. They farm 3,500 acres of various crops, own 225 cows, and run a stocker/feeder operation.
One day he was at his mother's house and was reading her newspaper. There was an article about a brand new program getting started in the state, called KARL: K-A-R-L. That stands for Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership.
KARL is an educational, leadership development program for individuals committed to Kansas agriculture and rural communities. KARL consists of a two-year state, national, and international training program. Every two years, approximately thirty individuals ages 25 through 45 are selected to go through the program.
David Cross told his mother, "That sounds neat." Sure enough, he applied for the very first class of KARL and was selected. I'd say he got his money's worth out of that newspaper...
The KARL class members attended several seminars around the state, including trips to the statehouse and Washington DC. They even spent two weeks going to Europe.
David says, "KARL was one of the best experiences of my life. I met terrific people in the class and interacted with proven, successful leaders."
But what happens next? For some people, success in leadership means running for office. But what David Cross did was even more valuable. He returned home and sought to bring out other leaders within his home county.
David says, "As chairman of the bank board at the time, I saw there was a handful of people who were called upon to do a lot. In a small community, these people can burn out. KARL gave me a greater awareness of the individual's responsibility to their community."
David talked to the local PRIDE committee, all the banks, the extension office, and more. The result was a county-wide leadership program within Edwards County.
I asked him, Why not a leadership program just for his town? He said, "The steering committee felt we should look at the county as a total community. There are differences between towns and on different sides of the river, but we think we need to stick together." Now that's leadership.
And how does David feel about living in rural Kansas? He says, "We've got the best kept secret around. We have a better learning environment in our schools, a low crime rate, and downright friendly people. I think it's the best place to live."
The Edwards County leadership program is a success, and so is KARL. People who are interested in the KARL program can call 913-532-6300 for more information.
Yes, burn-out can be a problem. But through people like David Cross, there will be more leaders -- and more help for leaders -- who can make a difference in rural Kansas.
Let's take a drive down Highway 40 east of Topeka. Admire the scenic, rolling hills. As you enter the community of Big Springs, look to the north. Do you see that old barn sitting there?
Well, look again. A closer look reveals that this is a modern building designed with the rustic appearance of a barn. And inside you would find a state-of-the-art office complex with all the conveniences, the headquarters of a ten-million dollar business.
It's true. And it's there because of one Bud Newell.
Bud is president and CEO of Bud Newell and Associates, which is an umbrella for several different enterprises. Among other things, his company distributes high-tech orthopedic instruments and products, and internal surgical implants such as total hip and knee replacements.
In other words, if your Grandma had her hip replaced last year, it is likely that the new one came from Bud Newell.
Bud was born in Topeka and raised on his grandfather's dairy farm. He attended K-State, served in the Army, and then took a position in pharmaceutical sales. One thing led to another. Today, he is a major distributor for Zimmer, the world-wide orthopedic equipment corporation.
In Bud's first year, he had $18,000 in sales. This year, sales will top ten million dollars.
Bud's wife Marti is president and founder of a related company called Orthequip, Inc. This company assembles implants and rents the necessary surgical instruments for doctors to do total joint replacement surgery. We're not talking about any old hacksaw here. This is highly specialized, top quality equipment.
A set of instruments might be valued at $30,000, and one case of the hip or knee implants might be worth half a million dollars.
Bud is determined to get these to the customer. On occasion, he has chartered a plane and flown the needed items to the hospital himself.
Marti, by the way, was recently named one of the top 10 businesswomen in America by the American Business Women's Association.
Bud is an entrepreneur in other ways too. He designs other related medical products and holds several patents.
Bud says, "I like solving problems. The thing that drives me is when somebody says it can't be done."
In 1981, Bud and Marti bought an old farm near the unincorporated town of Big Springs. Big Springs is on Highway 40 southwest of Lecompton, population 619 people. Now, that's rural.
In that rural setting, the Newell's bought 80 acres, and have increased their acreage over the years. They invested in Arabian horses. They restored the old house on the farmstead. Did I say "old?" While restoring the farmhouse, they found a newspaper dated 1904.
Bud's business had grown so fast that they needed new office facilities. So they decided to build a new office complex there on the site of the old horse barn. The rural flavor of the place is maintained, and horses still roam in those pastures. In fact, Bud is president of the Kansas Horse Council.
Historic covered wagon wheel ruts can still be found where the Oregon Trail crosses Bud Newell's place. In 1993 Bud's group started offering historic Oregon Trail expeditions. These include re-enactors in period clothing, chuckwagon rides, campfires, native American story tellers, music, and folklore. People have come from as far away as Florida, Illinois, and Indiana.
There is another side to this remarkable CEO and entrepreneur. He has a soft spot in his heart for handicapped children and horses. His current vision is to build a new training facility at the farm which could be used for handicapped children to go horseback riding.
Bud says, "We could take youngsters with mental or physical disabilities and help them learn what movement feels like. My daughter-in-law has taken this on as a project. It means so much to these kids. We have seen them sit tall in the saddle, enjoying their new-found freedom."
Bud says, "It's fun making people smile. I think you need to reach out and make a difference in people's lives -- even one person at a time."
Yes, as you take Highway 40 east of Topeka, you'll see what looks like a barn. But it's just a symbol of what Bud and Marti Newell are doing in rural Kansas: making the world around them a little better place to live.
Do you ever read the label on a consumer product and find it says something like, "From the Johnson family of companies?" Well, that's a nice way of saying that there's been some mergers and acquisitions, and the Johnson Corporation owns the others.
But today we will look at a product where the label says it comes from the Johnson family. And when it says family, it means family.
This product comes from Dwight Johnson and his wife Roberta and their two daughters and a son. Don't go looking for him in a corporate bureaucracy -- he's both management and labor.
The product is a tasty snack food called "Crispy Corn." The location is southeast Riley County.
Dwight Johnson grew up on a farm near Manhattan. He got his degree in Ag Economics from K-State and went to work for the DeKalb company. The job took him to Ulysses and Topeka before he returned to the family farm in 1981.
Dwight says, "In my economics classes, I learned the value of moving products closer to the consumer in the economic chain. So I got this wild whim to apply the idea to the seed business."
Today Johnson Seed Farms produces field corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, and wheat. And to add value further, he produces, processes, packages and markets Crispy Corn.
Crispy Corn is a tasty, bite-size snack food. It is found in small, consumer-sized packages.
In the late 1980's, Dwight was looking for value-added opportunities. He found a recipe for Crispy Corn and set up a pilot plant. Focus groups were used to get consumer input.
It requires a certain variety of corn and special handling. Dwight says, "The corn is produced from special genetic material and the identity of the crop must be preserved. No contamination is allowed." The corn is soaked in water and fried with a special recipe. Members of the family help with packaging and taking orders.
Asked where the product goes, Dwight says with a smile, "Anywhere UPS will take it." To date, it has gone as far away as Florida and Texas. Probably 75 percent of the business, however, is in Kansas. Dwight is targeting vending machines as the market segment to pursue.
Dwight is very involved in various organizations. He is chairman of the board of the Kansas Soybean Association and past chair of the state Farm-City Council. He serves on the Board of Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership and the Crop & Soils Council.
In his entrepreneurial efforts, he has received assistance from the Kansas Value-Added Center, state department of agriculture, and the KSU College of Human Ecology.
Dwight says even more information is needed on value-added processing, besides the major industries of flour milling and beef packing. He points out that it is tough for a small business to succeed. He believes a value-added strategy will be difficult, but necessary.
Dwight says, "As an industry, we're very good at producing farm products, but many don't know what it takes to reach the consumer. It's very challenging and competitive, it takes knowledge of the market day-to-day, and it takes a long time to make it happen."
And what does Dwight think about the rural lifestyle? He says, "With my background, I see major positives. Someone from an urban area might miss the benefits. We don't have the newest art shows or the latest BMWs, but we have a comfortable lifestyle, personal involvement, and true neighborliness."
So, check the label on a product sometime. If it says this product is from the Johnson family, then you can be sure it is a family operation. And it's a product of Dwight Johnson's vision for a value-added economy, a strategy which can make a difference in rural Kansas.
It's graduation day. Happy family members line the room. The graduates are ready to go, prepared for the next stage of their lives. They're happily sitting there, neatly groomed, with their fur brushed and their tails wagging...
What was that last part? Oh, this isn't a people graduation, it's a dog graduation. But they're not graduating from any old obedience school either.
This is graduation day at the Kansas Specialty Dog Service, or KSDS.
These graduates won't have to fight the job market. They already have a job -- and it's a very important one. These dogs provide assistance to persons with disabilities.
In other words, one of them might be a guide dog for a blind person, or an assistance dog to someone who is wheelchair bound. Maybe they are social dogs, which provide companionship in a nursing home or hospital.
In any event, they must receive training. That training is available through a non-profit company, Kansas Specialty Dog Service, Inc. And at the end of the training, it's graduation day.
Now where do you suppose KSDS is found? Well, it's in Washington. No, not Washington DC, Washington, Kansas -- population 1,304 people. Now, that's rural.
The president of KSDS is Bill Acree. Bill and his wife are natives of Washington. In fact, Kansas Profile first featured Bill three years ago when KSDS had just begun.
So what has happened in the three years since we last visited KSDS? Listen to this.
KSDS started with three employees. Now there are six full-time employees and one part-time. New facilities have been built. Today there have been more than 70 dogs placed with disabled individuals. And the puppy raiser list has grown to more than 100 families in seven states. And what about their achievements? Listen to this.
KSDS became the first school in the nation to train both guide dogs and service dogs in the same facility. KSDS placed its first three service dogs with families in November 1991, nine months ahead of schedule. KSDS implemented the first canine health care program endorsed by a state veterinary medical association.
KSDS was the first organization to receive donated readings of radiographs of all the dog's hips and elbows from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. KSDS was first to receive corporate sponsorship of a "cradle to grave" feeding program. In other words, the Iams pet food company has donated free dog food for the entire working life of these dogs.
The list of firsts goes on and on. But to me the most amazing thing is still how these dogs interact with and assist their disabled human partner.
You say your pet dog can fetch a stick? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
The KSDS trained dogs provide the most amazing assistance to their disabled companions. They can retrieve. They can pick up something that is dropped. They can pull the wheelchair. They can open doors. They can even turn on and off lights -- all based on the verbal commands of their disabled owner.
I think it's just incredible. And there's another amazing component to this service.
How much do you think KSDS charges a disabled person for one of these highly trained animals? Would you believe: zero? That's right. Absolutely nothing.
So how can Bill Acree give these animals away? The answer is, with a lot of help.
KSDS began with a state grant. Now that grant has expired. KSDS operates with donated financial support from foundations, corporations, schools, 4-H clubs, individuals, and such organizations as the K-State Pre-Vet Club and the Wichita Veterinary Medical Association.
It's a heartwarming story. If you know of someone who is need of such a dog, or if you're willing to be a puppy raiser, or if you're willing to give financial support, contact KSDS at 913-325-2256. That number again is 913-325-2256.
It's graduation day. And as with human graduates, we wish these animal graduates well. We also wish the best to Bill Acree and KSDS. Bill and his staff are making a difference in rural Kansas. Most of all, they're giving disabled boys and girls a new chance and a new friend, a special animal who brings joy and companionship and who makes it possible for them to have a life that's better and brighter.
You probably know that there are many historic sites in Kansas. Today let's talk about one that is pre-historic -- and I mean that literally.
We're talking ice age here. Not Barney or Jurassic Park, but the real thing.
Our story begins in Wellington, Kansas. Wellington is a town of 8,411 people in Sumner County, which is south of Wichita on the Oklahoma border. That's rural. There we will find Kent Johnston.
Kent tells us that one day in 1992, county workers were digging up some fill dirt for the landfill. As the bulldozer dug up some soil, the blade scraped across a section of bone. They took a look, and decided they should stop to check it out.
They brought in university experts to dig up this specimen. What they had found turned out to be the skull of a Columbian mammoth, dating from prehistoric time. The skull is an estimated 12,000 years old. And just to give you an idea how big this animal must have been, the skull - by itself - weighs 1,000 pounds. This skull turned out to be special, because the specimen survived almost intact.
This was exciting, because the museum in Wellington already had a prehistoric animals display based on earlier finds. This skull will make an excellent addition to the museum. The curator of that local museum is Kent Johnston.
Kent grew up in Wellington, went to college on an Air Force scholarship, and spent a career in the service. When the time came to retire, he and his family moved back to Wellington.
More on that decision later. Kent tells that the museum itself has an interesting history.
In 1912, the building opened as the Hatcher Hospital. Years later, it closed and reopened in 1962 as the Chisholm Trail Museum. In the 32 years since, the museum has had three directors. Kent is the third.
But people made fun of those first museum directors. Kent says, "There was a standing joke people said about them. The joke was, stop by the museum on your way to the dump and see if they want anything. The second part of the joke was, they wanted it all. But today, the joke is on them. Because today, many of those things which people were discarding are valuable; even oak furniture, bibles, and antique books."
The museum has 3 floors and 41 rooms. It will attract 3,000 visitors in the course of a summer.
The paleontology or prehistoric animal display is one of the attractions. This display includes some things which are remarkable to find in small town Kansas.
For example, there are specimens of a giant sloth six feet tall. Someone out there is saying, that sounds like my brother-in-law! There's a specimen of a prehistoric bison, standing nine feet tall at the shoulder with a seven foot hornspan. Man, I'd hate to meet him at a rodeo.
Kent says that worldwide, there are only 13 identified skulls of one particular prehistoric animal. One of those 13 is in Wellington, Kansas.
This prehistoric resource has put Wellington on the map -- and I mean that literally too. A couple of years ago, people at the Rand McNally company were noting attractions along the old Chisholm Trail. They learned of the prehistoric animal display and added it to their maps.
After the mammoth skull was found, calls came from as far away as New York, California, and Seattle.
The museum isn't all that Kent Johnston does. He also runs a youth shelter. And with encouragement from his friends, the speaker of the Kansas House Bob Miller and his wife, Kent recently attended the first-ever Kansas Leadership Forum in Salina.
And what about that decision to move back to Wellington? Kent says, "I moved 13 times while I was in the Air Force. We lived in such places as London, Paris, Beirut, and Stuttgart. When I retired, I could go wherever I wanted to go. But I like Wellington. I like the people there."
He says, "When we were thinking about moving back, we looked at the local paper. The big news item that day was whether or not there should be a stoplight by the local Dillons store. And we said, if that's the most serious thing going on, then this must be a good place to live."
Yes, Kansas has many historic sites -- and as we've learned, even some prehistoric sites. But most of all, it has special people like Kent Johnston who are making a difference in rural Kansas.
"There's a new kid in town." So go the words of a song. The words seem to strike a chord with us. When there's someone new in a small town it's a cause for excitement, curiosity, and maybe a little fear.
How does your town react when someone new is there? Well, in one Kansas town, the reaction to a visitor was so positive that she stayed, and now is one of the community's own leaders.
Meet Christy Cobb. Christy is a registered investment representative in Conway Springs, Kansas. Conway Springs is a town of 1,384 people. Now, that's rural. It is located in Sumner County, southwest of Wichita.
But Christy isn't from Conway Springs originally. Let me tell you how she got there.
Christy is originally from Ozark, Missouri. Her family moved to Kansas City, Missouri when her father was transferred there. Christy went to K-State to study Architecture and then switched to Agricultural Economics.
Christy says with a smile, "After all those years of paying out-of-state tuition, now my folks have moved across the line into Kansas!" It does seem a little ironic. Her parents now live in Louisburg, in Miami County. Louisburg is a town of 1,964, and that's rural too.
But meanwhile Christy had an opportunity in the big city of Wichita. She had been working part-time with an investment firm while at K-State, and then Waddell & Reed offered her a good position in Wichita.
So she went to the big city for her job and stayed in Wichita with some friends.
Then one day, she heard about a fall festival in a smaller community some twenty miles outside of Wichita. So, she decided to go for some entertainment and a change of pace.
The town was Conway Springs.
Christy says, "The people there were overwhelmingly friendly, even though I was a stranger there." They were so friendly and interested in her that when the time came for her to find a more permanent place to live, she chose Conway Springs.
Now, everyone knows that Wichita has plenty of commuters and plenty of bedroom communities around it. But Christy Cobb's story doesn't stop there.
After one year of working in Wichita, Christy opened a personal office for her company, Waddell & Reed, in Conway Springs. And, she got involved in the community.
She began attending Chamber of Commerce meetings just to get acquainted. Today, she has served as President of the Chamber for two years. She has been elected to the Board of Directors of Sumner County Economic Development. Then she was nominated to chair the Sumner County Leadership Program. Recently she attended the first-ever Kansas Leadership Forum in Salina.
Christy has gone from being a stranger to being a leader. It has happened because of the friendliness and openness of the community.
And how did a stranger get such a prominent role in the Chamber? Christy says, "Well, maybe because I'm not from there, I've been willing to jump in and do things, and I'm not afraid to ask someone to help."
But why would someone with a good job in Wichita come to Conway Springs in the first place? Christy says, "I like the small town quality of life. I can walk to my office or walk to the post office and everyone I meet says hi. Besides, I'm single. If I lived in Wichita, I'd have locks all over my doors."
She says, "I really enjoy it here. And I feel fortunate."
So what advice would Christy have for other rural communities? She says to be open and friendly. "It's important for small towns to attract new people, and young people back from college, for their future."
There's a new kid in town, alright. But Christy Cobb went from being the new kid to opening a business and even becoming a community leader. Her entrepreneurial spirit, and the friendliness of the community which attracted her, are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Hey, would you like to buy some ocean-front property in Kansas? It sounds a little suspicious, doesn't it. But imagine a company in land-locked Kansas that does millions of dollars of business with overseas customers.
You don't have to imagine it. It's true.
Meet Art Teichgraeber. Art is President and CEO of Cardwell International, Limited. Cardwell is this company in the heart of Kansas which is doing such remarkable business overseas. It is based in El Dorado.
El Dorado is a town of 11,504 people in Butler County, in south central Kansas. That's rural. But Art Teichgraeber commutes to El Dorado from his home in Eureka. Eureka is a town of 2,974. Now, that's rural. But Art was born and raised in the town of Hamilton. Hamilton is a town of 301. Now, that's really rural.
Art Teichgraeber went on to Kansas State University and got a degree in engineering. He returned to the Flint Hills to work in the family oil business in 1978, and in 1989, purchased Cardwell International, Ltd. and the rights to manufacture the complete line of Cardwell equipment.
The Cardwell company was founded in 1926 by H. W. Cardwell, a Wichita businessman. Mr. Cardwell was a distributor for Caterpillar tractors and bulldozers. He had the idea of mounting an oil drilling rig on one of those Caterpillar tractors. The product was popular because it was so mobile.
Over the years, the company changed hands but continued to produce oil drilling equipment. Mr. Cardwell passed away in 1956. In 1969, offices moved from Wichita to El Dorado. But then the downturn in the oil business hit hard. By the late 1980s, Cardwell was down to just over 20 employees.
Then along came Art Teichgraeber. The results since then have been remarkable.
Employment has gone from near 20 to more than 100. And sales have gone from $1 million to over $15 million a year.
How in the world did this happen? Well, the answer might be found in that phrase "in the world." The U.S. oil economy remains hard-pressed, but Cardwell has found excellent opportunities elsewhere in the global market.
Today 95 percent of Cardwell sales are international. Would you believe that Cardwell has exported products to more than 50 countries?
Cardwell's customers aren't named Bill or Joe. They're named Russia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Syria, Algeria, Indonesia, Argentina, India, Poland, Bangladesh, China, and more.
The company continues to produce oil drilling systems, servicing rigs, and related equipment. One key to success is that Cardwell builds this equipment to the customer's specifications.
Another key to Cardwell's success is a willingness to coproduce this equipment with international interests. In other words, the company has produced many of these products in partnership with its international clientele.
Of course, much of the company's expertise was built in the Kansas oil industry. So that is how this international company came to be here.
But now that the international business is going, why stay in Kansas? Why not move to Houston or New York?
Art Teichgraeber feels strongly that the company should stay in El Dorado. He says the work force is skilled and has oil field experience, the cost of doing business in rural Kansas is generally economical, and the El Dorado/Butler County community is very supportive. There are also the family and quality of life reasons which make Kansas attractive.
When traveling all over the world, people ask me what I like best about Kansas. My answer is the "people."
They are loyal, stable and work hard to produce a quality product. It's the Midwest work ethic -- in my opinion, the best in the world. And, we're fortunate that our people have stayed with Cardwell, through the good times and the bad. Their average years with Cardwell is between 10 and 15 years.
Butler County has been good to us. They have a very aggressive economic development program and have been very helpful to our continued success.
So, don't go buying any ocean-front property in Kansas. Kansas doesn't have it. But Kansas does have entrepreneurs like Art Teichgraeber, who have an international vision and who are using it to make a difference in rural Kansas.
Do you have a photographic memory? I don't either. But photography itself is interesting. Everybody likes pictures. And it's amazing what modern photographers can do.
Did you know that one of the largest manufacturers of photographic equipment in the world is found right here in Kansas? The company is named Kreonite.
The man who founded this company is Dwight Krehbiel. He grew up at Newton, a town of 16,700 in Harvey County.
Mr. Krehbiel was head of the photography department at Boeing in Wichita during World War II. He started experimenting with materials which were new at the time, namely fiberglass and plastic resins, to build large trays for developing photo templates.
After the war, he built several fiberglass sinks for his own darkroom use. Then some friends wanted some. The idea grew. After all, there were several advantages in using a durable substance like fiberglass in making photo processing equipment.
So in 1955, he set up his own company to produce photo processing equipment from a fiberglass-type material.
One question remained. What do you call the stuff? He didn't want to name it fiberglass or plastic. It was a quandary.
Then along came his children. His kids were fans of Superman. In the comic book stories, Superman had lots of super abilities, but the one thing in the world which was even stronger than Superman was Kryptonite.
That's where the idea came from. His kids suggested he take the first three letters of their last name and combine it with the name of the imaginary substance Kryptonite.
The result was the word Kreonite. That's what Dwight Krehbiel decided to name the fiberglass material, which also became the name of the company. The Kreonite company started building photo processing sinks from this strong, easy-to-maintain material.
The result was growth. The company expanded into automatic processing equipment. In 1969 and again in 1975, Dwight Krehbiel was named the SBA small businessperson of the year in Kansas.
Today Kreonite is an internationally known firm in the design and manufacture of photographic processing systems. The company is an innovator. Kreonite has had many firsts. For example, the 85 inch wide print processor which they produce is the widest in the world today.
Meanwhile, Dwight Krehbiel was thinking about international opportunities. In 1972, Kreonite representatives took some sample equipment to the world's largest trade show for the photo industry. This trade show is in Cologne, Germany. The response was so good that a subsidiary named Kreonite Limited was set up in the United Kingdom.
In 1982, Dwight Krehbiel passed away, but the company continues to grow under President Bill Oetting's leadership.
Kreonite has gone global. The company has more than 100 dealer representatives in more than 60 countries around the world. 1992 and 1993 were record years for international sales.
The product is reliable too. Rodd Jones, the vice president of international marketing, says that the first Kreonite print processor outside of the U.S. went to a photo lab outside of London. Today that processor is still in use. Rodd says with a smile, "I've been bugging that guy for years to buy a new one."
Kreonite has come a long way from the old fiberglass sink. Today Kreonite produces an electronic imaging workstation that is utilized for graphic design and presentation graphics, and has typesetting and photo retouching tools. It enables color labs and photographers to quickly and economically combine images and text for a high resolution, high quality final product.
The company has received numerous recognitions, including an award from Senator Bob Dole's Foundation for Employment of People with Disabilities.
In summary, listen to a partial list of Kreonite's customers: Associated Press, Amoco, Chevron, Dupont, Gallo, Eastman Kodak, Fuji, the FBI, General Motors, Hallmark, the Library of Congress, NASA, National Geographic Society, hundreds of universities, Revlon, Sears, Scotland Yard, the Smithsonian Institution, TV Guide, the White House, and Disney World.
You get the idea. Orders from all these places are coming to Kansas. Dwight Krehbiel would be proud.
No, we don't have a photographic memory, but in our state we have a company in the photographic industry which is an international leader and which is making a difference in the Kansas economy.
Dr. Tom Krauss
Today's Kansas Profile is a difficult one. It is the true story of someone who was deeply committed to rural Kansas, but it includes a sudden and tragic turn of events.
We dedicate today's program in memory of Dr. Tom Krauss.
On April 25, 1994, Dr. Krauss lost his life in an accident on his ranch near Phillipsburg, Kansas. Tom was a true friend of rural America, and of the Huck Boyd Institute. In fact, Tom was Huck Boyd's son-in-law. Years ago, Tom married Marcia, the youngest daughter of Huck and Marie Boyd.
There is a side to this story that is quite sad. We were stunned when Marcia Boyd Krauss passed away suddenly from leukemia in 1992. Now we are shocked by the sudden loss of her husband.
But there is another side to this story. It is a happy story, of a family that loved rural life and made a positive difference in their community, state, and nation.
Tom Krauss was an Illinois native. He met Marcia Boyd while she was a student at K-State and he was stationed at Fort Riley. They married and moved to Colorado, where he was in private dental practice. They also raised a daughter and son.
The Krauss family had a heart for animals, whether pets or livestock. In 1967, Tom and Marcia established Bookcliff Herefords, a renowned herd of the red white-face cattle.
In 1977, the family made the big move: from Colorado back to Kansas. They moved to a home near Phillipsburg. This was exciting, as it enabled them to be closer to family.
In the meantime, Tom had developed an interest in forensic dentistry. That's the type of dental work which involves court cases.
For example, not long after moving back to Phillipsburg, Tom was called by Wichita authorities to help with a murder case. Tom linked teeth marks on the victim to the man who was eventually convicted of the crime. It was the first bite mark identification case in state history, and at the time one of the few in the nation.
Tom Krauss went on to become an internationally known expert in forensic dentistry, appearing across the United States and in foreign countries as an expert witness in court cases.
Stop and think about that for a minute. Imagine you're in the headquarters of the FBI building in Washington D.C. The director says, "We need a national expert for this case. Where do we find one?" And the answer comes: "I know: Phillipsburg, Kansas..."
Tom brought that level of recognition to small town Kansas. His was the type of business that could very well have been located in Chicago, New York, or LA. But he chose rural Kansas. Not only was Marcia's family there, he could continue to raise Herefords and enjoy the high quality of rural life.
Tom's commitment to rural Kansas didn't stop there. He was active in his support of the Huck Boyd Foundation and the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development. He was a Kansas Hereford Association director and member of the Kansas Livestock Association and the Phillips County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.
Rural health issues were important to Tom. He served on the Kansas Governor's Commission on Health Care and the Attorney General's Task Force on Missing and Exploited Children.
He was a leader in his profession. He served as president of the American Board of Forensic Odontology and was a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, International College of Dentists, and the American Society of Forensic Odontology.
At the same time, he was committed to his community. He was a member of the Phillipsburg Rotary Club and vice-chair of the Phillips County GOP Central Committee. The list goes on and on.
Through all these activities, he advanced the legacy of his father-in-law, Huck Boyd. Marie Boyd is still active in Phillipsburg. Tom and Marcia's children both attended K-State. Now the son is managing a ranch near Manhattan and the daughter is an editor with the American Polled Hereford Association in Kansas City.
Yes, there is a sad side to this story. We mourn the sudden loss of this remarkable Kansan. He will be sorely missed. But there is another side too, the many accomplishments of his life and times. He and his family have earned our salute and our thanks for making a difference in rural America.
Imagine a bird nine feet tall and weighing 300 pounds. Can't you hear him saying, "I want my birdseed, and I want it RIGHT NOW...?"
Well, you can relax. These birds don't talk, although they are for real. These big birds aren't refugees from Sesame Street, they are ostriches, which are increasingly being raised on the plains of Kansas...and I do mean the plains.
Near the town of Plains, Kansas, in the southwest part of the state, we will find Vail Fruechting. Vail is a farmer and ostrich breeder there. Plains is a town of 957 people in Meade County, which borders Oklahoma.
Vail is one of a growing group of people who are raising ostriches. According to a list of ostrich growers, these are located near such urban centers as Rexford, population 171; Kismet, population 421; Robinson, population 268; Olpe, population 431; Esbon, population 168; Prairie View, population 111; and Brownell, population 44. Now, that's rural.
In all these locations, people have been attracted to the idea of raising ostrich. One of those raising ostrich is Vail Fruechting.
Vail grew up on the family farm near Plains. He graduated from K-State with degrees in Agronomy and Horticulture. He and his lovely wife Pam moved back to Plains where they started raising corn and wheat.
One day another farmer mentioned a good opportunity in ostriches, so Vail and his father began to look into raising them.
These are high value animals. We're not talking chicken feed here, if you'll pardon the phrase. A pair of three-month-old chicks can cost six to seven thousand dollars. A two-year-old, ready to lay eggs, might be valued at 15 to 20,000 dollars.
Currently, it is a breeder's market; that is, people are selling the birds to others for building herd size and reproduction. The ostrich themselves are used for meat, leather, and feathers.
In 1991, Vail bought 8 pairs - a pair being one male and one female - of three-month-old ostrich chicks. Each year since he has kept pairs one year and sold them as young adults, almost ready to be bred.
Ostrich require special facilities and management. For example, the birds are raised in an enclosed area with 5 1/2 foot tall fences. Vail built these fences using cattle panels with boards above them. In the breeding pens, he uses special plastic wire so that the fence is flexible, designed with the safety of the bird in mind.
In 1993, he expanded the enterprise to include buying eggs and incubating them. The volume of one ostrich egg is equal to two dozen chicken eggs. But don't go making a giant omelette: one egg might be priced at a thousand dollars.
And why are these products so valuable? Take ostrich skin, or leather, for example. Ostrich cowboy boots are very popular. Current demand for ostrich leather is estimated to be three to five times the existing supply at current prices.
Ostrich meat is lean and red, low fat and low cholesterol, and similar in flavor to beef. Vail says they fed it to their kids and the kids never noticed the difference.
A third product is ostrich feathers. These aren't used only for Mae West's costume. Ostrich feathers have little or no oil in them and are used to dust sensitive electronic components in the computer industry.
In ancient Egypt, the ostrich feather was adopted as the symbol of justice and truth because the shaft, unlike that of most other birds, divides the plume into two equal portions. In fact, the feather in the emblem of the U.S. Supreme Court is an ostrich feather. Why don't they ask the next Supreme Court nominee that question?...
The result of all this is that ostrich can be a high-value enterprise for an entrepreneurial farmer like Vail Fruechting.
And what does Vail think of life in Plains? He says, "It's the best place to raise a family. With the media, we're not isolated, but it's a much more wholesome environment for the kids."
Yes, we can find giant birds in Kansas, but they're not looking for birdseed. They're being utilized by entrepreneurial farmers like Vail Fruechting. In doing so, Vail and his fellow growers are exploring new worlds and making a difference in the rural economy.
Holly Stannard Young
Today let's tune in to the words of a Nashville recording artist. One of her songs says: "People ask me if I'm missin' the city, people ask me if I'm missin' the rush; but I say don't worry 'cause nothin's as pretty as gold Kansas wheatfields in June."
Those words aren't just another songwriter's dream. When this artist sings about Kansas wheatfields in June, she knows exactly what she's talking about. In fact, when she's not in Nashville or on the road, you might even find her on a tractor in a wheat field in Decatur County, Kansas.
This is the story of Holly Stannard Young. Holly is this beautiful young artist from rural America.
Holly spent her early years in North Dakota, where her father farmed. He passed away when she was six. Her mother later remarried and moved to Oberlin, Kansas -- population 2197 people. Now, that's rural.
Holly later moved to Florida. While living in Florida, she was visited by a young man she had met in Oberlin.
You can guess the story. Sure enough, the two were married. They lived in Orlando, Florida where he got a job selling yachts -- sounds like a reasonable occupation for a Kansas farmboy...
Then came the sad news: Holly's father-in-law had passed away. So they decided to make the move back to Kansas to keep the family farm going.
Meanwhile, more and more people were taking note of Holly's tremendous musical talents. Holly said singing was something she always wanted to do, but having a family was something she wanted to do even more. After her first son was born, a producer approached them about recording her singing, and the career was launched.
One day she and her husband went to the local county fair and heard the grandstand show. She told him, "Wouldn't it be great if I could do just one grandstand show like that?"
Today, more than 100 grandstand shows later, Holly Stannard Young is in demand throughout the region and has produced a single that has been distributed to more than 2,000 radio stations coast-to-coast. Yet today, we can find this up-and-coming star in Oberlin, Kansas.
Holly's family shares time between their home in Oberlin and a house in Nashville. She and her husband planted wheat last fall and then spent the winter in Nashville. Then they came back to Oberlin for harvest. He helps her with her shows, and she helps him on the farm. In fact, she says, "There have been times I've driven that four-wheel drive tractor till midnight and then gotten up the next morning to do a show." When was the last time Garth Brooks did that?...
The family approach is only part of Holly's success. Another part is her childhood friend and singing partner Lynn Robideaux, nicknamed Blondie. Lynn now sings with Holly in a duo, which produced the current single. The duo is named "Young and Blond," which turns out to be a description as well as their names.
Holly says, "Next to my marriage and my relationship to the Lord, the best thing is working with my best friend Lynn."
But can a recording artist make a career work in rural Kansas? Why not move to Nashville or LA? Holly says, "It's been beneficial (to be in Oberlin). There's so many musicians in Nashville. Here, we are more unique and we can serve this region." There are also the quality of life reasons.
Holly says, "I get up in the morning to go jogging, but in Nashville I could only run half a block without being scared. Here in Oberlin my kids can be outside and be safe. And I love having this space around us."
The song says, "People ask me if I'm missin' the city, people ask me if I'm missin' the rush; but I say don't worry 'cause nothin's as pretty as gold Kansas wheatfields in June." Those words come from the heart of Holly Stannard Young. And by taking her talents from Kansas wheatfields to Nashville studios, she is making a difference for those around her and for all those who enjoy her music.
Today let's go to Anchorage, Alaska. The temperature is 25 degrees below zero. (Sort of a contrast from Kansas weather, isn't it?) But up north in the wintertime, ice and snow can cause a safety hazard for U.S. jets. Here to the rescue comes a truck equipped with de-icer spray to clear the runway. And where do you suppose that truck was produced?
Well, you're wrong unless you said Hiawatha, Kansas.
This is the remarkable story of the RHS company which produces farm spraying equipment and such innovative products as the de-icer trucks. The president of RHS is Rick Heiniger.
Rick grew up in Nemaha County in northeast Kansas and then relocated to Fairview. Fairview is a town of 306 people. Now, that's rural.
He graduated from K-State in what is now called Agricultural Technology, went to Brazil for three months, and came back to work for a company which produced equipment for applying anhydrous fertilizer on crop fields. After two and 1/2 years, he got married and returned to the farm.
Rick Heiniger's entrepreneurial spirit was at work. As he thought about ways to build income, he looked for an ag engineering niche. With his experience in spray equipment, he set out to build a better model.
He started in his garage, and then set up his own company. In 1985, they moved from the farm and he hired two people.
Today that business has grown to 35 employees, six buildings, 26,000 square feet under roof, and 4 million dollars in sales. And RHS was listed in Inc. magazine for two years in a row as one of the fastest growing companies in America.
So what exactly does RHS do? It produces high quality fertilizing and spraying systems. For example, RHS produces a truck-mounted spray system with fiberglass booms -- the only place in the world which has those.
Some features of their products include foam markers, which leave a temporary strip of foam on the field so the operator knows exactly where he or she has sprayed or planted. They also have a feature called Autoglide, where a sensor on the spray boom watches the terrain underneath and automatically adjusts the height of the sprayer. Why didn't we have that when I was a kid on a tractor?..
Then along came the Air Force which was looking for a way to spray de-icers on runways. Rick was able to transfer the farm technology to make it work for this purpose as well.
Quality appears to be a hallmark for RHS. It is well-expressed by a sign posted at several locations around the RHS plant which says: "If it doesn't make you proud, don't let it go out the door."
That philosophy is part of the reason that the company has grown to cover all of the U.S. and Canada, with orders coming from as far away as Argentina and Australia.
So why not move this company to a larger city? Rick says, "We are centrally located to serve the Canadian and Mexico markets, as well as the east and west coasts. We have a good work force, and we know them."
Rick's wife Debbie says, "This is an area where we don't have to worry a lot about crime and our kids. Our lifestyle is nicer here. We can get to KCI in an hour and fifteen minutes if we want to."
And Rick adds: "People here locally don't know how much they affect our business. So many people here have given us encouragement. This is where we want to be."
Yes, in Anchorage, Alaska, the technology of RHS is protecting planes and people. And it's also providing a tremendous benefit to the economy of Hiawatha, Kansas, where the entrepreneurial spirit of Rick and Debbie Heiniger is making a difference.
Today let's go to Brussels, Belgium. See the rotary mower at work on the lawn? Take a closer look. Would you believe the parts came from Ransom, Kansas?
How in the world did a mower from Ransom, Kansas get to Brussels? For the answer, let's meet John Taylor.
John is president and owner of Deines Manufacturing Corporation in Ransom. Ransom is a town of 386 people -- now that's rural -- in Ness County, in west central Kansas.
John himself grew up on a farm near Woodston, Kansas which is a town of 121 people. Now, that's really rural.
After graduation from Fort Hays State, John served in the Army and worked in financial services. In January 1976, he joined Deines Manufacturing as a purchasing agent.
Within eight months, the board appointed John as general manager of the company. And in 1990, John and his wife purchased 75 percent of the stock.
John says with a smile, "We were just too stupid to know this couldn't be done." Now the company employs 15 to 20 people, depending on the season.
The Deines company produces power turf equipment, such as rotary lawnmowers. The trade name of the mower is Marty J, and the larger model is called the Commander.
Today sales by Deines Manufacturing are nearly three million dollars worldwide. Their equipment is sold through dealers all over the U.S.
John says, "Canada is a great market for us. We ship the parts unassembled and they use Canadian labor to put them together." The product is also sold in such places as France, Brussels and London.
John's company uses computers in nearly every phase of its operation, including computer design. Employees are taught on-site about the work.
John also seeks to foster innovation in his employees. He says, "There isn't a day that one of my employees isn't in my office with an idea. We have a young man who can't read very well, but he has a lot of mechanical ability. He has come up with an idea that will be terrific for us."
John also takes time to meet with young people. He tells high schoolers to always do their best and to have tenacity. He says, "I've done everything from sweep floors to dig ditches." Today, he is president of an international company with multimillion dollar sales.
So why does this advanced, international business remain in rural Kansas?
John says, "We enjoy it here. Property taxes are competitive, the building's paid for, and we're in the center of the U.S. for freight."
And what is his perspective on life in rural Kansas? John says, "We're the best kept secret in the nation. I love it here. We have an extensive road system and a high quality of life."
Well, it's time to take our leave of Brussels, Belgium. Take one more last look at that rotary mower. It's made in America, thanks to the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of people like John Taylor who are making a difference in the rural economy.
Today let's meet "a man with a plan." His name is Gene Merry. Gene is a businessman and mayor of Burlington, Kansas. One of the keys to his success has been good planning for his city and his region.
Burlington is in Coffey County in east central Kansas, due south of Topeka. Gene Merry grew up in Olpe, south of Emporia. Olpe is a town of 431 people -- now, that's rural.
He graduated from Emporia State and trained in a bank in Chanute. Then he moved to Burlington to manage the branch there. What followed was remarkable.
At that time, the bank had assets of one million dollars. By the time he left, it had nine million dollars. Gene went into the lumber business with a friend. Then he branched out into apartments and office buildings. Today he is involved with several companies, including Merry Investments, which manages commercial and rental properties in the area.
In 1989, the town of Burlington elected a new mayor. His name was Gene Merry.
Gene says, "When I took office, no department but electric had a plan for the future. Now we have 10 year plans for the electric department, streets, and water and sewer." The city also has a beautiful school, recreation complex, and a new library.
Of course, there's a key factor in all this which can be summarized in two words: Wolf Creek. That's the name of the nuclear power facility located north of Burlington. This plant pays a lot of county taxes, as well as providing lots of good quality jobs.
Gene Merry says, "The power facility has had big benefits. Coffey County probably ranked 104th out of 105 counties before the plant came in."
Of course, Coffey County was the one willing to take some risks when the utilities were looking for a site for the power plant. At that time, 15 to 18 counties turned it down because of concern about the nuclear power.
Now good things are happening in Burlington. Young people are moving in, including two new doctors. And why is that?
Gene says, "It's the quality of life. These doctors don't want to work in a city emergency room dealing with gunshots and stab wounds, when they could be here doing bee stings, stitches, and babies."
And speaking of babies, Gene remembers when only 3 babies were delivered in Burlington in a whole year. This year, there have been 18 born in the first four months!" Hmm, maybe that nuclear power is good for your love life...
Gene says, "It's great to see people want to come to Kansas. Here they can find low crime, low pollution, and less stress."
Gene's vision extends to the region as well. He is involved with the tri-county strategic planning effort which brought together Coffey, Allen, and Woodson Counties. We'll be hearing more about this historic effort in coming weeks.
The counties are actively implementing the plan. Coffey County is working on needed housing and will begin a county leadership program this fall. A tri-county brochure has been developed, along with a directory of businesses in all three counties.
Gene says, "It's amazing how many resources there are in these counties when you bring us all together."
And he continues to look forward. He says, "You've gotta be thinking about the next 10 to 20 years, and then the next 40 to 50 years."
A man with a plan. That's Gene Merry, who is giving leadership to the planning and development of his city and his region. Such leadership -- and such planning -- is making a difference in rural Kansas.
Every gardener knows that a little sprout can grow into something good. Today we will meet someone who had a little sprout of an idea, and it has grown into something very good. And when I say a "sprout" of an idea, I really mean it.
Meet Maggie Riggs, the owner and manager of Sweetwater Sprouts in Hutchinson, Kansas. Her business produces and markets fresh alfalfa sprouts for human consumption. She is also an outstanding entrepreneur.
Maggie is not a native Kansan. She grew up in the San Francisco bay area. She went to college in Colorado and, as she says, "fell in love with the area." When the Colorado economy was depressed, her friends said come to Kansas. And so she and her family moved to Hutchinson.
Being a mother is important to Maggie. She had a son, and wanted to find a way to supplement the family income while remaining at home.
First, she started making denim skirts by hand and selling them. Then one day she met someone with a bulk food buying club who was raising alfalfa sprouts in his closet as a hobby. Maggie was interested in this high quality food, and so she agreed to help him with some marketing.
In no time, the business outgrew the closet. Sales went from 10 pounds a week to 200.
Ultimately, Maggie took over the entire business. She started raising sprouts in her home. In January 1993, she moved her business to a business incubator in Hutchinson called the Quest Center.
The business continues to grow. Today her sales are up to 1,000 pounds per week.
Now think about that. Have you weighed an alfalfa sprout lately? It takes a lot of sprouts to make a pound. Maggie is such an effective marketer that she is producing all she can sell.
It all starts with the seed, which she buys locally to support the local economy. Then water is added to the seeds. As they sprout, they are harvested.
Maggie says, "There were hurdles all along the way." For example, the first place where they grew sprouts was in wood equipment where the wood attracted an airborne mold. The mold turns the sprout to mush in 12 hours.
Like the entrepreneur she is, Maggie found a better way. She found the right way to grow the sprouts and stop the mold. She has designed a special system to grow these sprouts that is unique from coast-to-coast. Now she is working on a new automated system which could increase her efficiency three times.
The primary outlet for the sprouts is Dillon's warehouse in Hutchinson. Sprouts are also being grown "The Sweet Water Way" for commercial distribution in Concordia.
And what about eating alfalfa sprouts? Maggie says they have a nutty flavor and are best served cold. She says they are wonderful on sandwiches, omelettes, and hors doevres.
She also makes special dishes, as her kids will attest. Can you imagine sprout sundaes using sprouts on a Ritz cracker with peanut butter, a slice of fresh strawberry and a dab of whip cream - all the food groups in one sundae? She also puts sprouts on a celery stick and calls them "hairy legs." It's all part of her creativity and effective marketing.
Maggie says, "Alfalfa sprouts are a complete food. They even have an enzyme that burns fat." Now that will get the consumers of the nation flocking to the produce shelves...
Sometime ago the Kansas Value-Added Center was needing to select a new chair of its board of directors. The person who was elected by the board was Maggie Riggs.
Maggie says, "Being a small entrepreneur has its advantages. It doesn't take a lot of investment. And there's a lot in place to help."
She points out that the Kansas Value-Added Center has four processing labs where food-based entrepreneurs can get assistance in formulating small batches of their product for initial test markets. As well, KVAC can assist with sophisticated sensory tests, product analysis and labeling. She is also a believer in business incubators, where small businesses can share office space, expenses, and equipment while getting started. As she says, "Kansas' number one resource is its people."
A little sprout can grow into something good. And with Maggie Riggs, not only has it grown a business, it has grown that entrepreneurial spirit that is making a difference in the Kansas economy.
Have you been looking for the Garden of Eden? Perhaps most of us are, in one symbolic way or another.
Well, I found the Garden of Eden. And sure enough, it's just east of Paradise....That's Paradise, Kansas, population 66 people.
Today, we'll take you to the Garden of Eden. But you won't need any celestial permission for this one. This Garden of Eden is a remarkable collection of grass-roots art located in Lucas, Kansas. Today, this Garden of Eden is managed by a corporation. President of the Corporation is John Hachmeister.
John himself is an accomplished artist. He grew up near Natoma in north central Kansas. Natoma has 392 people. Now, that's rural.
John has degrees in painting and sculpture from KU, K-State, and Fort Hays. Today, he lives near Oskaloosa in eastern Kansas and teaches at Johnson County Community College in addition to practicing his artistic talents. He is a leader in the effort to preserve and promote grass-roots art.
Grassroots art is defined to be art created by untrained individuals who make primitive works of artistic ingenuity and cultural significance. One of these is the Garden of Eden in Lucas.
Lucas is in Russell County in north central Kansas, just 16 miles north of Interstate 70. It was there in Lucas that an eccentric businessman named S. P. Dinsmoor made his home.
Mr. Dinsmoor was a Civil War veteran, farmer, and Populist politician. In 1907, he began building the Garden of Eden and cabin home. The house is normal enough, except that each window, door, and room is a different size. Nothing matches. But that looks almost normal compared to what is outside the house.
Mr. Dinsmoor wanted to make a statement, so he designed a set of interconnected concrete sculptures depicting biblical and political commentary.
The viewer can find concrete figures of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the devil and an angel. There's also a depiction of the populist view of the crucifixion of labor. And it goes on and on.
Words really don't do justice to this remarkable sight. You have to see it to believe it.
These unusual sculptures entirely surround the house. In fact, it took Mr. Dinsmoor 22 years to build these sculptures. He used 113 tons of cement. He also built a 40-foot tall limestone log mausoleum where he is laid to rest in his handmade, glass-topped concrete coffin.
It's one of the most unusual man-made creations I've seen in my travels through rural Kansas. After Mr. Dinsmoor died, rooms in the house were used for decades as apartments. But then it was to open as a tourist attraction.
One of those who stepped in to preserve and promote it was John Hachmeister. He and others formed a company and sold non-paying stock to buy the building and grounds.
Today, the site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It attracts more than 10,000 visitors annually.
John Hachmeister is also a member of the Kansas Grassroots Art Association. This organization is dedicated to the preservation of grass-roots art creations across the states. One of the groups this organization works with is the Lucas Arts and Humanities Council.
Since 1990, these groups have raised $120,000 for their projects. The goal of the Lucas group is to convert two downtown buildings in Lucas into a National Center for Grassroots Art.
Meanwhile, why does John himself choose to live on an old farm in a rural setting? He says, "As an artist, I need to be in a reflective environment. Here I can get away and find inspiration for my work. It's my own little Garden of Eden."
Yes, you've found the Garden of Eden, alright. The one in Lucas is a remarkable sight to see. But in another sense, perhaps the blessings of a Garden of Eden are all around us in the rural nature of our state, where talented people like John Hachmeister are making a difference.
Do you ever feel undermined or overburdened? I hope not, but many people do, at one time or another.
Being undermined and overburdened has new meaning to me now, after having seen a new and literal application of those words in the coal fields of Kansas.
Today is the first of a three-part series about an industry which is little-known and under-appreciated in most of Kansas: the coal mining industry.
Few people outside of southeast Kansas are aware that there are active coal mines in the state. It is certainly an industry which faces serious challenges.
One of the best spokesmen for the Kansas coal mining industry is Mark Werner. Mark is an attorney with a law firm in Pittsburg, Kansas where he specializes in coal mining issues.
Mark is a native Kansan, who was born in Wamego in Pottawatomie County. Wamego is a town of 3,706 people. Now, that's rural.
Mark's family moved to Dodge City, where he was raised, and then he graduated from K-State. He went on to get a law degree. Next, he moved to Pittsburg, in Crawford County in southeast Kansas. There he found a coal industry in a long-term decline.
Kansas coal mining had expanded rapidly early in this century, and then shrunk in recent years from the weight of over-regulation, labor costs, and competitive coal from other sources. Today, there is only one active coal company in Kansas.
Mark Werner says that the cost of regulatory requirements and reporting have been a burden for the industry, and in some cases, with questionable results.
For example, in the beginning, pits and earthen piles were the result of surface mining activity. That might be an environmentalist's horror, but the locals say it has created wildlife habitat. In fact, the most deer in this part of the state are found in the old mining area.
Now all the mining lands undergo reclamation. That means the land is reclaimed into a state equal or better than what it was originally. In other words, pastureland that is mined is restored to grass.
But some feel that the regulations go too far. For example, requirements for test wells and reporting are tighter for these restored coal mine areas than for landfills, which receive all types of materials.
Some other requirements seem to fly in the face of common sense. For example, the mining company built a road for heavy trucks to haul raw coal back to the processing plant. Of course, the road is designed for heavy loads. For part of the way, it runs parallel to a gravel county road.
Because of the reclamation requirements, when the mining in that area is completed, the company will be required to tear up its road even though it is probably better than the county road next to it. It doesn't seem to make sense.
I started talking about being undermined and overburdened. In the mining industry, overburden is what they call all the soil and rock which has to be removed above the seam of coal.
As for being undermined, that has a literal meaning too. The deep shaft mines that were built early in this century run all under the county, including the town of Pittsburg. It is literally undermined.
In fact, in the early days, the miners dug out rooms below the earth's surface to get the coal, but would leave columns or pillars every few feet to support the top. That was fine until the 1930s, when times were so tough that people went back to get the coal out of the pillars. The result was predictable. A person might come out of his house one morning and find a 30 to 50 foot sinkhole in the yard where a mine had collapsed beneath it.
Are you feeling undermined or overburdened? Don't feel bad -- it could be worse. And we can appreciate the work of people like Mark Werner, who are striving to serve their community and make a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's visit the biggest tourist attraction in southeast Kansas. When I say this is the biggest attraction, I mean that literally, because it's not just big, it's huge.
I'm talking about Big Brutus, a giant coal excavating machine. It's idle now, but in its day, it was the second largest such machine in the world.
It is also a symbol of the Kansas coal mining industry, which grew during this century and then contracted. Today, in the second of our three part series on Kansas coal, we'll visit what has become a remarkable tourist landmark in southeast Kansas. It builds on the history of coal mining in the region.
Big Brutus is found in Cherokee County, in the very southeast corner of Kansas. It's located near the town of West Mineral. West Mineral is a town of 226 people. Now, that's rural.
Big Brutus is an outstanding example of what's called in the mining industry an electric shovel. Calling this thing a shovel is like calling the Houston Astrodome a ball diamond.
Big Brutus stands sixteen stories tall and weighs eleven million pounds. It is a giant, electric-powered, coal excavating machine.
It looks sort of like a crane with a giant bucket attached. You could park your car in that bucket. It can hold 150 tons of earth in one scoop.
You may ask, how did this thing move around? It is mounted on four pairs of crawlers, like bulldozer tracks, one at each corner of the base. Each crawler track is made up of a series of metal treads. Each tread is five and a half feet long and weighs more than a ton by itself. You get the idea.
In 1962, a local coal mining company purchased the electric shovel for 6.5 million dollars. It took 150 railroad cars to deliver the pieces to southeast Kansas. Then it took 52 employees eleven months to assemble it.
In May 1963, it began operation and worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 11 years. Finally, it was no longer cost-effective to use it. The electric bill for its last month of operation was 27 thousand dollars. Wow -- you would have to clip a lot of grocery coupons to pay for that from your monthly budget...
So Big Brutus stood idle. But local volunteers realized the immense impact of the giant coal shovel, and an idea took root. They formed a non-profit organization called Big Brutus, Inc. to promote the giant shovel as a tourist attraction and to honor the coal mining heritage of southeast Kansas.
In 1984, the local company which owned Big Brutus donated it and 16 acres of surrounding land to the association, plus one hundred thousand dollars for restoration. Volunteers spent thousands of hours working to fix up and clean up Big Brutus.
Their work paid off. Today, people can come to a visitors center where they can learn about Big Brutus in exhibits and displays. Then they can approach the giant itself, get their picture taken in the bucket, and then climb the steps to the top of the boom 16 stories high.
I did it on a windy day, and that's not for the faint of heart. But it is worth it. From the top you can see for miles, and on the way up you will see such things as steel cables as big as a K-State football player's arm. It's a remarkable experience.
There's no question. Today, we have seen the largest tourist attraction in southeast Kansas. But more than that, it is a monument to the entrepreneurs who had big thoughts about business and then about tourism, and who have made a difference in rural Kansas.
Remember the old song that said, "Workin' in a coal mine, goin' down, down, down...?" Remember that? It was a catchy tune. Didn't it make you think of West Virginia or Pennsylvania?
Think again. There is active coal mining going on in the state of Kansas, although now it's at surface level.
Today, in our third and final segment of a three-part program, we'll learn about a miner who is qualified to sing that song -- who has gone down in deep-shaft coal mines right here in Kansas.
John Mackie, Junior, known as "Bud," is with the Clemens Coal Company in Pittsburg, in southeast Kansas. One might say his roots are deep in the coal business -- pardon the pun. Bud's grandfather started in the mines in Scotland at age nine, and came to Kansas in 1883.
Bud grew up in the Cherokee County town of Scammon, population 466 people. Now, that's rural.
Bud started with the Clemens Coal Company in 1940, and remembers going down in the deep shaft mines at the time. Today all the Kansas mining is done at the surface.
Coal mining in Kansas actually began in the 1880s, when factories were set up to smelt lead and zinc into tin. Because of the resources in the area, three-fourths of all of the lead and zinc smelters in the world were in Pittsburg. Of course, to smelt the metal they had to have heat, so they started mining coal as fuel.
Ultimately, the coal surpassed the other metals in value. An active mining industry developed in the region. Mining communities sprang up along the seam of coal, and workers were recruited in from all over Europe. You could hear 36 to 38 different languages being spoken on the streets of downtown Pittsburg.
Those must have been boom years. But over time, changes in the economy and the environment took their toll.
During World War II, there were 25 or 30 coal companies in the region. As of 12 years ago, there were 5 companies. Now there is one: Clemens Coal.
But Clemens Coal is not sitting still. A 2.2 million dollar plant improvement was completed in 1992. The president of the company is Bud Mackie.
He remains committed to the people and the economy of the region.
And there is still a significant impact on the economy. A miner might make 40 to 60 thousand dollars a year, which makes those jobs very significant in the economy of southeast Kansas.
Today, we conclude our three-part series on coal mining in southeast Kansas. We think of that old song, "Workin' in a coal mine, goin' down, down, down..." Bud Mackie remembers those days of going down in a mine shaft.
Today, he sees a much different industry. It is an industry which is a fascinating part of the heritage of southeast Kansas. From its impact on the people and the economy of the region to the attraction of the giant coal shovel Big Brutus, this industry has made a difference in rural Kansas. And we're grateful for the leadership and hard work of people like Mark Werner and Bud Mackie, who are a vital part of this industry today.
Do you know what a snickerdoodle is? I didn't. I figured maybe it was one of those funny drawings you make when you're bored.
Not so. A snickerdoodle is a special kind of cookie. Today, we'll learn how it is turning into a special kind of business in rural Kansas.
Meet Carole Hendrix. Carol is the owner and entrepreneur behind Snickerdoodle's Tea Room in Oskaloosa, Kansas. Oskaloosa is in Jefferson County, in northeast Kansas north of Lawrence. Oskaloosa itself is a town of 1,074 people. Now, that's rural.
Is a rural setting like this a surprising spot to put a place for elegant dining? Well, you've only heard the half of it.
Carole Hendrix has made a specialty of unique and elegant offerings. The setting may seem unlikely, but Carole Hendrix is making it work.
Carole was born near Oskaloosa, attended high school at Perry, and graduated from K-State. She had a 20 year career with Southwestern Bell and retired at age 42. Her job had her living in the urban areas of Kansas City and Topeka.
Meanwhile, some sad news developed in her family. Carole's sister had died of cancer, leaving a sixteen year old daughter. Carole decided to move in with that sixteen year old in Oskaloosa.
It turned out to be a great beginning. An old building was for sale in downtown Oskaloosa, and Carole saw some potential in it.
It sounds like it is what a real estate agent would call a fixer-upper. For example, the roof was so bad they were using kiddie pools inside to catch the leaking rainwater.
But Carole bought the building and got it all fixed up. She decided to open an upscale gift shop. She opened a shop called Your Favorite Things, and offered handmade specialty items, crafts, and things like gourmet coffee which were not available locally.
Carole says, "I put in a fancy window display. Then other people wanted theirs to be just as fancy. So, I put on seminars on how to do window displays." Now that's an entrepreneur.
And it was just the beginning. Today, if you visit Oskaloosa, you can go to the south side of the historic town square and visit the results of Carole Hendrix's entrepreneurial spirit: a cluster of shops called Tin Roof Plaza. There you will find her gift shop plus Country Tyme Furniture and Antiques, Grandma's Sewing Room, and Snickerdoodle's Tea Room.
Snickerdoodle's is described as an "exquisite dining experience." Listen to this menu: Crab Louis seafood salad, chicken tortellini soup, and chocolate lover's passion trifle. You won't find that at Joe's Bar and Grill...
Carole's creativity and promotion are making it work. Tea room business has tripled in the last two months.
And Carole's energy doesn't stop with her business. She is involved with the community, through the Chamber of Commerce, school board, Rotary, Bible study, and the Old Settler's Festival which she has chaired for two years.
She says, "In a small town, you don't do things on your own. The people in the community are a part of what you're doing."
But it does raise the question: why open a fancy gift shop in a small Kansas town? Carole Hendrix says, "Don't underestimate your clientele. People want nice things and want to buy them at home. And we can also bring in people who are struggling to get out of the city."
She says with a smile, "There is life after metropolitan areas."
So now you know what a snickerdoodle is. And more importantly, you know about a creative entrepreneur who is building a business and building her community. We're thankful for leaders like Carole Hendrix, who are making a difference in rural Kansas.
J. Harold Johnson
You've heard of large families before? Well, listen to this: today we'll meet a man who has 32,000 children. No, we're not talking about some sort of test-tube cloning, we're talking about someone who claims 32,000 Kansas 4-H members as part of his family.
Meet J. Harold Johnson. J. Harold has invested his whole life in helping young people through the Kansas 4-H program. Although he and his wife LaVerne had no children of their own, he says with a smile that he had 32,000 children, because that was the membership of 4-H while he was state 4-H leader.
Our story really begins on the Johnson's family farm in Norton County, Kansas. J. Harold grew up there, involved in a country church and a one-room school. Now, that's rural.
His aunt insisted that he continue his education and so he came to Kansas State University in 1922.
J. Harold says, "I came down here one of the most bashful, green farm kids you could imagine." That farm kid was to go on to become a state and national leader of youth education through 4-H.
His intention was to return to the farm. But he was persuaded to join the extension service as the first permanent county 4-H agent in the state. It was in Sedgwick County.
There he met the young lady who was to become his wife. On June 15, 1994, they marked 64 years of marriage. They've been married longer than most of us have been alive!
4-H membership boomed in Sedgwick County, and in 1934, he left to become an assistant leader at the state 4-H office in Manhattan. During this time, he took leave to study at George Washington University in Washington DC, receiving a masters degree in 1942.
In 1945, he became the Kansas 4-H state club leader. Again, under his leadership, 4-H membership and support expanded rapidly. In 1958, J. Harold retired as state 4-H leader and became the first executive director of the Kansas 4-H Foundation. Then in 1971, he retired to his farm near Manhattan, where he is still active at age 91.
The list of J. Harold's accomplishments is tremendous and he's received numerous honors. But I think it's especially interesting to see where his visionary initiatives have progressed to today.
For example, J. Harold was instrumental in the development of a state 4-H leadership center, now known as Rock Springs Ranch. The facility was bought and developed without a single dollar from the taxpayer. Today, more than half-a-million people have participated in events at Rock Springs, and it is recognized as the largest, best equipped privately-funded such 4-H facility in the nation.
J. Harold developed the plans for the Kansas 4-H Foundation. Today, it manages 150 different award and scholarship programs for 4-H youth and operates with a net worth of more than ten million dollars.
J. Harold promoted the development and expansion of the Kansas 4-H Journal. Today, Kansas has the nation's only such state 4-H magazine, which reaches 15,000 families and generates 3 to 4 million pages each year.
J. Harold supported the construction of a new Clovia 4-H House for young women at K-State. Today the Clovia house provides housing at rates which save 60 women at least thirty-thousand dollars annually.
And which of his accomplishments does J. Harold consider greatest? He says, "It's not the honors and recognitions. My greatest satisfaction comes from seeing my former 4-H members, leaders, and workers succeed."
Yes, you've heard of big families before, but now you've met a man with 32,000 children. They are the members of Kansas 4-H, and they join us in saluting J. Harold Johnson for his years of leadership and service, which are making a difference in the lives of so many Kansans.
Today, let's look at a map of the U.S. and place a pin at the site of the only multi-bank company in the country owned by its employees. Don't go looking for it on the east coast or west coast. You can put that pin right down in Paola, Kansas.
How did Paola happen to have such a unique distinction? For the answer to that, let's meet a remarkable entrepreneur named Michael Gibson. He is President of TeamBanc, Inc.
Mike has deep roots in rural Kansas. After the Civil War, his great-grandfather rode horses from Butler County, Pennsylvania to Butler County, Kansas to homestead on the plains. Mike was raised in Wellington and graduated from K-State. After graduation, he joined the Miami County National Bank in Paola.
Paola is the county seat of Miami County. It has a population of 4,698 people. Now, that's rural. But it is also only 20-some miles southwest of Kansas City.
In the 1980s, changes were in the wind. Rules had been changed to allow multi-bank holding companies in Kansas. And there was an opportunity to purchase the Miami County bank. The catch was, Mike Gibson didn't happen to have the necessary two million dollars sitting around to buy it.
So he came up with a plan to utilize an ESOP. No, that's not a fable. It stands for Employee Stock Ownership Plan: E-S-O-P.
In 1986, Mike and others formed a multi-bank holding company called TeamBanc Inc. It is majority-owned by an ESOP which they formed at the same time.
An ESOP is a trust for employees set up by a company into which the company makes tax-deductible contributions. The ESOP trust holds shares in the company, allocated to individual employee accounts.
Today, TeamBanc Inc, owns several banks, but the majority owners of TeamBanc are the employees who work in them.
It's a great story. Employees are motivated to keep customers happy, because the more business the banks do, the more the employee owners benefit.
Today, TeamBanc Inc. has grown to 230 million dollars in assets and 398 million dollars in total assets under management. In 1986, participant's value was less than 2 million dollars -- today it is more than 10 million.
Michael Gibson makes the point that the ESOP ownership helps keep the banks responsive to customers and their communities. The TeamBanc banks have facilities in five cities: Iola, Parsons, Paola, Osawatomie, and Spring Hill, with a sixth soon to be opened in De Soto. The average size of these towns is less than 6,000 people.
He points out that banking in Kansas is a very decentralized industry. In fact, here's a statistic that I consider a "gee whizzer:" 50 percent of the banks in Kansas are in communities of 1,000 or less. Out of 489 banks in Kansas, 440 have less than 100 million dollars in assets.
And what does Michael Gibson like best about small towns? He says, "Really good people. We believe in small towns. And being this close to Kansas City, we can have the advantages of city life without all the problems. It's great quality of life."
Yes, you can look all over a map of the U.S., but the only employee-owned multi-bank holding company will be found in small town Kansas. It's a mark of the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurs like Michael Gibson, who are making a difference in the Kansas economy.
Today, let's go to the streets of New York City. Walking along, we suddenly see a man wearing bib overalls and carrying what appears to be a pet skunk on his arm. Even in New York, that might make you stare. But don't worry, you haven't inhaled too much smog. The sight I just described is real, although the skunk is not.
What you have just seen is Bud Strawder of Burlington, Kansas. He is in New York at a trade show promoting his products, one of which is hand puppets. You see, what appeared to be a skunk is actually just a puppet, made to appear lifelike by Bud Strawder.
This is the remarkable story of Country Critters, a puppet and plush toy company located in one of the most unlikely of places: rural Kansas. The owner of the company is Bud Strawder.
Bud grew up as a farmer near Burlington in Coffey County, in east central Kansas. Burlington is a town of 2,735. That's rural.
In the early 1970s, when Bud and his brother weren't too busy with farming, they were going to auctions in the area and picking up odds and ends of merchandise for resale. One day his brother called and told Bud that he had bought a truckload of toys. He convinced Bud to go in with him half-and-half.
The brothers sold the toys when they weren't busy farming. And when they got to the end of the year, they found the toy sales had made them several thousand dollars.
Suddenly this seemed like a real good idea. The brothers began to develop it, and Country Critters, Incorporated was born.
One day they came across a hand puppet of a raccoon. The puppet was made overseas, and they didn't think it looked lifelike at all. So, they set out to design a better one. Today that raccoon is their largest selling puppet in the midwest.
Country Critters offers puppets of all kinds of animals: from raccoons and skunks to spiders and whales. There is also a remarkable variety of plush stuffed toys.
Now, if the only stuffed toy you can think of is a teddy bear, think again. At Country Critters, you can buy at least eleven different sizes of teddy bear -- including one five feet tall. Personally, I liked the five foot tall gorilla. Wouldn't that be fun to carry around in your car?
There are also the giant ride-on toys, which are big enough for someone to sit on. Then there are the trophy heads, such as a stuffed toy moose head mounted on a plaque. It sort of looks like the mighty hunter hit the playpen... These same materials are also used to produce mascot uniforms for schools.
You can buy a giant mother pig and a litter of little pigs. In fact, this seems to be one of Bud's favorites. He takes the little pig puppet to trade shows and nurses him on a bottle, making it look amazingly realistic. Bud says he found the baby pig when he was three weeks old -- but he's been three weeks old for seven years now.
Bud sells his products only to specialty shops and through trade shows, in addition to the plant in Burlington. But they have indeed become famous. By request from Warner Brothers, Country Critters made a possum which appeared in the movie Doc Hollywood.
Today, this remarkable company has customers in every state and in 17 foreign countries. And what is their secret?
Bud says, "We try to provide better service." And why stay in Burlington?
Bud says, "We're centrally located here. Our market is both coasts. Freight is not exorbitant and buildings are less expensive. We feel its a better labor force. After all, it's just a family operation."
So, if you're in New York City and see a man in bib overalls with a skunk on his arm, just relax -- you're seeing the remarkable Bud Strawder, whose creativity and entrepreneurship are making a difference in the Kansas economy.
Have you ever been driving down the road, daydreaming about what your ideal house would look like -- and then seen it coming down the road toward you? I don't mean you're driving by it -- I mean it's on the road, and moving toward you!
It sounds like science fiction -- or maybe a California earthquake. But it is neither of those. It's something that could happen around Lebo, Kansas.
That's where we find Dream Homes, Incorporated, which custom-builds homes and then moves them to your location. So, you may see someone's dream home moving on the road, and you can stop in and design your own.
Dream Homes is owned by members and in-laws of the Strawder family. Today is a look at the entrepreneurs in this remarkable family.
Steve Strawder is a co-owner and production manager of Dream Homes in Lebo. Lebo is a town of 835 in Coffey County, in east central Kansas. Steve grew up near the town of Waverly, a nearby town of 618 people. Now, that's rural.
Steve's dad and brothers had been in the construction business. They were builders and dealers for another Kansas home-building company. But in the late 1980s, they saw some things they could do better, and so they went out on their own. Dream Homes was born.
The name of the company is appropriate. These are custom-built homes, designed as the customers want. They are then built in the factory, and moved to the customer's site.
Steve Strawder describes the process. He says, "A customer who wants a home built will come in and we'll take them to the showroom. There they can see various products which can go into the interiors. Then we'll take them through the factory and they can see every step of construction. Next we'll go over plans and draw them up to scale."
Keep in mind, these are not mobile homes. They are regular, stick-built homes, that are constructed in a factory and then transported. In fact, Steve Strawder says, "We use top of the line material. We don't use waferboard or cut corners. An average house will cost 44 dollars a square foot."
And they work fast. From start of construction to delivery, it usually takes only eight weeks.
And speaking of delivery, how in the world do they move these houses? The answer is, very carefully.
Steve Strawder says, "We bought our own house moving company a year and a half ago, and my brother runs it. They have a unified hydraulic jacking system and dolley wheels, just like for moving an existing house."
These houses may weigh 60,000 pounds. But they plan out their route well in advance, and with a truck in front and two behind, they move the houses safely and place them at their destinations.
Steve says, "We can't go down the interstates because of the overpasses. Often the house we're moving is wider than the road we're moving on." For example, they have built and moved houses as large as 30 by 70 feet in a single unit.
Listen to the results. This company which started with 7 employees just five years ago, is now up to 52. And sales are up to more than 4 million dollars a year.
What is the key to their success? Steve Strawder says, "Building a real good product."
And their location is ideal. It's a rural setting, but it is right on Interstate 35 and close to Highway 50. Steve says, "It's easy access for trucks to deliver materials. And I like it here. We have a lot of good loyal people."
So, if you see your dream home coming down the road, just smile. It's probably the work of the Dream Homes company and entrepreneurs like the Strawder family, who are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's visit a place that had the same computer system as USA Today, the national newspaper. You might expect to find such a system in New York or LA, but today we'll go to Downs, Kansas. That's the home of Doug Brush and the Brush Art Corporation.
Downs is located in north central Kansas, in Osborne County. It is a town of 1,119 people. Now, that's rural.
But it is here we find Brush Art Corporation, this remarkable business which does advertising, marketing, and graphic services. It is here, in a remodeled meatpacking plant, we find state-of-the-art electronic graphics equipment. And it is here we find a tremendous commitment to servicing their clients.
Doug Brush and his wife grew up at Downs. He went to K-State to study architecture. Doug found that he loved the design work but not the math, so he transferred to KU to study commercial art. While there, he did some freelance commercial artwork for a couple of companies on the side.
What he really expected to do with his life was to fly. He was on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, and he expected to be a pilot. At the end of his junior year, he took the routine physical -- and the news was bad. His health was fine, but he couldn't qualify as a pilot.
He came back to Downs very depressed. But he did have a couple of clients in his commercial art enterprise, so he continued to work for them. The business slowly grew.
Doug says, "Those were tough days. My wife took a minimum wage job at a bank. Our first typesetting machine was a typewriter."
Today, Doug Brush is president of this multi-million dollar business, the Brush Art Corporation.
Brush Art clients are located in mid-size towns, and also places like Lucas, population 452; Assaria, population 387; and Kipp, which isn't even incorporated. Now, that's rural.
But Doug Brush knows and appreciates the small-town roots of these companies. He's proud of their progress, and he points out that they are often under-appreciated.
Doug says, "We represent twenty manufacturing companies in Kansas and Nebraska. Almost all of these clients started the same time as Brush Art or since. Today, they provide 3,200 jobs, which didn't exist prior to the involvement of Brush Art. And those companies manufacture and market 400 million dollars of equipment each year." It's a great achievement.
Doug says, "Nearly all of our clients are marketing in every hemisphere. The FAX machine has made a big difference."
Does anyone doubt we're in a global economy? Well, listen to this.
Doug tells of a marketing booklet his company developed which was FAXed to the client company in Hastings, Nebraska for approval. Sounds normal enough. But then there was a Spanish language version of the booklet which was FAXed to affiliates in Brazil and Colombia -- that's South America, not Columbia, Missouri. And to top that, there was a French language version that was FAXed to affiliates in Morocco and Le Mans, France. Global, indeed.
And what is the key to success for this international company? "Service, service, service," says Doug Brush. "If a client has a problem, it's our problem."
And what about operating in Downs? Doug says, "Most of our employees take for granted that crime is low, taxes are relatively low, and we can go fishing in five minutes."
Yes, when Brush Art computerized its operations, they installed the same computer system as USA Today. But in the eight years since, would you believe they have upgraded the system three times -- and will a fourth time by the end of this year?
Someone else might say, "Oh, we're rural -- we couldn't have a high-powered computer system." But Doug Brush says, "Being in such a rural area, we need a technical advantage."
It's an example of using technology to serve customers, and its making a difference for the Kansas economy.
If you wanted to see decorative pieces from the 1893 World's Fair, where would you go? Maybe a museum in Chicago, New York, or LA? Perhaps the Smithsonian in Washington, DC?
The answer is, none of the above. Try Wamego, Kansas, population 3,706 people. That's rural.
Sure enough, Wamego is the home to these fascinating pieces of history from a World's Fair more than a century ago -- and soon, those pieces of history will be available for people to experience again.
This remarkable history was recounted to us by Ray Morris of Wamego. Ray grew up in Topeka and graduated from K-State as did his wife. He had a career in the Air Force which took him around the world, but he and his wife decided they wanted to retire near Manhattan.
One day while home visiting his children, who are also K-Staters, he learned about some land that was available near Wamego. He bought that land and six months later, retired from the Air Force and settled there to live.
Soon he got involved in the community. He became president of the historical society and involved in the Main Street program for downtown redevelopment. As part of that, one issue was what to do about the boarded up windows on the upper floors of old buildings downtown. One of these was an old stone building called the Rogers building, which for years had housed the old Columbian theater.
Just then the owner of the Rogers building decided to sell, and a group of businesspeople purchased it. One of the buyers was Ray Morris.
Ray says, "In 1893, a local banker named J. C. Rogers went to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. He thought that fair was the most magnificent thing he had ever seen, and when the fair closed, he purchased 800-some items and brought them back to Wamego." These went into construction of the stone building downtown which bears his name. The upstairs became the Columbian Theater, a performing area and community center. In 1929, the upstairs was converted into a movie theater which finally closed in 1950.
It had been dormant since then, but the new owners of the Rogers building held some community meetings and determined there was interest in restoring the historic building. They formed a non-profit organization called the Columbian Theater Foundation and deeded the building to it. The person who was selected as executive director of the Foundation was Ray Morris.
Ray opened a small office in the old building. A group of volunteers came in to clean up the old theater. In the process, they found a large crate under the stage which appeared to hold canvas backdrops for stage scenes.
Then came one fateful day. Ray Morris decided to take a break from his desk, open the crate and look at those backdrops -- but they weren't backdrops. What he found instead was a huge, artistic painting -- and then another, and another. All told, he was to find 14 historic paintings which had lain dormant in that crate. An appraiser later estimated that the value of those paintings, including the six found earlier, was more than three-quarters of a million dollars. How would you like to find that in your attic?...
Today, the Columbian Theater project has raised more than 1.2 million dollars from the community and received another 600 thousand in grants to restore the old theater to its turn-of-the-century grandeur. The paintings have been restored, performances are planned, and the beautiful old facility is preparing to open it's doors.
The grand re-opening is November 6. Those interested in finding more about the project should call 913-456-2029 or 1-800-899-1893.
And why does Ray Morris think such a project can work in small town Kansas? He says, "People here refused to let the town die, and now more and more are attracted to it. If the people are willing, they can make a lot of good things happen.
Now you know where to find those pieces of history from the 1893 World's Fair. They have come alive again in Wamego, Kansas, where leaders like Ray Morris are making a difference.
"On the road again..." That Willie Nelson song could have been my theme as I hit the road, traveling from border to border in the summer of 1993. The travel was a part of our study of a concept called the High Plains Corridor.
What exactly is the High Plains Corridor? It would be a trade and transportation zone, or corridor, that would run north and south through the plains of North America.
With the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, trade with Canada and Mexico is expanding. Rural Kansas should not be left out of such trade, and a north-south transportation route through Kansas is a way for our state to benefit. Of course, there are a number of groups which are working on various north-south routes.
Last year, the Board of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development wanted me to study the idea of the High Plains Corridor. Board member Joe Berkely, publisher of the High Plains Journal, offered to provide me a car to make a driving tour of the region.
We made the driving tour in two trips -- and by the way, that's an editorial "we." When I say "we" made the trip, I mean myself, the car, and a tape recorder. Fortunately, my family met me toward the end of both trips.
The first trip was from Kansas south into Mexico and back. The second trip was from Kansas north into Canada and back.
All told, it took 34 days and 9,256.6 miles. And when it was all said and done, the main impression I got from the travel was this: there is a commonality of people in the central plains that transcends state and national borders.
In other words, people in the heartland of Canada looked and thought a lot like people in the heartland of Nebraska, for example. And people in the central, rural states of Mexico thought about their cities and their east and west coasts a lot like we do. The economies of our countries are growing together, whether the politicians acknowledge it or not.
By driving the whole region, I got a feel for the road system -- pardon the pun. I think I felt every bump! Of course, there is no complete north-south four-lane highway that goes through the central plains. Such a highway would be very beneficial. The two-lane highways that I traveled varied a lot in quality.
Some areas had little traffic. In one place in Nebraska, the scan button on my radio made it go round and round without ever finding a radio station to stop on. Now that's rural. But even here there are increased loads of trucks which would benefit from an improved north-south highway.
Someone might say, there aren't many people in these rural areas. Why should we spend money on roads there?
I say, the fact that these areas are not crowded is the very reason why roads should be built there. Highways are less expensive to build in these rural, flatland areas, and they can help divert traffic from the urban areas which are already clogged and overcrowded.
Two lasting memories of my travel: One was staying in Mexico, in one family's private home. I slept in the teenage boy's room. Above me on the wall were two things: a crucifix, and a poster of Michael Jordan. The economies of our nations are growing together.
The second and last example is from North Dakota. A friend there was looking to expand his business into Canada. He was doing some market research in the prairie provinces, and he finally asked a prospective customer this question: How do you feel about doing business with a U.S. company? The Canadian answered, We would rather do business with someone from North Dakota than someone from Toronto.
There is a commonality among people in the central plains. We can and should build on this commonality, in transportation and other ways as well. It can be the basis for a High Plains Corridor, to link these people together in a way that can make a difference for the future.
Today let's go to the White House, to a meeting of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Look around the table. There's Arnold Schwartzenegger and various other notables. And here's a world champion athlete, an Olympic medalist. Oh, one other thing about this particular individual: he's confined to a wheelchair.
This is the remarkable story of Kevin Saunders. Our story begins in his hometown of Downs, Kansas -- population 1,119 people. Now, that's rural.
Kevin grew up on a farm near Downs. He was active in sports, graduated from K-State and took a job as a grain inspector in Texas. His job included checking the big grain elevators which hold wheat and corn being exported overseas. He got married and was buying a house.
It was a normal life....until April 7, 1981. Kevin was doing paperwork in the office. Up on top of the grain elevator, another employee was applying a can of fumigant to protect the stored grain. But the can exploded, which set fire to the grain dust, which set off a chain reaction.
Within seconds, it turned into the worst explosion in South Texas history. Concrete walls two feet thick were thrown about like paper. The building was completely destroyed. Ten people were killed.
Kevin was hurled more than 300 feet by the explosion, suffering a severed backbone, collapsed lungs, and massive internal bleeding. When the paramedics came, they started working on other people who they thought had a better chance to survive.
One medic wanted to put Kevin on a stretcher, but there were none left. So they put him on a blown off door and got him to the hospital.
After weeks in intensive care, when the doctors said he wouldn't survive, he pulled through. But then began a life in a wheelchair, and a long and bitter rehabilitation.
One day at the hospital, he met a man in a wheelchair who seemed happy. The man encouraged Kevin not to think of what he couldn't do, but to think about what he could do.
It was the start of a new beginning. And when his brother invited him to a wheelchair race in Atlanta, Kevin's old competitive spirit was rekindled.
This was the start of a path that would lead Kevin Saunders to a bronze medal in the Olympic Stadium in Seoul, Korea; four medals at the 1990 Pan American Games; a gold medal at the 1990 World Track and Field Championships; and the title of Best All Around Wheelchair Athlete in the World. He brought the bronze medal back from Barcelona in a split second finish while going for the gold.
He is an ardent K-State fan. You saw him at the Copper Bowl, and you'll see him at other K-State games as well.
Kevin became the first disabled person appointed to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He was the only person on the council reappointed by President Clinton. He also appeared in a movie with Tom Cruise, "Born on the Fourth of July," and is a sought after speaker. And he has written a book entitled "There's Always A Way."
Kevin says, "It's not what happens to you in life, it's what you do with it that matters." He says, "There's always a way, but it's up to us to unleash that champion from within. To succeed on a world class, Olympic level, you have to be dedicated and motivated and willing to take the pain that's necessary to become a champion. Give that 110 percent effort. Don't quit. Don't give up. Be the best we can be." Kevin believes that there truly is always a way to succeed.
That's a good message for all of us. And what does this remarkable young man think about his roots?
He says, "Rural Kansas is a great place to grow up and live. It's where we learn honesty, integrity, spiritual and moral values and the value of hard work and a job well done." To Kevin, these are the key ingredients of a happy and successful life.
It's time to say goodbye to this meeting of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. And of all these athletes, perhaps the most remarkable is Kevin Saunders. As an inspiration to countless people across the nation, Kevin Saunders from rural Kansas is making a difference.
Today let's get into a meaty subject...and I do mean meaty. Smoked summer sausage, jerky, beef stick -- you get the idea.
This is the story of the Pyle Meat Company of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora is in Douglas County in eastern Kansas, southeast of Lawrence. Eudora has a population of 3,006 people -- now, that's rural.
The president of Pyle Meat Company is Thomas Pyle, spelled with a "y". Tom has a long background in the meat business.
The Pyle Meat Company is a family affair. And speaking of families, Tom himself was one of 10 children born and raised in nearby Kansas City, Kansas. At the age of 14, he went to work stocking shelves in a grocery store. And one day when the manager was gone, a customer came in and wanted some meat cut. Well, there was nobody to do it but Tom Pyle.
He did his best. When the manager got back, he said, "What happened here?" Tom explained, and the manager said, "Well, there's a right way to do this" and he proceeded to explain. He trained Tom as a meat cutter and processor. It was the beginning of a remarkable career.
In 1959, a meat company in his wife's hometown of Eudora came up for sale. Tom Pyle says he bought it on a handshake, and fell in love with the town.
Today that one-man operation has grown into an enterprise that has had as many as 18 full-and part-time employees, has sold into all 105 counties of Kansas, and is marketing products through large grocery chains. They produce a variety of award-winning specialty meats, such as smoked, polish, and summer sausage, beef jerky, and beef stick.
Tom Pyle says, "I remember when we would order meat product labels 5,000 at a time. Now we order in batches of 75,000." And besides everything else, he's Executive Director of the Kansas Meat Processors Association.
Did I say this was a family affair? Sure enough, Tom and his wife have seven children. Every one has been involved in the business.
Tom says, "Every child would start out with the bottom job -- cleaning out the gut barrels. They were always glad when another little brother came along." No wonder they had seven kids -- the last one always wanted another one!
Today, a son, daughter, and son-in-law are involved in the business full-time. The grandchildren even come in to stick on labels. Tom still comes to work every day, and loves it.
One of his role models on that point might be another name you will recognize. You have probably heard of the brand name Oscar Mayer, which you'll find on hot dogs and lunchmeat. Well, Tom was a franchisee for that company for several years, and in the process, learned about Oscar Mayer -- I don't just mean the company, I mean the person: Mr. Oscar Mayer. Tom says, "Mr. Mayer would come in to the office every day, even into his 80s."
And what are the keys to Tom Pyle's success? Tom says, "First, quality. I'm always a stickler on that. Second, perseverance. I don't give up. Family. They've worked with me and supported me. Good employees. And finally, a strong faith. I don't make a major decision without prayer."
Tom is complimentary of the assistance he's received from K-State. He says, "Dave Schafer of Extension Meat Science will bend over backwards to help, and Liz Boyle and the Kansas Value-Added Center are helpful too."
And what about life in small-town Kansas? Tom says, "It's a great place to raise a family. You have good schools and churches. The best part is the people. Kansas people are good and honest, and you can depend on them."
It's a meaty subject -- the story of an entrepreneur, Thomas Pyle, whose family values and hard work are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's listen in to a conversation on a plane a few years ago at Cairo, Egypt. Among the passengers is the then-president of the Duckwall corporation based in Abilene, Kansas. He noticed that the Egyptian sitting next to him on the plane spoke English, so he started a conversation. The Egyptian asked him where he was from. The American thought to himself, "Well, this guy might have heard of Abilene, since it was Dwight D. Eisenhower's home and all."
So he said, "Do you know where Abilene, Kansas is?" And the Egyptian replied, "I'm not sure -- is that anywhere near Wamego?"
Now how in the world would someone in Egypt know where Wamego is and not know Abilene? The answer to that question can be summed up in one word: Balderson.
The Balderson company is an internationally-known maker of heavy-duty tractor and earth-moving attachments, and it is based in Wamego, Kansas. Wamego is a town of 3,706 people -- now that's rural.
Here in Wamego we'll find Clark Balderson, president and CEO of Balderson, Inc. His great-grandfather was a blacksmith in Wamego at the turn of the century, doing the normal things that blacksmiths do.
In 1929, the state highway department had some snowplows to be fixed. So grandpa Balderson fixed them, and reworked them. When he was done, the snowplows worked even better than when they were new.
That got the attention of the state. They asked him to build more new snowplows for them to buy. And that was the beginning.
Today, this company which incorporated with less than 15 employees has more than 400 employees -- a majority of those in Kansas. World-wide sales in 1994 will top $54 million.
What exactly is it that Balderson does? They produce the earth-moving and material handling attachments that go with heavy-duty mechanized equipment. For example, we're talking about blades, buckets, forks or snowplows that can be attached to a Caterpillar tractor to do various jobs.
Clark's father Willard studied engineering at K-State and became president of the company. He retired in 1981 after a heart attack, and the new president of the company was Clark Balderson.
Clark also studied at K-State, but his degree is in political science. His philosophy is to look outward. Under his leadership, the company has dramatically expanded sales around the world.
Wherever there is a Caterpillar dealership in the world, you will find Balderson equipment.
Clark says that at heart, he's a frustrated musician. So as a patron of the arts, he took a special interest when the opportunity came about to restore the historic Columbian theater there in Wamego.
The Columbian had been built a hundred years ago, and it housed some remarkable artifacts from the World's Fair of 1893. The theatre closed in 1950. Forty years later, key citizens wanted to raise funds to restore the old theater to its turn of the century grandeur. The chair of the fundraising committee was Clark Balderson.
Today, a $1.8 million renovation is almost complete. And on November 6, 1994, the grand reopening of the Columbian Theatre will take place.
It's another example of the vision and commitment of Clark Balderson. He says, "Just because we're sitting in Kansas doesn't mean we can't do business around the world. I can leave Wamego at 2 p.m. and be in London in the morning."
And that global view of Balderson's marketplace is how an Egyptian in Cairo had come to hear of Wamego, Kansas. Whether it's in restoring the Columbian Theatre or shipping forest-harvesting equipment to Indonesia, we see the vision and commitment that is making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's hop in a small plane and fly low over central Kansas. Look down and you can see the hills and streams, observe the tops of buildings, note the contour of the fields, and see the giant K-State Wildcat head....what was that last one?
Yes, along with all the typical things an air traveler might observe, there's something there that might make a pilot look twice. If we had flown over Kansas in 1992, we could have observed a giant K-State Wildcat logo from the air.
How did it get there? It's called field art. It's done by a farmer who lays out the design and then plants it in crops so that it can be seen from the air. And that's just the beginning of today's remarkable story.
Meet Jeff Peterson. Jeff is a graduate student at K-State in swine nutrition. He is from a farm near Burdick, Kansas, in the heart of the Flint Hills. Burdick is not an incorporated town, so there's no official head count, but it is guesstimated that the population is about 40. Now, that's rural.
Jeff's folks raise wheat, milo, and alfalfa on the farm near Burdick and also background feeder cattle. But a few years ago, there was a proposal for Fort Riley to expand. One of the possible areas for expansion was the land near Burdick.
Jeff's folks decided to send a message to those pushing expansion. Borrowing the idea of other farmers who had made artwork with their crops, they planted wheat in a design that said "Preserve the Heartland."
Jeff says, "There were aircraft and helicopters flying overhead to survey the area, so this was a way to make our point." Eventually of course, the expansion was stopped -- and aerial photos of the art had been picked up by Associated Press and carried nationwide.
It got so much attention they decided to do it again the next year. And in 1992, Jeff suggested the Wildcat logo and the message "K-State Makes Life Great." Another year they did a message honoring FFA.
How do you do field art? The design is planned out carefully in advance. It is laid out in the field with stakes and flags. The letters are the width of a wheat drill, which plants the seeds in a band several feet wide.
There is even more to the remarkable story of Jeff Peterson. Growing up on the farm, he had a normal life. Then came the fateful day of March 6, 1987.
Jeff was a freshman in high school. He was driving on a gravel road near Lincolnville, and he hit a rough spot. The car rolled. The next thing he knew he was in a hospital in Wichita, and the doctors gave him the news: his spine was severed. He would never walk again. For many people, it would be more than they could bear.
Jeff says, "When I got hurt, people in our area devoted their time and money to renovate our house. They built a ramp and a special bathroom that was wheelchair accessible. At the hospital, the nurses and doctors were in awe of the number of visitors and cards that we had. The support from those folks has been a motivating force for me."
That motivation helped Jeff get back to school and get on with life. He came to K-State and got involved. He joined FarmHouse Fraternity and was elected house president. He applied to fill a vacancy in Student Senate and was selected. In fact, he was re-elected two times.
In the spring of 1994, the annual election was held for a new student body president at K-State. For the first time in years, the margin of victory was so decisive that no run-off election was required. And the name of the winner was Jeff Peterson.
To those with disabilities, Jeff says, "Don't dwell on the things we can't do any more. Concentrate on the things you can still do."
And of rural Kansas, Jeff says, "It's a great place to be. I'll always be a part of it."
Fly low over central Kansas. You may see field art. But you'll also see a land which produces brave, smart young people who overcome obstacles and who are willing to serve....people like Jeff Peterson, who are making a difference in the future of Kansas.
Are two heads better than one? Sure they are. We've all heard that saying.
Today, we'll look at another case where two can be better than one. It has to do with economic development.
An increasing number of counties in Kansas have county-wide economic development programs. This is important, especially in rural areas.
Yet in the entire state of Kansas, there is only one example of which I am aware where there are two counties that have banded together to form a single economic development organization. The counties are Brown and Nemaha in far northeast Kansas.
Meet Courtney Riley. She is executive director of the Rural Development Association (or RDA) of Northeast Kansas. It is the pioneering organization that brings these two counties together.
One of the factors helping this project is probably the fact that it is headed up by someone who is a local person. Courtney has roots in the region, having grown up at Hiawatha. She graduated from K-State and is married to Mike Riley, who is also a K-Stater. He got his law degree from Washburn and is now executive trust officer and in-house counsel for a bank in Hiawatha.
Courtney says that RDA evolved from strategic planning work done in the two counties. Both counties found that they wanted a regional organization to work on community and economic development, specifically solid waste planning. Neither county was included in a regional planning commission. Budgets were tight. So, they decided to pool their resources.
They formed RDA with a board of directors made up of six people from each county.
Sure enough, two were better than one. Together, they were able to put together a bigger budget which could be more effective and hire one director. The director is Courtney Riley.
Courtney says, "I think the organization has done a good job of helping counties think about economic development. Besides solid waste planning, we updated the strategic plan, got an enhanced enterprise zone put in place, received an action grant, held educational workshops on zoning, and promoted rural tourism."
For example, they've produced a bi-county tourism brochure highlighting the attractions in both counties. It's a fancier brochure than either one might have produced by itself.
But what about the problems of getting rival communities to work together? Courtney says, "Oh, at first everybody wondered if the other guy had an ulterior motive. But now, it's really neat to see them working together. When one community had a problem, they even asked their rival for advice!"
It's not just the larger towns like Sabetha, Seneca and Hiawatha that Courtney works with. She's also worked with places like Morrill, population 299; Fairview, population 206; Bern, population 190; Wetmore, population 284; Goff, population 156; and Oneida, population 79. Now, that's rural.
And what does Courtney Riley like best about northeast Kansas? She says it's the friendly people and the high quality of life.
Courtney says, "Recently my dad had a conference in New York City, so our family all went along as a family trip. I told someone there I was from Kansas, and she responded, 'When I get out of the city, I feel like I'm reborn.'"
Courtney says, "I feel the same way. In the city, it's an ordeal to go walking or go get an ice cream cone. Here, everybody's so friendly. We don't have to worry about our wallets, and we enjoy clean fresh air. It's easier to participate in community activities and more practical to own your own home. Many of my young friends have recently moved back too."
Are two heads better than one? You bet they are. And in this case, a two-county organization -- the only one in the state -- is making a difference by cooperating for economic development, thanks to Courtney Riley and these innovative leaders of northeast Kansas.
Let's catch a train. Hurry -- you won't want to miss this train. It has more than 90 engines and 180 cars -- and you can see them all in one 16 by 36 foot space.
Obviously, we're not talking about Amtrak here. We're talking about model trains.
Today we'll visit a remarkable collection of model trains and related memorabilia. Don't look for it in New York or Chicago -- we'll find it in Phillipsburg, Kansas.
Meet Bill Clarke. Bill is a photographer in Phillipsburg and a lifelong collector of train memorabilia. He grew up in the north central Kansas town of Kirwin, which today is population 269. Now, that's rural.
Bill remembers that it was a big deal when the train came to town. When he was six years old, he would hear the train whistle and ride his tricycle to the station to see the train come and go.
Later his family moved to Phillipsburg, which happened to be a division point for the Rock Island Railroad. That meant trains came through town all hours of day and night, and Bill's interest in trains continued.
Bill developed another interest in photography. He started working for the local newspaper after school and in the summer. That local publisher was Huck Boyd. Huck had him learn the linotype machine and take pictures for the paper.
During World War II, Bill served with the Army in the Pacific theater. When his service was over, he returned to the States and took the train -- what else -- back to Phillipsburg. By this time he had a good camera, and he worked for the paper again. He used the GI Bill® to attend photography school in Texas.
The question was, where to settle next? He made the decision to open his own photography studio in Phillipsburg. It was a good decision. As of next January, that studio will have been operating for 48 years.
Meanwhile, that boyhood interest in trains was not forgotten. One day he was in a hobby store in Denver, and he saw a scale model of a Santa Fe "Super Chief" passenger train so he bought it. Of course, since it was a passenger train, he needed a freight train to balance it out. And that was the beginning.
Today he has more than 270 Lionel cars and engines and more than 650 feet of track. But these aren't just sitting in boxes gathering dust.
With the help of his brother-in-law, Bill built a place to display and operate the trains in the large room in back of his photo studio. And that is a train that you don't want to miss.
Bill can step back onto the platform and at the touch of a button, the elaborate scene comes alive. Not only are there long trains running various routes, there are little touches too -- like tiny houses, churches, motels, and trees. The overhead lights can be dimmed, and lights on the train and houses come on. The sound system carries whistles and other train sounds. You can see a turntable for turning old steam engines, a paper boy waving a paper, an oil well pumping, and a dog going around a fire hydrant. We don't want to get too realistic there!
Bill operates this display by appointment for school children, civic clubs, church groups, scouts and others. He schedules special showings around Christmas time. The Clarkes have had visitors from 39 states and Japan, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Finland, Puerto Rico, and more.
Every one of the trains is in operating condition. Bill even has all the original boxes that they came in, which makes the collection even more valuable. The collection includes other things as well. Bill has gathered actual railroad articles such as 136 railroad lanterns, books, videotapes, authentic brakeman's uniforms and hats, antique salt-shakers, and 152 printed timetables. There's a Rock Island timetable dated 1903, and a Burlington dated 1879.
Bill says, "With one phone call to a dealer in New York, this would all be gone. But I want to keep it together." So he's decided to donate this collection to the Huck Boyd Foundation, which will display it in the new Huck Boyd Center to be built in Phillipsburg. The collection is now valued at as much as 400 thousand dollars.
Let's catch a train. Thanks to Bill Clarke's generosity, you won't have to travel outside of Kansas to see it. Instead, you will be able to see it in Phillipsburg, where his community spirit is making a difference.
Did you ever hear the Singing Sergeants, the official chorus of the U.S. Air Force? They are a mighty impressive group.
Perhaps you heard them sing at one of the monuments while you were on vacation in Washington DC, or heard them perform while they were touring around the globe.
Well, guess what. You don't have to go halfway across the continent to find the Singing Sergeants. You can find two of them right here in Kansas. Of course, they're not necessarily next door either.
This is the story of Cecil Pearce, a former member of the prestigious Singing Sergeants of the U.S. Air Force. Cecil was born in Hays and moved to a large ranch in Wallace County, Kansas. Now, as I said, that's not next door. In fact, it's in the mountain time zone. Wallace County borders Colorado.
Cecil Pearce grew up and went to school there. He went on to Kansas State University and studied Mechanical Engineering. But a roommate at K-State had a guitar.
Cecil says, "We stayed up and made music while we should have been studying." Oh, his grades were fine, but he found he really enjoyed the music. He joined a combo, and then joined glee club. He performed at Starlight Theater in Kansas City.
And then came an opportunity to join the U.S. Air Force and try out for the exclusive ranks of the Singing Sergeants. There are only 26 slots in this select group, representing the entire nation. But when the selection process was over, one of the new Singing Sergeants was Cecil Pearce.
For the next 24 years, Cecil traveled the globe with this singing group. Besides the U.S., they performed in London, Paris, Venice, Rome, and all over Europe, Japan, Korea, and South America. They performed in China, stood on the Great Wall, and walked Tianamen Square less than one year before the massacre.
And along the way he met Jayne, another singing sergeant who sometimes sang at the same microphone. You can guess what happened. They took this duet business seriously! Yes, they were married. When Cecil retired in 1991, they returned to his home near Wallace. His mother is still teaching in a one-room school there.
There are three towns in Wallace County. The largest is the county seat which is Sharon Springs, population 872. But Cecil Pearce's address is Wallace, population 75. Now, that's rural.
These really are the wide open spaces. For example, some demographers measure population density, comparing the number of persons per square mile of area. Riley County, for example, has 110.1 persons per square mile. Wyandotte County has 1,070 persons per square mile. Wallace County has 2. That's right, 2.0. Maybe those two are Cecil and Jayne!
And in fact, Cecil and Jayne are doing what they can to increase that statistic. Yes, there's now a new baby in the Pearce household wearing a purple-and-white K-State baby bib. Cody was born in September 1993, joining a big brother Taylor, 2 1/2.
Jayne is adjusting to life on the ranch, although it has been quite a change. And when they're asked, she and Cecil will still perform a musical duet. I've been witness to one, and I can vouch for their remarkable talent.
Meanwhile, Cecil is ranching and getting involved with the community. He says, "I've enjoyed being back. Everybody here supports the kids. I really like the people."
Did you ever hear the Singing Sergeants? Well, whether you did or not, you can be thankful that these two Singing Sergeants can be found in rural Kansas, sharing their talents and making a difference in their community.
Her degree is in anthropology. She has studied at such locations around the world as Greece, Wales, and Honduras. She has taught the classics, from Greek, Roman, and Etruscan history.
And where would you find this scholar today? Try Wabaunsee County, Kansas.
This is the story of Carissa Culling McKenzie, a scholar who has found a home in rural America.
Carissa was born in St. Louis and grew up in the suburbs. She wanted to be an archeologist and got her anthropology degree from the State University of New York in Binghamton. From an academic standpoint, she learned about the domestication of livestock, urbanization, and agricultural history, which she found interesting. After studying overseas, she planned to go into museum work and came to the art history museum at KU.
There she met her husband, an engineer, who was born and bred in Dodge City. They wanted to live in the country, and looked for a place for five years. Then a friend said, "We have cattle out in the flint hills -- why don't you look there?" So they did, and the result was the purchase of a ranch in southern Wabaunsee County. Carissa resigned from her position at KU and they moved to the ranch.
Interestingly, Carissa's husband is a freelance video photographer. He has done sports and news photography for all the major networks and CNN, from Sarajevo to the Calgary Olympics. He's even met the infamous O. J. Simpson. Carissa herself is a writer as well as a rancher.
Their mailing address is Alta Vista, which is a town of 477 people. Now, that's rural. But as Carissa says, "If we ever need an ambulance, don't send it to Alta Vista, because we're not there." In fact, the ranch is 18 miles from Alta Vista. It's on a flint rock road where the homes were just recently upgraded from party lines, and there is not a single town in the township. Now, that's really rural.
It is here that Carissa has come to really appreciate agriculture and rural life. She and her husband raise Scottish Highland cattle on their ranch, for both practical and philosophical reasons. This breed of cattle has very few calving problems, and raising them also maintains genetic diversity.
In 1991, Carissa joined a new leadership training program called Kansas Agricultural and Rural Leadership, or KARL. Carissa says, "KARL was a wonderful experience. The KARL network enabled us to meet people from all levels of production, from research to the retail market. And the international study tour of Eastern Europe was great."
Carissa has also gotten involved in the organization "Women Involved in Farm Economics," or WIFE. She is a national delegate for WIFE and serves on the board of directors.
Carissa says, "When farmers profit, rural communities benefit. That's why we promote profitability of family farms."
She's also concerned about EPA, the endangered species act, and private property rights. In fact, she says she is a member of the National Rifle Association and is big on constitutional rights.
She says, "Farmers and ranchers realize the importance of a clean environment. We don't want to foul our area because then we lose our livelihood."
And what is it about rural life that appeals to Carissa? She says, "It is so peaceful. Our mailbox is a half-mile up the road, and I can stop and smell the flowers. I love being able to see the stars. The Flint Hills are beautiful, and you meet a lot of good people."
Her degree is in anthropology. She has studied around the world, but today you'll find Carissa McKenzie in rural Kansas, where her involvement, service, and caring are making a difference.