You know the story of the man who came to dinner -- and stayed? Today we'll meet a man who did the same, in a sense. This man, originally from New Jersey, came to Kansas for a two-week assignment. Twenty-one years later, he's still here.
He has a record of success -- and he's part of a success story that even Kansans may not fully appreciate.
Meet Joe Bridenburg. Joe is an engineer at National Beef packing company in Liberal, Kansas.
Originally, however, he was from northern New Jersey. He graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and held several positions in industry, with Cummins engine and Rath meat packing company.
In 1974, the National Beef company in Liberal, Kansas needed an engineer for an energy project. Joe came out on temporary assignment. But the first two weeks turned into two more, and then two more. Joe became engineer in charge of power generation and worked his way up through the ranks to become manager of the entire plant.
Today, after more than two decades, Joe has a wonderful record of service to his community as well as his business. Joe became president of Rotary and chairman of the board of the southwest Kansas Guidance Center, a mental health agency. He's a graduate of Leadership Liberal and past president of the Southwest Kansas chapter of the Kansas Engineering Society. The list of his involvements goes on and on.
And most recently, he completed his years of service as mayor of Liberal.
Joe says, "If someone would have told me when I was in school in New Jersey that I'd be mayor of a town in Kansas, I'd have told them they were crazy."
Just to put this in perspective, New Jersey packs 7.7 million people into a space one-tenth the size of Kansas.
Joe is very proud of Liberal, and also proud of his industry. Even Kansans may not fully realize the scope of this industry and its impact on the Kansas economy.
It starts with a four-letter word: beef. The cattle industry has developed remarkably in this state, and the growth in beef processing created a boom in southwest Kansas.
It's the value-added principle: add value to the basic commodity by processing it into a form that is closer to the consumer. In doing so, you create more jobs and better markets. Or, put another way, there's more value in selling the steak and not just the steer.
Liberal itself is a town of 16,573 people, which is pretty big by my standards. The population within a 100 mile radius of Liberal is about 1.05 million -- but a million of those are cows. Now, that's rural.
Also within that 100 miles are 17 meat packing plants, which have had a huge impact on the economy of the region.
For example, last year Joe's company processed 1.82 million head of cattle. National Beef also owns a 70,000 head feedlot. Feeding those animals cost $45 million, and 6 million tons of grain was bought locally.
The Liberal plant spent $971 million on cattle in 1994. And National Beef alone puts $53 million in payroll into the economy of the area. Multiply that by 17 times and you're talking real money.
Still, the factor which is most important to Joe Bridenburg is the people. He really likes the peoples of Southwest Kansas. Joe says, "Ninety percent of it is the people. You can cash a check; people will talk to you. There's a friendliness and honesty that does not take place in a larger place."
Yes, you know the story of the man who came to dinner. Well, this man brought beefsteak to dinner with him. Joe Bridenburg's company is part of the under-appreciated success story of value-added economic development, and his service is making a difference to the people of Kansas.
Today we're going to the right place for a success story. When I say the "right" place, I mean that literally. We're going to go to Wright, Kansas.
When I say that, I mean that the town is named Wright. I mean, the town's name is Wright. I mean...well, you know what I mean.
Wright, Kansas is a town in the southwest part of the state, near Dodge City. It's an unincorporated town of approximately 350 people. Now, that's rural.
This rural setting is the site of a farmer-owned cooperative that is dealing successfully with change, and today we'll hear its story.
Meet Tom Redman. Tom is general manager of the Right Cooperative Association in Wright, Kansas.
Now, the town of Wright spells its name w-r-i-g-h-t. In other words, the "w" is silent. But the cooperative decided to make a play on the name of the town, so the co-op name is spelled without the "w." It's simply the Right Cooperative Association.
As you can see, that would be good for marketing. For example, you could tell the members that they are in the "right" cooperative for them.
Now, there are a lot of farmer cooperatives around the state of Kansas. These are cooperatively owned businesses which serve the farmers, ranchers, and others in the state. Most of them own grain elevators, those tall concrete silos which store grain all over the midwest.
I call them Kansas skyscrapers, because they tower over the landscape of rural Kansas. And they've been doing that for a lot of years. For example, the Right Cooperative Association was founded in 1915.
As times have changed, farmers and their cooperatives have changed as well. Services have diversified and technology has advanced.
One of the people who recognizes these changes is Tom Redman. Tom is a native of the Topeka area. He graduated from Emporia and started working for cooperatives in 1979. In 1993 when the Right Cooperative Association needed a new general manager, the person they brought in was Tom Redman.
Some exciting things are happening at the cooperative in Wright, Kansas.
Today, the cooperative offers a broad line of services, as most farm co-ops do today. Besides the traditional grain storage and marketing and livestock feed, the co-op provides tires, fuel, and lubricants for cars, trucks, and tractors as well as fertilizer and crop protectants, work clothes and tools.
The pace of change continues to accelerate. In 1995 the Right Co-op opened a new convenience store in its auto center to provide sodas and snacks.
Even more exciting is what is happening with grain transportation. Tom Redman says, "The railroads (which carry the grain out) want to be more efficient, and we do too."
To do so, the railroads want to operate in larger units and use local facilities as collection points for larger volumes of grain. In other words, rather than stopping to pick up a railroad car of grain here and another one there, they want to make fewer stops for larger volumes which will allow them to operate more efficiently.
With this in mind, the Right Co-op made a major investment in 1995 to add two new trainloading facilities. Each new facility allows the co-op to bring in 109 railroad cars and load them within 24 hours. That's remarkable.
Such new facilities would cost 3 to 5 million dollars to build from scratch, but fortunately the co-op had much of the infrastructure already in place.
Tom Redman says, "Rather than fight change, we've been able to embrace it." And he says, "We like it here. There's a strong moral fiber and we don't have as many problems as the cities. The people are friendly and they appreciate hard work."
Yes, we've found the right place for a success story. It's the town of Wright, Kansas, where a progressive manager like Tom Redman is making a difference with a commitment to grow with change - and there's no question he's right.
"Alright class, today we're going to visit people in France. We'll have a chance to see these people and talk to them. And don't worry, class -- we'll still be home in time for lunch."
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the students in our schools could be transported instantly around the world like that? It would be a great educational experience.
Of course, there's no way it could be done...but hold the phone. Today we'll learn of an entrepreneurial telephone company that is taking steps that can link students and others with their counterparts around the world. And guess what: they're doing it in rural Kansas.
This is the story of Pioneer Telephone Association in Ulysses, Kansas. It's general manager is Dick Veach.
Dick is a native of Columbus, Nebraska. His father had been a consulting engineer for some independent telephone companies, so it was logical for Dick to pursue this line of work. He graduated from the University of Nebraska, served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, and then was an engineer and manager for several phone companies before becoming General Manager of Pioneer Telephone in 1986.
Pioneer Telephone provides local telephone service through 14,000 access lines in southwest Kansas and southeast Colorado. Pioneer is headquartered in Ulysses, but it also serves towns like Rolla, population 387; Manter, population 186; and Coolidge, population 90. Now, that's rural.
Yet from this rural setting came a vision of what could be possible using the tools of technology. In 1989, Pioneer joined the Elkhart Telephone Company and Southwestern Bell in establishing the first video distance learning network in the state of Kansas.
Now what is a video distance learning network? This means that schools in the region were linked together via fiber-optic cable to have inter-active video in their classrooms. In other words, a student could be in one school and see and hear the teacher and students in three other schools at the same time, on a video signal that is transmitted through the phone company's fiber-optic cable.
This is really exciting. It not only expands the type of educational offerings available to the students, it can serve other community needs as well. And it means that these people could be linked electronically to anyone having the videoconferencing equipment anywhere around the world.
Sure enough, two years ago the schools did a video link-up with a school in France, located in the suburbs of Paris.
Today the network has grown to 18 sites, including 13 secondary schools, two educational service centers, several community colleges, and two hospitals.
And that's not all. In January 1995, Pioneer Telephone became an Internet access provider for people in its service area. Dick Veach says, "At the time we planned this, nobody was offering local Internet access any closer than Denver or Dallas. We've connected our schools and two libraries, and now we're up to 200 users."
That means people can reach the Internet and be connected worldwide from a computer right there in their own hometown.
Dick says, "We got involved because we were afraid that our area would be left off the information superhighway. Metro areas have large libraries and agencies close at hand. For rural areas, using this technology to access needed information makes a lot of sense."
"Alright class, today we're going to visit people in France..." No, it's not possible to transport our students instantly around the world -- this side of Star Trek, anyway -- but it is possible for our students to be connected electronically with educators and others around the world. And by using the tools of technology, a person can live in the high quality of life of a rural setting and interact with people around the world at the touch of a button.
We're thankful for people like Dick Veach and Pioneer Telephone, whose vision and commitment to providing this technology are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's visit a facility which produces something called zeolite. Zeolite is a crystal mineral used primarily in the treatment of water. Today, we'll visit the only plant which produces this type of zeolite in the entire world!
But don't worry. We won't have to scale any mountains or penetrate any jungles to find this facility. This unique plant is found right here in rural Kansas.
The plant is owned by a company named Mineral-Right, and it's located in Phillipsburg, Kansas. Phillipsburg is the county seat of Phillips County in northwest Kansas, and is the hometown of Huck Boyd. Phillipsburg is a town of 2,828 people. Now, that's rural.
But Phillipsburg, Kansas is the world's only current source of this particular product.
As I said, this product is a crystal mineral called zeolite. No, this isn't the stuff that hurts Superman, this is zeolite. Zeolite is used primarily in the conditioning and treatment of water, and it has some other potentially exciting uses as well.
Basic zeolite looks like white crystals, sort of like oversized salt. Other elements can be added to it for different uses.
Zeolite is interesting stuff. For you chemists out there, zeolite is a sodium alumino silicate crystal. It turns out that zeolite has been formed under certain natural conditions ever since the creation of the earth, but in the 1940s, some pioneers in the water treatment industry found that they could create a much-improved form of zeolite in the laboratory.
Today the technology has advanced, and Mineral-Right is producing high-quality zeolite for several uses.
First though, some background about the Mineral-Right company. It was founded by Glenn and Janet Gruett, entrepreneurs from Wisconsin. Glenn was familiar with the benefits of zeolite because it was used in his water conditioning business. When a zeolite plant was closing in California, he bought the necessary equipment. Then the question was, where would he locate his zeolite production facility?
Interestingly, this type of zeolite is best produced outdoors. So, the Gruetts looked for an area of the country which had the ideal weather conditions, along with positive economic factors.
The location that was chosen was Phillipsburg, Kansas. In 1986, Mineral-Right was formed in Phillipsburg.
As much as Kansans joke about our weather, it turned out that Phillipsburg had the right amounts of sunshine, wind, and warm weather to produce zeolite. When they put out an experimental bed of zeolite in Phillipsburg, they were able to increase the quality by 20 percent and the yield by 25 percent.
So how do you grow zeolite? Well, special solutions of silica and alumina are blended together and poured into plots where it forms a 4 1/2 thick gelatin mix. As the blend naturally dehydrates, it will form crystals of zeolite. These crystals are collected, screened and milled into uniform size, and then rinsed and packaged.
And this zeolite has some fascinating properties. For example, each crystal has thousands of pores. If you could separate those pores and spread them out flat, one teaspoon of zeolite crystals would generate enough pores to cover a square foot area of a football field. Just one teaspoon! Now that's a lot of Astroturf...
Because of its structure and chemical properties, this zeolite works extremely well to soften water, filter impurities, and remove heavy metals. And now new uses are being found for zeolite.
Not only will it filter impurities from water, it can help make a higher grade fuel for rockets and jets and even be used to remove amino acids from blood samples. It has great potential to be an environmentally friendly product, as it can absorb odors and clean up chemical spills.
And what has happened in Phillipsburg? Well, the plant's annual production of zeolite is sold out every year, and the bed capacity has tripled since it began. Today this zeolite is being sold internationally and in 40 of the 48 states.
It's time to say goodbye to the world's only plant for the production of this type of zeolite. Fortunately we didn't have to climb a mountain or make a safari through the jungle to find this unique facility, because it operates right here in Kansas. We're thankful for entrepreneurs like the Gruetts and their managers Gary Steffens and Camie Schneider, whose hard work and initiative are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Here's a story I'm going to milk for all it's worth...and I do mean milk.
Today we're going to visit someone who is helping diversify the economy to include milk in western Kansas.
Now, that may sound a little unusual. An ag economist will tell you that Kansas is a cattle state -- but we mean beef cattle, not milk cows.
Yet today, there is a burgeoning movement to expand dairy production in the western part of our state.
Meet Scott McGinley. Scott is director of economic development in Kansas for his company, called UtiliCorp United. You might know his company by some of its other names: Kansas Public Service, Peoples Natural Gas, or WestPlains Energy.
Along with his other responsibilities, Scott is the volunteer chairman of the Western Kansas Dairy Coalition.
Scott is a believer in economic development in this region. He grew up at Dodge City, went to community college there, and graduated from Wichita State. Now he has two sons at Kansas State.
Scott has worked his way up the ranks of his company to be director of economic development. UtiliCorp United provides electrical utility service from Liberal to Lawrence. The service area includes towns like Coats, Kansas, population 127 people. Now, that's rural.
Scott has worked hard to enhance economic development in this region. When community leaders came up with the idea of attracting new dairies to the area, Scott and his company responded with help.
People soon recognized that they could accomplish more by working together. Creation of the Western Kansas Dairy Coalition and the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance were the result. The dairy coalition was the pioneer effort, and now it is a committee of the alliance.
Scott says, "Dairy production, and hopefully dairy processing, have good potential for economic development." The Western Kansas Dairy Coalition is actively recruiting dairy farms from California and the upper midwest.
As dairy farms in California are crowded out by urban sprawl, escalating land values, and environmental activism, rural Kansas may be an attractive alternative. Recently three large dairy farms began operating in southwest Kansas and another is being built. Scott McGinley points out that these are family corporations.
Scott says, "There are some pioneers of the western Kansas dairy industry at Syracuse, Cimarron, and Liberal," where these new, large scale dairy operations are located.
As more milk is produced in the region, processing facilities will follow, which will add value and create jobs.
To operate a milk processing plant efficiently, Scott estimates the plant would need 2 to 3 million pounds of milk a year. That would take about 28,000 cows. Currently, there are about 13,000 cows in the region, and the numbers are growing.
Meanwhile the Western Kansas Dairy Coalition continues to recruit dairies. The coalition had a booth at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin the last two years, a dinner for southern California dairymen two years also, and an exhibit at a big farm show in Tulare, California in February 1995.
"More than 100 people attended the southern California dinners each year," McGinley says. "Our theme was 'Welcome to Dairy in Western Kansas.'"
Yes, this is a story I'm going to milk for all it's worth. It's a story of self-help, of private sector initiative to boost the rural economy. We're grateful for people like Scott McGinley, who give leadership to these efforts to make a difference in the Kansas economy.
Step into a store with me. There's someone I want you to meet.
As you enter the store, you're greeted with a smile and a hearty handshake -- by a man in a big Stetson hat, western clothes, cowboy boots, and spurs.
What's going on here? Are we in a western movie, or did we just walk through a time warp?
Well, you can relax. It's none of the above. You've simply met Jim Gray of the Drover's Mercantile in Ellsworth, Kansas. The Drover's Mercantile is a kind of store like none other I have ever found -- but it's so much fun to visit I can't wait to go back.
It's like a step back into western history -- or a guest appearance on Gunsmoke.
Drover's Mercantile specializes in the sale of authentic 1870's cowboy clothing and related items. But that description doesn't do it justice.
To say that the Drover's is a western wear store would be like saying Beethoven was a nice pianist. This store doesn't just sell western clothes, it sells the authentic clothing that you would wear if you were participating in a western historical reenactment. Jim Gray is a living example, as he dresses the part inside the store.
And there's not just the clothing. There are cowboy books and gifts, Plains Indian collectibles, cowboy gear, handmade saddles, souvenirs, and chuck wagon supplies -- even a real chuckwagon! Betcha don't find one of those at your local fast food franchise...
Jim Gray and Linda Kohls are co-owners of the Drover's Mercantile in downtown Ellsworth.
Jim and Linda both have roots in this western heritage. Jim's great-grandfather started a ranch in that region in 1878. Jim grew up on a ranch south of Ellsworth near the town of Geneseo -- population 382 people. Now, that's rural.
Jim attended Fort Hays State, served as a ranger for the corps of engineers for a time, and continues to operate the family ranch. In July of 1995, he and partner Linda Kohls opened the Drover's Mercantile.
Jim says, "There is a growing interest in cowboy re-enactments. We want these things to be as authentic as we can. And we put a little bit of ourselves into this too."
For example, in the store you can find a western-decorated lunchbox which Linda carried as a schoolkid and a cowboy bedspread which Jim used when he was little. The walls are covered with genuine barn board from a barn which a relative had built years ago.
Now unless you're up on Kansas history, you may not realize how appropriate it is to find this store in the city of Ellsworth. In the days of the wild west, Ellsworth ranked with Abilene and Dodge City as the major destinations of the cattle drives.
The annual Cowtown Days celebration is held in Ellsworth every year in August. Jim Gray is working on enhancing old Fort Harker in nearby Kanopolis as a historical attraction. There's even talk of holding an old-fashioned military ball.
Jerry Aday, the economic development coordinator for Ellsworth County, says, "There's lots of good things about this community. We have major businesses such as Cashco and others. Don Panzer at the local hardware store bought a vacant building downtown and put in an antique mall which is attracting lots of people. And we also need to build on our western heritage as a way of promoting rural tourism and economic development."
As a good example of that we need to look no further than Jim Gray and the Drover's Mercantile.
It's time to say goodbye to this man in the big Stetson hat, boots, and spurs. It seems like we ought to be riding off into the sunset, after stopping the bad guys and rescuing the girl. But this is no western movie. It's a real business in a rural setting.
We're grateful for people like Jim Gray, Linda Kohls and Jerry Aday, whose vision and innovation are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Happy trails to you...
Recently I was getting on a plane to go to San Diego, and I grabbed a book at the airport newsstand to read on the plane. It was an impulse purchase, I didn't really study the book carefully before I bought it. So imagine my surprise when I read in the author's foreword that he was from Hugoton, Kansas.
Today we'll meet this Kansas author whose books are now being distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada. His name is Randal L. Greenwood.
Randy Greenwood was born and raised in southwest Kansas. He graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in history and then took a job in Denver. But he found he didn't really like the big city, so he returned to his hometown of Hugoton, Kansas.
Hugoton is the county seat of Stevens County, which is in southwest Kansas. In fact, the county borders Oklahoma to the south. Hugoton itself is a town of 3,179 people. Now, that's rural.
But this rural setting is the base for this author whose books are now available nationwide, and even internationally. His books are fictional novels, set in the time of the Civil War.
When Randy Greenwood was growing up in Hugoton, he developed several interests. One was photography, which he worked on in 4-H. Another was Civil War history. In school one day, Randy's teacher read him a story about a boy during the Civil War. It caught his interest and in a way, we could say it changed his life.
Randy's interest in photography turned into a career. He has operated his own photo studio in Hugoton for some 18 years. But he also had the itch to write. After a few magazine articles were published, he tried writing a book. The setting that he chose for his book was the Civil War.
After a lot of research and work, he had written a manuscript. And at a western writer's meeting in Jackson Hole, he met an editor who was interested in the concept. Five months later, that book was sold as the first part of a trilogy about the Civil War.
Randy was told later that 20,000 manuscripts were submitted to his publisher that year, and only 300 were published. And of those 300, there were only two from authors who had not been published before. One of those two first-time authors was Randy Greenwood.
Randy says with a laugh, "If I had known those odds before I started I might never have tried it." But he did try it, and it worked.
The books themselves are fiction, although they weave in a number of real characters and events. The books mainly describe a family of southerners named Kimbrough and their experiences during the Civil War. The first book is named Burn, Missouri, Burn. The second is called Kansas, Bloody Kansas. The third and final book of this series, coming in February 1995, is titled Ride, Rebels, Ride. Although the trilogy ends, more books are on the way.
The books are exciting and interesting, especially because the story includes parts of Kansas. In fact, the second book describes Quantrill's raid on Lawrence. Yet while the raid itself is depicted as the horror that it was, much of the book is sympathetic to the southern perspective on these issues.
Randy Greenwood says, "History is written by the winners. I wanted to tell the (whole) truth." And so his books include some of the atrocities committed by the Union troops, as well as the Confederates. But the point of the books isn't to take sides, rather it is tell a fascinating story. And, indeed the books do.
In fact, his books are now published by a New York publishing company and are distributed across the United States and in Canada, plus to military bases in the Pacific. So why remain in Hugoton?
Randy Greenwood says, "If you're a writer, you can be anywhere you want to be. This is where I feel comfortable. This is home."
Yes, I was flying to San Diego and I enjoyed reading a book which happened to have been written by a man from Hugoton, Kansas. We're thankful for the nationally-recognized talents of people like Randy Greenwood, whose hard work and skills are making a difference in rural America.
At the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Benjamin Franklin made the statement, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
That call for cooperation in the face of adversity could be a theme for a modern-day declaration happening right here in Kansas. This one is, in a sense, a declaration of both independence and inter-dependence. It represents self-help, but also working together. It means creation of a new joint effort to enhance economic development in Western Kansas.
The group is called the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance -- or wKREDA for short. The President of wKREDA is Steve Miller.
Steve explains that wKREDA is a self-help response to the challenges facing western Kansas. wKREDA began when local leaders in western Kansas saw the benefit of working together for common goals.
One of those local leaders is Steve Miller himself. Steve grew up in western Kansas, on a farm at the Norton-Decatur County line. After serving in the Army, he was in business for several years before joining the Sunflower Electric Power Cooperative located at Hays. Steve worked his way up the ranks to become Senior Manager of External Affairs for Sunflower.
Steve and others were increasingly concerned about the loss of people and jobs in western Kansas. For example, he estimated that the 41 smallest counties in western Kansas lost 100,000 people since 1930.
This is a great concern to Sunflower Electric, which provides electrical power to seven rural electric cooperatives covering much of the region. More jobs are needed in the region -- but it is hard for economic development efforts in small towns with limited budgets and volunteer labor to have a significant impact individually. People began to see that by working together, they could pool their resources for greater impact.
For example, one of the co-ops served by Sunflower is headquartered in the Cheyenne County town of Bird City -- population 467 people. Now, that's rural.
Yet together, Sunflower and the seven distribution cooperatives which it serves provide electrical service to about 150,000 end users. That's a number more likely to get people's attention.
As Steve Miller and others were considering these facts, in 1992 the Huck Boyd Institute produced a report on strategies for multi-county cooperation. The report suggested a model for voluntary collaboration, and it fit with what Steve Miller had in mind.
He, along with Carol Meyer of the Chamber of Commerce in Garden City and Lavern Squier of the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development in Hays, had a vision of a cooperative organization which could bring all of western Kansas together. In May 1994, more than 55 people attended a meeting in Garden City where the concept was discussed.
The result of all this was wKREDA. In July 1995, bylaws for the new organization were adopted. The Western Kansas Dairy Coalition became a committee of wKREDA. Other committees were created and became active. Today the wKREDA territory takes in the 46 western counties of Kansas.
Here's an example of the benefits of collaboration: One way for towns to attract business prospects is to take a booth to trade shows. wKREDA is scheduled to have a booth at six trade shows of targeted industries. Attending just one of those trade shows might cost three, four, or as much as six thousand dollars. So the cost to a single community of taking a booth to six trade shows would be at least $18,000.
Yet a member of wKREDA can get the business leads from all six trade shows, through their county designee, by paying only 750 dollars. That's a great value for rural Kansas.
Steve says, "In the past, the Kansas Department of Commerce seemed oriented toward urban areas and the Department of Agriculture seemed only interested in farm production. Economic development in western Kansas didn't seem to fit either one. But now both Ag and Commerce have been extremely supportive."
He says, "I and my family grew up and live in this region. It is a passion for me to support the people here. We have good people in western Kansas who are hard workers with high moral character. We need to be linked together better than ever."
Benjamin Franklin would be proud -- and we are too. We're grateful for people like Steve Miller, Carol Meyer, and Lavern Squier, whose vision, initiative, and cooperative spirit are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Today let's venture into the world of upscale fashion -- which is a place I don't venture into very often! But take a look at this beautiful slick paper catalog, which features gorgeous sweaters hand-made from luxury fibers in South America. These sweaters are being sold by a U.S. company to customers all over the country and internationally.
And where do you suppose this company is based? No, not New York or LA. Here's a clue: the address on the catalog says Canaan Farm. Sure enough, this international upscale business is based in rural Kansas.
Meet Biddy Hurlbut. Biddy and her daughter Annie are co-founders of this remarkable company named Peruvian Connection. The name is literally true: the company has connections with people in Peru who make most of these sweaters.
But the company itself is based in Tonganoxie, Kansas. Tonganoxie is in Leavenworth County, northeast of Lawrence. It's a town of 2,347 people. Now, that's rural.
And it gets even better. Because the company isn't actually located in Tonganoxie, it's outside of Tonganoxie on the Hurlbut family farm. In fact, the office building is a remodeled barn.
Yet from that remodeled barn operates a multi-million dollar international business.
Biddy Hurlbut says, "This farm has been in our family for 75 years." Biddy and husband Gordon raised Annie there. Annie went on to be in the first graduating class to include women at Yale. Annie then did graduate studies in Peru in South America. While there, she bought a beautiful sweater to give to her mother as a birthday present.
Biddy loved the sweater, and so did her friends. They said, "You should get some more of those."
And indeed they did. Annie had her contacts in Peru produce more sweaters and she started marketing them in the U.S.
The first year, Biddy and Annie had a few thousand dollars in sales. Today, their company employs 65 people and has sales of more than ten million dollars.
Now, to say that this company sells sweaters is like saying that Mount Everest has a nice view. It doesn't begin to capture the full effect of these sweaters.
The company is famous for what Annie calls "art knits," which are like wearable works of art. These are specially designed and individually made sweaters which are so intricate they may take a knitter three or four weeks to make just one. These are knit from premium materials, such as high quality alpaca wool and Peruvian pima cotton, and they sell for three to four hundred dollars apiece.
Peruvian Connection offers other clothing ranging to informal knitwear, plus matching South American accessories such as jewelry and belts. The enterprise operates as a mail-order business, with outlet stores in Overland Park, Santa Fe, and Maryland.
So why remain in Tonganoxie? Biddy Hurlbut says, "Kansas is our state. We have beautiful sunsets." And she's proud of their workforce. Biddy says, "The amazing thing is the caliber of people who work with us. They are straightforward, honest, and hard-working."
And listen to how global the company really is: this company based in Tonganoxie, Kansas communicates via Internet with its offices in Lima, Peru and in the United Kingdom. The Peruvian Connection has more than 150,000 customers across the U.S. and more than a thousand customers in Japan alone.
Here in the U.S., the Peruvian Connection has an 800 number so you can easily call in and request a free catalog. Do you have a pencil handy? The number is 1-800-255-6429. That number again is 1-800-255-6429.
Well, it's time to bid adieu to the world of upscale fashion. Sure enough, it's not an area I venture into very often. But I am excited to see that such a high quality, multi-million dollar company is operating globally from a remodeled barn near a small town in Kansas. We're thankful for people like Biddy and Annie Hurlbut, whose hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and international vision are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Dan & Jeanne Billings
Today we're going to hear about a rapper. But don't worry -- we're not going onto MTV. This isn't about someone making rap music, it's about someone wrapping chocolates. And that chocolate business has turned into an enterprise that is selling products from coast to coast.
This national chocolate business isn't based in New York or LA, or even Kansas City or Wichita: it's found in rural Kansas.
Meet Jeanne and Dan Billings. Jeanne and Dan are owners of Gourmet Chocolate Inc. in Halstead, Kansas. Halstead is in Harvey County, north of Wichita. Jeanne and Dan have the business in Halstead and live in the nearby town of Hesston.
Hesston is a town of 3,012. Halstead is a town of 2,015. But Dan is originally from a farm near the town of Kensington, population 553. Now, that's rural.
Yet from these rural roots comes leadership for the chocolate business. Dan Billings grew up at Kensington, graduated from Kansas State University and took a job with the Farm Credit System in Wichita. There he met and married Jeanne, who was originally from Hays.
Dan's job took them to western Kansas. In 1992, they moved back to the Wichita area and ultimately settled in Hesston. With their kids in school, Jeanne started looking for work again. She heard about a small, recently-formed company in Halstead that produced chocolates.
This company belonged to an older couple that had traveled in Europe and become enamored of European-style chocolates, so started a small business to make those chocolates back home in Halstead.
Jeanne applied to the company and got a job there as a wrapper. Yes, she became a wrapper. Her job was to hand-wrap these individually-produced fine chocolates.
The owners of the company were very impressed with Jeanne, and soon gave her increased responsibilities. Then when the owners decided to retire, Dan and Jeanne purchased the business and took it on full-time.
What exactly is it the company does? Well, it produces a full line of European style, hand-dipped and decorated chocolate products, ranging from small novelty items to elegant gift boxes.
Jeanne says, "The quality is very high, because we use pure cocoa and cocoa butter with no additives."
One hot selling item is the chocolate-filled spoon, which comes in nine different flavors. When the spoon is used to stir warm coffee or milk, the chocolate melts and flavors the drink. Doesn't that make you want to head toward a cozy fireplace with one of those?...
There are choco-lollies on sticks, mints, nuts, a sugar-free line, custom-decorated chocolates and much more. Dan says, "We do a lot of custom work. We can do a mold for a company or hand-decorate a message for someone."
In fact, the company has custom-designed chocolates for lots of schools and universities. You could have your school mascot or a personalized message put on a chocolate.
One school group decided to sell Gourmet Chocolates to raise funds for their organization. Members said it was the best fund-raiser they had ever had.
In a minute, I'll give you a phone number for the company, in case you want to write it down. But first, let me tell you how it has grown. This company which started with 3 or 4 people 3 1/2 years ago now has 20 or 30 people working during the peak season, and is shipping products to 49 states and Canada.
So why remain in rural Kansas? Dan says, "We've been extremely happy with the work force here, and we're centrally located to ship all over the country." Jeanne says, "We were attracted to the good solid values, excellent schools, and security and stability for our children."
If you would like to contact Gourmet Chocolates, to order or to find an outlet near you, call 1-800-835-2040. That number again is 1-800-835-2040.
It's time to say goodbye to this rapper. But instead of rap music, she was wrapping chocolates, and now she's giving leadership to this national, high quality business. We're grateful for Jeanne and Dan Billings who are making a difference with their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit.
And, I guess that's a wrap.
Gripe -- or grow?
Someone has said that those are the two choices a person has when faced with a challenge. We can gripe, complain, and feel like a victim -- or we can grow, adapt, and change to meet the challenge.
Gripe -- or grow?
That was the choice facing leaders in northeast Kansas in recent years. The challenges were there: uneven economic growth, rural demographics lagging that of the cities, and a need for stronger regional communication on key issues.
It would be easy to gripe and complain about those things, but a group of committed citizens in northeast Kansas instead decided to make a difference. That is the exciting story we will hear today.
Meet Glenda Purkis. Glenda is President and CEO of the Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce in northeast Kansas. Glenda is originally from Norton and has spent her entire career in Chamber-related work.
After coming to Atchison, Glenda informally discussed with her neighboring counterparts the possibility of some regional structure for economic development in northeast Kansas. Then in February 1995, Glenda and other Atchison Chamber representatives met with Senator Don Sallee in Topeka. They discussed the need for an organized coalition for economic development in the region.
Senator Sallee knew first-hand what they were talking about. Senator Sallee comes from near Troy in Doniphan County, in the very northeast corner of Kansas. Troy is a town of 1,073 people. Now, that's rural.
The Senator knew that rural areas could have a stronger voice if working together, and he made some phone calls to see who could help. With assistance from Barb Kongs of the Kansas Department of Commerce & Housing, Glenda and her counterparts again began discussing how they could work together regionally. The Glacial Hills Resource Conservation and Development District was a key supporter of these discussions.
Glenda says, "We felt we should start with the private sector first." And so the private sector leaders of the area got together, and they were able to make things happen. Representatives came together from six counties: Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Jefferson, and Nemaha. The person they elected as chairman was Glenda Purkis.
And on October 18, 1995, more than 100 people came together in Atchison for the very first regional meeting of the Northeast Kansas Coalition for Regional Economic Development. That's N-E-K-C-R-E-D, or NE-KCRED. I thought it would be more fun if they had made the acronym spell REDNECK, but that idea wasn't exactly embraced, for obvious reasons...
By whatever name, the concept of regional cooperation did receive support. NEKCRED received guidance from facilitator Dan Roehler and excellent data from Chuck Krider of the University of Kansas.
NEKCRED has now developed a regional, six-county action plan dealing with infrastructure, including transportation, telecommunications, and regional airport facilities; industrial development, retention, and marketing; and job training in the northeast Kansas region. Goals were approved and committees have been established.
Glenda says, "The ultimate reason for doing this is to achieve a unified effort for economic development. We can be more successful if we work as a region."
And while in previous years the growth of rural areas has fallen behind that of the cities, Glenda sees positive opportunities. She says, "People are moving back to smaller communities to get away from crime in the cities. We have a high quality of life here, that is great for families."
Gripe -- or grow? That's the choice we have when we face challenges. In this case, these leaders of northeast Kansas chose not to gripe, but to grow a solution to meet their challenges. The private sector has come together to form a six-county coalition, a self-help effort at work in rural Kansas. We're thankful for people like Senator Sallee and Glenda Purkis, whose initiative and cooperative effort are making a difference in our state.
Here's a story we can get fired up about -- and I do mean, fired up...
Let's go to the remote backwoods of Alaska, where a bush pilot needs to start his airplane engine in the arctic temperatures of the north. In these extreme conditions, that pilot's life may depend on his airplane engine starting. And thank goodness, the engine starts easily, due to a compact, portable engine pre-heater to which it was attached.
And where do you suppose that pre-heater was made? Sure enough, in rural Kansas.
What is a pre-heater made in rural Kansas doing in the wilds of Alaska? Well, the answer is, it's doing exactly what it is supposed to do -- which is part of the reason for the worldwide success of this remarkable company.
Meet Mike Pivonka. Mike is President of Flame Engineering, Inc. in LaCrosse, Kansas. LaCrosse is the county seat of Rush County in central western Kansas. There are 3,842 people in Rush County, making it the 23rd smallest of the 105 counties in terms of population. LaCrosse itself is a town of 1,427 people. Now, that's rural.
But here in LaCrosse we find the site of Flame Engineering, the company which produces those engine preheaters and much, much more.
In the mid-1950s, Mike Pivonka's father Ralph designed a propane-powered mechanical torch for burning weeds and brush on the family farm near LaCrosse. It worked so well that neighbors asked for some torches, and eventually making them grew into a business. The Pivonkas founded their own company called Flame Engineering, Inc.
Flame Engineering produces a variety of products related to their original propane torch. For example, the Red Dragon line includes their very popular weedburner. These torches can be used for other things too, like heating metal, thawing snow and ice, or drying or sterilizing certain materials.
The company also makes roofing torches, which use the propane flame to heat asphalt-like material when applying it to a roof. The airplane engine preheaters we referred to in Alaska use warm air from the propane flame to keep the engine warm enough to start.
Much of this technology can be put to use right here on the farm. The Red Dragon Row Crop Flamer attaches to a tractor and, when driven through a field of cotton or corn, will kill weeds and insects without adversely affecting the growing crop. This eliminates the risk of chemical residues or runoff. Then there's the Red Dragon Hitch line, which is a set of tow bars which can be attached to pickups or other light trucks to haul equipment.
There's even a leisure line of Red Dragon equipment, including propane-powered patio lights, patio woks -- no, not sidewalks, these are woks spelled w-o-k-s -- for outdoor cooking, and the Weed Dragon, a weedburning torch designed for the homeowner. The list of products goes on and on.
Mike Pivonka, a Fort Hays State grad, has been with the company almost from its inception. Mike has two sons: Jason, who is in sales for the company, and Lane, who is currently majoring in business at Kansas State University.
Today this company based in LaCrosse Kansas is selling products all over the U.S. and into Canada, Mexico, Australia, and other countries, and has become a multi-million dollar business.
So why remain in LaCrosse? Marketing manager Tim Morse, a K-State grad, says, "We like it here. We have an educated work force, with a good work ethic. We have less overhead than we would have in a large city." Shipping is perceived to be a challenge in bad weather, but LaCrosse is centrally located to ship to either coast.
It's time to say goodbye to the wilds of Alaska, where our bush pilot is using a pre-heater made in rural Kansas to start his airplane. It's a story we can get fired up about, because the flames of that propane torch have fueled a wave of economic development in this region of Kansas. We're thankful for the hard work and entrepreneurship of people like Mike Pivonka and Flame Engineering for the difference they are making in rural Kansas.
Today let's go to St. Petersburg in Russia. There's an international competition in track and field. Athletes from large cities all over the world are here. Here's one of the U.S. representatives. And where is he from? Would you believe, rural Kansas...
This is the story of a young man who is an international leader in track competition, and his roots are right here in the rural part of our State.
Meet Steve Fritz. Steve is currently in training for the 1996 Olympics, and he's also the assistant track and field coach at Kansas State University. He's originally from the town of Gypsum.
Gypsum is in Saline County in central Kansas. Steve says the people around are mostly farmers, the population is 365 people, and the town has one paved road. Now, that's rural.
Yet from these rural roots comes this international athlete.
Steve's parents still live at Gypsum where they own a gas station. His mom grew up on a farm near Gypsum that her family had homesteaded years ago, and she went to K-State. Steve played lots of sports in high school, and he went to Hutchinson Community College on a basketball scholarship. The Hutch basketball team was outstanding, and they had two excellent seasons.
Then came March 19, 1988. The Hutchinson team was in the final game of the national junior college basketball tournament. But Hutch was behind by one point with 20 seconds to play. And who made the winning shot that brought the national title to Hutchinson, Kansas? Steve Fritz.
And the story goes on. Steve tried out for the track team too. Two and a half months after the basketball championship, he became the national junior college champion in the decathlon.
Steve went on to K-State, where he also played for the basketball team and competed in track. He competed in the decathlon, which is a collection of ten different track events: several short and long distance races, long jump and high jump, shotput, discus, pole vault, javelin, and hurdles. It's sort of like an all-around athlete competition.
One day Steve was talking to an athlete from Missouri who said, "If you ever want to be really good, you'll have to train in California," where the weather's nice and there's lots of media. But Steve Fritz didn't take that advice. He continued to work hard right here in rural Kansas.
That hard work led him to the World University Games in Sheffield, England and to competitions in such places as the Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Argentina.
And listen to these results: Steve was Big 8 champion in the decathlon two years in a row, had a world championship time in 1993, won a silver medal at the 1994 Goodwill Games, holds the American record for the one-hour decathlon and the world's record for the indoor pentathlon, and is listed as the number four all-time decathlete in U.S. history.
Sorry, California. You didn't have it after all.
But how does someone from small-town Kansas have such international success?
Steve Fritz says, "My background helped me (compete in several different events). In a small school, you have to do a lot of things. It's nice that I have all that support back home from my family.
"I have been blessed with athletic ability, but I've put in a lot of work. And I was very fortunate that Coach Rovelto (the K-State track coach) came here when he did. Without him, I wouldn't have developed the way I have."
Steve says, "I don't like traffic, and I love the rural areas."
It's time to say goodbye to St. Petersburg in Russia and it's international track competition. Instead, we'll travel halfway around the globe to the home of one of the best competitors there, Steve Fritz, who has never forgotten his rural roots while making a difference in the global competition of track and field. And, good luck in the 1996 Olympics.
Kansas does have its contrasts. Is there any better illustration of that than the difference between Johnson County and Johnson City? The names are similar, but they are mighty different. It's like the difference between lightning and lightning bug.
Johnson County and Johnson City are at opposite ends of the state. One is as far east as you can go in Kansas, and the other is as far west as you can go in Kansas. And perhaps they are opposites in other ways as well.
Everyone knows Johnson County, of course. That's where we find the highly urbanized and developed suburbs of Kansas City on the eastern edge of Kansas. Of course, it's right next to Missouri. Johnson County has a population of up towards half a million people.
On the other hand, some eastern Kansans may not even know that Johnson City exists. Johnson City -- or Johnson as people there call it -- is a town at the far western end of the state, in Stanton County in southwest Kansas. In fact, Stanton County borders Colorado and the mountain time zone.
Johnson County has a population density of 824 people per square mile. Stanton County has a population density of three per square mile.
The town of Johnson has a population of 1,348 people. Compared to Johnson County, Johnson's population represents less than one thousandth of one percent of the population of its urban namesake. Now, that's rural.
If people don't know about Johnson, that's a shame, because it is a community with a lot to offer, including some really nice people. One of those is Gary Jorgenson.
Gary is actually a transplant. He is originally from a rural area of Wisconsin. He studied ag engineering technology there and became involved in the canning industry. Their crops were a little different than down here in the wheat belt. He dealt with crops like peas, sweet corn, head lettuce, carrots, and spearmint.
I didn't even know spearmint was a crop -- I thought it was a gum...
Anyway, after some time in Chicago, Gary and family wanted to get back to the country. That view ultimately led him to apply to a popcorn company in Illinois, which hired him to work with popcorn growing in southwest Kansas.
After seven years with the popcorn company, Gary founded an information resource business named AgVision Research.
Gary says, "This is a strong agricultural area, but corn and wheat aren't providing the returns we would like. We are asking, how can we gain more value for our people?"
Gary is working with local entrepreneurs on several projects which would benefit the community. These range from popcorn processing to land development to new uses for wheat straw.
That last one was interesting to me, because wheat straw now is essentially a waste product. It's what's left over after the grain is harvested.
But as Gary and others such as a group called the 21st Century Alliance see it, wheat straw could be compressed into particleboard that could be used in construction or other consumer applications. If such a waste product can be placed into a new, high value consumer use, it's good for producers and good for rural development in the region.
So Gary and his colleagues will continue to work on the possibilities.
Gary is a believer in small town business. He says, "I think the day will come that people will want to leave the cities to go to rural areas for a quality of life, like good schools and safe streets. We have found generosity, integrity, cooperative spirit, and community support."
And what does Gary like most about Johnson? Gary says, in a nutshell, "It's the people."
Kansas does have its contrasts. It's a long way from Johnson County to Johnson City. But once we get to know each other, we find we have a common appreciation of people. And I appreciate people like Gary Jorgenson, whose enterprising spirit is making a difference in rural Kansas.
So you're driving along Interstate 70 and it's been a while since lunch. You're hungry for something yummy and sweet. In your mind's eye, you imagine a chocolate -- no, a whole box of chocolates. Mmm, that would be good. In fact, it's as if you can see that box of chocolates turning in the sky ahead of you right now...and there it is!
What's going on here? Are you having some sort of sweet tooth-induced hallucination or Valentine's Day flashbacks? No, you can relax. That giant box of chocolates you see turning in the sky is on a Russell Stover sign, and it's in front of a huge, new facility which produces Russell Stover chocolates.
That's when you know that you're near Abilene, Kansas. Abilene is the site of the newest Russell Stover plant in the country.
Of course, Abilene is already known as a wonderful location for history and tourism. Now, it can add to its claims to fame that it is part of an international chocolate enterprise.
And I'm glad that the latest addition to the Russell Stover system isn't in New York or LA, it's in a central Kansas town of 6,242 people. Now, that's rural.
The roots of the Russell Stover company go back to 1923. In that year, Mr. and Mrs. Russell Stover began a candy business in their bungalow home in Denver, Colorado. The business grew and grew.
Today the company headquarters is in Kansas City, Missouri and the company is international. It has candy kitchens at five locations and a network of thirteen distribution centers across the country.
And listen to this: this company which began in Mrs. Stover's home now sells candy in more than 46 retail shops, 700 department stores, 10,000 mass retailers, and 18,000 drug stores and card shops. Its products go nationwide and even to Canada and Australia. It is the largest producer of fine boxed chocolates in the United States.
Robinn Weber, an executive of Russell Stover, told me how the new plant came to Abilene. He said, "The owners were interested in expanding our manufacturing in the midwest. We started a search for locations and narrowed it down to two states."
Robinn said the Kansas Department of Commerce was very helpful. Through that agency, the company got profiles on the cities which could be possible host sites. Then it gathered more specific information on the availability of labor, land, and incentives.
Of course, convenient access to Interstate 70 and I-35 were pluses for Abilene. And in May 1995, the new chocolate plant opened just west of Abilene.
Robinn Weber says, "We felt that there was a good work ethic and a good attitude among midwestern people, and we have found it to be so. Abilene is a great community, and we've been very pleased."
One very interesting thing about the demographics of employment at this facility is that 40 percent of the employees come from Dickinson County, where Abilene is located. That means 60 percent of the workers come from outside Dickinson County, which demonstrates the huge economic impact that the company has on an entire rural region.
In closing, there are three notes of good news that relate to all this: first, the plant in Abilene is already expanding with the addition of a box-making facility to their operations. That makes sense -- you've got to have the box to put the chocolates in.
Second, Russell Stover has plans to further expand in Kansas. A plant in Iola is expected to be operating in early 1997.
And the third bit of good news is that the Abilene plant includes an outlet store, where you can buy the yummy stuff. You can get great bargains on Russell Stovers chocolates there. Yes, even on chocolate candies, you can buy direct from the factory and get a great deal.
So you're driving along Interstate 70 and its been a long time since lunch. When you see the giant box of Russell Stover chocolates turning in the sky, you know you've found something yummy to eat, but you also know that you are seeing economic development at work. We're thankful for Robinn Weber and the people of Russell Stover, whose hard work and expansion are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Did you know there are some people from Japan visiting Kansas? Sure enough, a group from Tokyo is visiting the state. They're probably touring around Wichita and Topeka, and maybe going to Dodge City. In fact, where are they now?
The answer is, they are in Plevna, Kansas, a town of 117 people. Now, that's rural.
Why in the world is a group of international visitors from Tokyo stopping in one of Kansas' smallest towns? Well, the answer to that question is today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Charles Kern. Charles and his wife Shirley are co-owners of the historic Plevna General Store.
Charles has been described as a former schoolteacher and jack-of-all-trades. He graduated from Emporia State and did master's work at Kansas State. After teaching and working in various businesses, he was looking for a place where he didn't have to travel so much.
So in January 1987, Charles Kern took over ownership of the historic general store in Plevna.
Plevna is in south central Kansas, along Highway 50 in western Reno County. And when we say this store is historic, we mean it.
The business was first started in the 1880s by a man named J. N. Hinshaw. It was known as Hinshaw General Mercantile.
A 1910 advertisement for the store offered bread at 5 cents per loaf, and six loaves for 25 cents. That's better than a blue-light special...
In 1914, Hinshaw relocated the store to its current building, which Charles Kern has restored. In 1989, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The store is described as "one of the most architecturally elaborate examples of an early 20th century detached commercial building remaining in Kansas."
The building has the original pressed-tin, 14 foot ceilings and preserved hardwood floors, along with the original scale, cash register, display cases, and arched windows.
A root cellar is located under the building, and Kern still uses a hand-operated cargo elevator to get there. Many of the relics which he found in the root cellar are now on display in the main store. This includes such items as Peet Brothers Soap, B&R Root Beer Flavor, and Dr. Hess Stock Tonic. You probably won't find that at your local discount mega-mart either...
Of course, the store has modern conveniences too. Along with souvenirs, you can buy food and some groceries there, and even rent a video. A few years ago, Charles Kern started offering a sandwich at lunchtime. It was such a success that his deli menu has now grown to more than 30 items.
The historic, down-home feel of this place has made it something of an attraction. Charles said he has indeed had visitors from Japan as well as Queens, New York; LA; England; New Zealand; and Germany.
So why is it that international visitors are drawn to the Plevna General Store? I think it's because the store is historic, authentic, and fun.
And what is it that Charles Kern likes about small towns? He says, "It's relaxing. And I enjoy meeting and talking to the nice people and families who come in."
Yes, we occasionally have people from Japan visiting Kansas. No doubt they take in many sights, but at least one of their stops was the historic general store in Plevna, Kansas. Who would have guessed that a site of international interest is found in one of Kansas's smallest towns?
Maybe some of us Kansas natives take for granted some of the good things around us. We're thankful for Charles and Shirley Kern, whose investment in history and in small town America is making a difference in rural Kansas.
Fastest growing towns
Recently some data came across my desk regarding the demographics of Kansas. It was a listing of population changes in Kansas cities during the early years of the 1990s. The more I dug into those numbers, the more interested I became.
So on today's program, we're not going to visit with just one person, just one business, or just one community -- we're going to take a whirlwind tour of the 20 fastest growing towns in Kansas. And guess what -- the greatest growth is not in our cities, but in our small towns. In fact, 19 of these 20 fastest growing towns don't even appear on the map of the central United States, which I have in my office.
First, let me give you some background and some caveats. This data comes from the U.S. Bureau of the Census. It reflects the change in population from 1990 to 1992. That is a short time frame, so we need to be careful not to place too much weight on the short-term trends.
Furthermore, the growth is measured in percentages, which can be a bit misleading because a very small town with a small numerical increase will show an extremely high percent of growth. Nonetheless, the numbers do show where high rates of growth occurred in the early part of this decade.
So based on the percentages, here is what we learned. There were 86 Kansas towns which grew by five percent or more during this time period. There were 20 towns which grew by 10 percent or more. That's a lot, in just 2 years. Let's take a look at these top 20.
First of all, you won't find Wichita, Kansas City or Topeka among them. In fact, the average size of the 20 towns with the fastest growth was less than 2300 people. In other words, the highest growth was happening in our smaller communities.
There was one exception to this rule: the town of Leawood. Leawood is a town of more than 22 thousand in the Kansas City metropolitan area. It experienced growth of nearly 14 percent.
But if you don't count Leawood's population, the average size of the other 19 fastest-growing towns was 1,223 people. And that includes towns like Kechi, population 656; Andale, population 632; Longford, population 76; and Matfield Green, population 37. Now, that's rural.
If towns that size are growing fast, does this mean that people are flocking back to rural Kansas? Not necessarily, but it does mean that people are attracted to the smaller communities within commuting distance of the larger cities or with other attractions.
For example, six of these top 20 communities are located around Wichita. These are Rose Hill, Mount Hope, Kechi, Andale, Cheney, and Garden Plain.
Another five towns in the top 20 are found around the Kansas City / Lawrence area. These are Basehor, Lecompton, Eudora, Tonganoxie, and Wellsville.
It seems people are willing to commute farther and farther. Another of the top 20 towns is La Cygne, which is 41 miles from Kansas City.
Then there are a set of communities which have recreational opportunities, such as proximity to a lake. The towns of Pomona, Longford, and Milford would fit this category.
The only far western town on the top 20 growth list is Holcomb, a town of 1,612 outside of Garden City. Holcomb is the site of a huge beefpacking plant, which attracts employees.
Another top 20 town is Grandview Plaza, located right on Interstate 70 and close to Junction City.
Then there's the town of Matfield Green. Matfield Green is nestled in the scenic Flint Hills, and is close to I-35, the Kansas Turnpike.
So what's the bottom line of this analysis? My conclusion is, the numbers suggest that people are wanting to return to small town Kansas. That small town quality of life is making a difference when people choose where to live. They are seeking safer schools for their children, friendly neighbors, and quieter streets. Many are retirees.
But not just any small town will do. All these fast-growing small towns are reasonably close to a larger city or job center, or to some other attraction such as a lake or an interstate highway -- all, that is, except for one.
During this program, I've mentioned 19 of the 20 fastest growing small towns. But the last one doesn't seem to fit any of the categories mentioned above. So we'll learn about that community on our next program.
On our last program, we took a look at a list of the top 20 fastest growing towns in the state of Kansas during the early years of the 1990s. The list was interesting, because these fastest growing towns were generally smaller communities.
However, they were also close to some other attraction. A majority were close to a job center such as Kansas City or Wichita. A number of others were close to a lake or to an interstate highway.
But there was one which didn't seem to fit any of these categories. It isn't on a lake or an interstate, and it is quite a ways from Kansas City or Wichita. According to the Kansas Department of Transportation map, there are no services in this town. It is located in a county which lost population from 1990 to 1991. Yet this town experienced more than 12 percent growth from 1990 to 1992.
Now let me say that sometimes percentages can be misleading. The truth is that this town only grew by 5 people -- but the percentage was high because the beginning population was only 39! So maybe growth of only 5 people doesn't sound like much.
But then you ask, in a time when people perceive that most towns that small are dying away, how could they have experienced any growth at all? Today, we'll visit this tiny town which had a growth spurt.
Meet Ona Mae Hunt. Ona Mae is the city clerk of Harris, Kansas. Harris is a town of 44 people. Now, that's rural.
It's located in Anderson County, in eastern Kansas. The largest town nearby is Garnett, a town of 3,210. Garnett is also the county seat.
Ona Mae is proud of the turnaround which Harris has experienced. She says, "In 1960, Harris was a shambles. Houses were falling down and weeds were growing up." Unfortunately, this is a fate which befell many of the smallest towns in rural America.
But Ona Mae says, "A farmer named Roy Monroe retired and he decided to take it on as a personal mission to clean up Harris." Doesn't that sound like he was a sheriff in an old western movie? But Roy Monroe didn't clean up this town with six-shooters, he did it with a lawnmower, some tools, and lots of hard work and persuasion.
Ona Mae says, "He cut weeds and built four new homes in town. And he went to the owners of the older buildings and said, 'If you buy the lumber, I'll help you redo your building.'" And it worked.
It built on a community spirit which already existed around Harris. Ona Mae says there is a strong population of German Baptists who settled in and around the community early in this century. Not only do they and their descendants have a strong faith, they work very hard at keeping their homes and grounds meticulously clean.
Between their efforts and those of Mr. Monroe, now deceased, plus the ongoing work of current residents, the town of Harris is today a remarkably clean and neat little community. It is quiet, friendly and uncongested, which makes it attractive to retirees and even to young families.
The factors which strengthened this community represent some of the things we find in the best of our small towns: self-help, community spirit, cleanliness, individual responsibility, and volunteerism.
Ona Mae says, "It is such a nice clean little place that as farmers retire, they come here to town, and there's even some young families. The Recreation Hall built by Mr. Monroe is still used each weekend for Saturday night square dances and Monday night card parties."
And speaking of volunteers, Ona Mae has served since 1972 as city clerk of Harris. I guess they don't have term limits there -- but neither do they have pay raises! During all those years, Ona Mae hasn't taken one penny of salary from the town.
It's time to say goodbye to Harris, Kansas. No, it's not near a city, a lake, or an interstate highway, and it has no services. It's one of the smallest towns in the state. But in the face of overwhelming odds, it managed to grow in the early part of this decade. We're thankful for people like Roy Monroe and Ona Mae Hunt, whose community spirit and volunteerism are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Does your family ever go to a drive-in restaurant? Well, let's do something different today. Instead of a drive-in restaurant, how about a ride-in restaurant instead?
What in the world is a ride-in, you ask? Well, imagine a cafe in the middle of the grasslands where cowboys can come riding up on their horses, tie 'em to a hitching post, and come in for dinner.
It sounds like a movie, doesn't it? Or maybe Marshall Dillon. But you don't have to go to Hollywood -- it exists for real right here in Kansas.
Meet Dianna Carlson. Dianna is the owner of the Cassoday Cafe in Cassoday, Kansas. By the way, though it's pronounced Cassidee, it's spelled Cassoday.
Cassoday is a town of -- get this -- 95 people. Now, that's rural.
But unlike other small towns, thousands of travelers on the Kansas Turnpike have seen the name of this one. That's because the town happens to be located on a straight line between Topeka and Wichita, so when they built the turnpike, it came right by Cassoday. And Cassoday's name is on a turnpike exit there, because that's where the turnpike crosses Highway 177.
So thousands of travelers have seen the name of this rural town, and some have discovered the Cassoday Cafe and Dianna Carlson.
Dianna is originally from Houston. She came to Wichita and then to Cassoday. Now she and her husband live on a ranch near Cassoday, where they run cattle. A son is attending K-State.
Nine years ago, a friend of Dianna's bought the local cafe, which had been around for a long time. She asked Dianna to help her run it. Then in January 1995, her friend retired, and Dianna bought it.
You need to understand that this is the heart of cattle country. Cassoday is nestled in the southern Flint Hills, which is some of the best cattle grazing land in the world. Ranches are big and cattle are king. Horses are an active part of ranch life here.
And sure enough, there is a hitching post in front of the Cassoday cafe. Once in a while, a cowboy will actually ride in on horseback and tie up his horse while he enjoys dinner. The only problem is, sometimes there isn't room to park his horse. I don't remember Marshall Dillon having that problem...
Yes, the Cassoday Cafe is a popular place. Take a look at the guest register. There are names from Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York.
And it remains popular with the locals. Dianna offers a buffet, which she says the cowboys really like. The buffet enables them to get a good meal fast.
And listen to this: the buffet might feature three different meats, fifteen homemade salads, and homemade desserts.
The food is good, and so is the atmosphere. The sign out front says, "Good Food and Gossip since 1879." The restaurant has an authentic feel, with western art and pictures on the wall, and red bandannas on the tables. One decoration is a piece of barbed wire in the shape of a cowboy boot, and a bootjack by the front door has "eat beef" printed on it.
One of the more unusual items I saw when I was in was a clock brought in by one of her customers who is a railroad worker. Would you believe that when the clock chimes the hour, it makes a train whistle? Now there's a gift for the man who has everything...
Dianna says that when she and her friend started, having 25 or 30 people in the restaurant was a good day. Now, 100 customers is nothing. They had 216 people for a recent Sunday buffet, and during hunting season they may have two or three hundred.
They are also doing more and more catering. For the annual festival and rodeo in June, they may serve barbecue to five or six hundred people.
And how does Dianna feel about Cassoday? She says, "It's a little town with a big heart. Everyone works hard and everyone helps each other. It feels like a family."
Would you like a change from the usual drive-in restaurant? Well, hitching posts and all, this one might be considered a ride-in restaurant. This is where Dianna Carlson is keeping alive the western heritage and community spirit that make a difference in rural Kansas.
Bill BaalmannToday let's go to Disneyland!....Your kid seems to be more excited about that than you are...but anyway, let's go to Disneyland! Hop on the tram for a ride around the Magic Kingdom. Look at all the wonderful sights. And did you ever stop to think where the pieces of that tram itself came from?
Well, in the near future, the answer to that question will be: right here in rural Kansas.
Yes, there is a company here in Kansas that will be producing the seats, fenders, and some other plastic components of the trams at Disneyland. And this company isn't based in Kansas City or Wichita. It's in the Kansas town of Rush Center, population 177 people. Now, that's rural.
Think about that. Millions of people from all over the world have come to Disneyland. What are the chances that they would be riding on a tram with components made in a mid-Kansas town of 177 people? It's another little-known success story in rural Kansas.
Meet Bill Baalmann. Bill is co-founder of KBK Industries in Rush Center, Kansas. Rush Center is due south of Hays and west of Great Bend, if that helps you place it in the state.
Bill is originally from Schulte, a small town near Wichita. After graduating from business college in Wichita and serving in the military, he went into business in the oilfields of Kansas. In 1975, he and two others formed KBK Industries. KBK produces various forms of fiberglass reinforced products. These are essentially high quality, extra strength plastics.
For example, the company started producing large plastic tanks for use in the oilfields and in septic systems. Today the company still produces those tanks for agricultural, oilfield, or chemical use, but it also diversified as the oil industry went through hard times.
Today KBK produces products ranging from seats and fenders for trams at Disneyland to aerodynamically shaped cabs for lawnmowers or large trucks. Companies which have used their products include such names as John Deere, Ford, and Peterbilt.
Gene Kyle and Bill Baalman are co-founders, partners, and senior officers of the company. And would you believe that this company based in a rural town of 177 people now employs 50 people, ships products worldwide, and has 4 million dollars of sales a year?
It's remarkable. But things were not always easy. In 1977, the company had a fire and the facility was a total loss. But in 1978, the company rebuilt.
Of course, the company draws employees from over a large area. It's location is truly rural. What other multi-million dollar manufacturing business do you know with an address of Rural Route 2, Box 3?
So why is this company in Rush Center? Bill says, "We're in the middle of our market." And that makes sense, because they serve the oilfields and agriculture. Another advantage is that a sparse population means less hassles with traffic in shipping oversize tanks, for example. And then there's the people.
Bill says that getting enough employees from the rural labor force can be a problem, but the work ethic of rural people is good. He says, "Gene and I are rural people anyway. And we have great customers. Dealing with good people in the agriculture and oil business is a high point."
And rural areas must be good for families. Bill and his wife have seven children, six of them boys. Don't you suppose things were lively around that household? They could field their own basketball team, complete with reserves. And imagine being the only daughter among all those boys. In fact, daughter Rebecca must have learned to hold her own: she's now a student at Kansas State.
Let's go to Disneyland! Yes, amid all the sites and sounds of one of the world's greatest family attractions, there will soon be trams with components that were made in small-town Kansas. It's another example of a remarkable business operating in a rural setting. We're grateful for people like Bill Baalmann and Gene Kyle, whose hard work, initiative and entrepreneurship are making a difference in rural Kansas.
And by the way, could I have a picture of Mickey Mouse?...
Gary and Marilyn Jones
Don't you hate stop-and-go traffic? I do. I can't stand it when the traffic is so heavy ahead of me that I have to stop my car and then let it creep forward.
Recently I encountered such congestion on a drive in Kansas. But this wasn't in some urban rush-hour caused by automobiles. I had to stop my car because of a flock of guinea hens crossing the road. And let me tell you, that's a lot more entertaining than any rush hour with cars.
Where did I find such stop-and-go traffic? The answer is, the Jones Sheep Farm near Peabody, Kansas, site of today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Gary and Marilyn Jones, the owners and operators of Jones Sheep Farm. This remarkable couple is originally from the town of Dexter in southern Kansas. Dexter is a town of 320 people. Now, that's rural.
Gary and Marilyn went to college at Oklahoma State. In 1961, they moved to Peabody, Kansas where Gary took the job as agriculture teacher in the high school there. Thirty-two years later, Gary retired as Peabody's ag teacher.
Gary also has a masters degree from K-State. In fact, son Mike, now a veterinarian at Seneca, and daughter Lynn with the Department of Education in Topeka, are both K-State grads as are their spouses.
I can tell you from experience that Gary was a successful and respected ag teacher. His students have had a great deal of success. One specialty of animal science knowledge for which Gary Jones was especially recognized can be summarized in one word: Sheep.
There is no ag teacher in Kansas with better knowledge of sheep breeds. Gary and Marilyn traveled all over the country to find different breeds of sheep, and at one point he had 23 different breeds of sheep represented in the livestock on his farm. And you thought Bo Peep was all there was to it...
As an educational exercise, Gary even had a class produce a book complete with photos on the breeds of sheep they had learned about. The Jones continue to raise sheep today.
Marilyn is an expert at spinning sheep's wool. In fact, for 25 years she taught classes in spinning. Believe it or not, she's had students in her classes from places as far away as Bermuda, California, and South Carolina.
The Jones also operate a greenhouse, as they have done for years. They sell bedding plants and vegetable plants locally.
In 1987, another dimension of the Jones Sheep Farm came about. Gary and Marilyn had purchased some neighboring farms, and they decided to open a bed and breakfast in an old historic home nearby.
Today the Jones Sheep Farm Bed and Breakfast is in the historic Bell house near Peabody. The quaint old house is furnished in a style reminiscent of the 1930s. The house has modern conveniences, with two exceptions: no telephone, and no TV. Imagine that: I'd finally have to let go of the remote control...
In fact, the house overlooks the sheep pasture, so the only sounds to be heard are the singing of the birds and the bleating of the sheep. It sounds relaxing, just talking about it.
Guests are served a home-made, farm fresh, gourmet breakfast every morning. Kids and others are welcome to roam the farm. In fact, they are welcome to help feed the animals and gather the eggs if they would like. Petting the lambs would be a high point for my little daughter.
When the B&B opened, some skeptic said, "Why would anybody want to come to a little house outside of Peabody?" But today the house is booked up well in advance. Recent guests include chefs from Kansas City and doctors from Lawrence and Wichita.
If you would like to be a guest at the Jones sheep farm, I'll give you a phone number to call. The Jones's say to call before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m., however, because it's hard to catch them on the farm. The phone number is 316-983-2815. That number again is 316-983-2815.
Don't you hate stop-and-go traffic? I do. But here at Jones sheep farm, we find stop-and-go traffic of a different sort. It's not just the guinea hens on the driveway, it's a place where we can stop the frenzied pace of urban life and go find rural America at its best. We're thankful for the efforts of Gary and Marilyn Jones, who are making a difference in rural Kansas.
And there's more. Because as significant as the Jones' various enterprises are, even more notable is their service to their community. And we'll hear about that on our next program.
Gary and Marilyn Jones - Peabody
What's that sound in the distance? Is it the siren of an ambulance, rushing someone to the hospital? Could be a close call.
The patient I'm describing today isn't a man or a woman -- it's a town. This is the story of a town that was given up for dead, by some people -- but through a lot of effort and leadership, it has come back to life.
Meet Gary and Marilyn Jones. Gary has retired after 32 years of teaching agriculture at Peabody High School. He and Marilyn run a sheep farm, greenhouse, and bed and breakfast near Peabody.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg of their activities.
Let's go back ten years. The town of Peabody was going downhill fast. Population was declining. Businesses on main street were closing, and being boarded up. One observer said, "The town was dead, it just hadn't fallen over yet."
But a flicker of life remained in this town, and some people decided to resuscitate it.
In 1989, a large, empty stone building on the west side of Peabody's Main Street was in decline. The old stone walls were at risk of falling down.
But some local citizens stepped in to purchase the old building. Their names: Gary and Marilyn Jones.
They had observed their community go downhill, and they wanted to see things get better. At the same time, the community was considering some of the programs which the Kansas Department of Commerce had to offer. One of these is called Main Street. It's a program through which the state offers technical assistance for downtown revitalization.
The catch is that it requires significant resources from the community. The towns in the Main Street program at that time were cities like Hutchinson and Manhattan -- cities with maybe 40,000 people. That was quite a contrast to the south central Kansas town of Peabody, population 1349 people. Now, that's rural.
But that year Commerce decided to offer a Main Street program for towns less than 5,000 people. Peabody got itself together, marshaled its resources, and joined the Main Street program. At that point, it was the smallest town to ever have joined the program.
Main Street brought in experts from outside Peabody, and they concluded that while Peabody didn't have a lot of industry or tourism, it did have a historic downtown that was worth saving. One of the members of that first Main Street board was Gary Jones.
Gary says, "As much as anything, Main Street brought about a change of attitude." Buildings downtown were cleaned and fixed up. Community festivals were held. Community spirit started to rise. Good things snowballed. One observer credits Marilyn Jones with bringing at least a half-dozen new businesses to town.
In 1989, Peabody had 11 retail businesses downtown. Five years later, it had 21 -- an increase of 91 percent. And the vacant retail space has gone down by 400 percent!
Today the Jones' old stone building is a store called the Mayesville Mercantile, and is on the national register of historic places. The Jones learned that the second floor of the old building had been a maternity hospital years ago. They converted it into a set of apartments called the Stork's Nest.
Marilyn Jones is president of the county historical society. She found that a large number of Civil War veterans lived at Peabody. Now the town is having chautaquas with Civil War re-enactors, and a cemetery tour is being held complete with interpreters in the cemetery in period costume portraying characters from Peabody's past.
Gary Jones says, "Six years ago, you could have bought and sold half the houses in town. Now, the rental housing is all full, and people are standing in line to buy."
What's that sound in the distance? No, it's not an ambulance coming, it's the sound of people. People having fun, people rebuilding their community, people celebrating their historic heritage. We're grateful for people like Gary and Marilyn Jones, whose hard work and community spirit are truly making a difference, in helping a rural town -- left for dead -- come back to life.
Today let's visit a community unlike any other we've featured on this program. Here we find lots of the things typical in a Kansas town: there's a lounge, a laundry, a place to buy gas, lots of telephones, a great place to eat, and lots of shopping. You can buy books, clothing, snacks, gifts, souvenirs, cowboy boots, auto and truck accessories, toys, and a great cinnamon roll. You can even get such things as a portable television, men's underwear, and diapers.
It sounds like a pretty good size town, wouldn't you say? Well, everything that I've just described is found under one roof.
And where is this town? Well, it's really not a town at all. In fact, it's all one business. But it's not some mega-mart in one of our larger cities either.
Now that you're thoroughly perplexed, let me explain. The community I'm describing is really a place called Beto Junction. And it's not in a town at all -- far from it -- but it has virtually all the services of a community.
Its formal name is Beto Junction Travel Plaza. But Beto Junction is what you and I would call a truck stop. It is a fascinating community in its own right.
Meet Kirk Williams. Kirk is president of Beto Junction Travel Plaza. Beto Junction is located due south of Topeka at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Highway 75.
When I say it's not located in a town, I really mean it. There is no incorporated city at this location, although some maps have added the name Beto Junction at this spot because of the services here. Until 1994, there were still party line telephones here. The mailing address is Lebo, eight miles away. Lebo is a town of 835 people. Now, that's rural.
But Beto Junction is a rural community in and of itself. Its history, including the origin of the name, is very interesting. Kirk's in-laws first built a truck stop here in 1975. While stopping at an old run-down gas station not far from there, they turned over a sign which said "Beto Junction."
Through research, they found that the name was derived years ago from the initials of the larger towns that were reached by the highways which crossed there. The towns and initials were B for Burlington, E for Emporia, T for Topeka, and O for Ottawa. It spells Beto. Hence, the name Beto Junction.
So, they adopted the name for the new truck stop. They leased it out in 1981 and took it back over in 1992. Today about 95 people are employed there.
Kirk Williams says they invested more than a million dollars in remodeling the place in 1992, and what a remarkable facility it is. It is twice as busy today as it was then. In fact, it is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. More than 2,000 people enter the doors of this facility every day, including truckers as well as other travelers.
I mentioned there was a great place to eat here -- but don't just take my word for it. In 1995, the Vivarin company surveyed hundreds of truckers in the U.S. and Canada to learn their favorites. When the votes were all tallied up, the location voted as the best truck-stop diner in the nation was Beto Junction.
And truckers know their food. The menu includes the hearty meals you might expect, like the Big Jake breakfast and a 14 ounce steak called the Hoss, but there's also a big salad bar and a Heart Smart platter.
Then there's those Beto cinnamon rolls, which cover a whole plate. Each roll weighs one pound or more -- and that's no exaggeration. So, bring a friend when you stop for breakfast.
Kirk Williams is a Topeka native who graduated from KU and held several positions in business around the country before coming to Beto. He says, "When my friends in the business from Chicago, Memphis, or New Jersey talk about their labor problems, I just have to smile. I believe the quality of the workers is better here. Rural people are trained to work."
And he says, "I like Kansas. I like the people."
It's time to say farewell to this community -- a community like none other we've featured on this program. We're thankful for people like Kirk Williams, whose hard work, entrepreneurship, and commitment to service in a rural setting are making a difference in the Kansas economy.
And pass the cinnamon roll, please.
Today let's visit a Haul of Fame. No, not the baseball hall of fame or the basketball hall of fame, or even the agricultural hall of fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas. This is a totally different hall of fame; one that's not spelled h-a-double ll, but rather h-a-u-l, as in hauling a load.
We're going to visit a company that makes various kinds of trailers used for hauling things or animals. And that phrase "haul of fame" is appropriate, because this company is internationally known for its production of high quality trailers.
Meet Buzz Harris. Buzz is co-owner of Liberty Incorporated, the company that produces Travalong trailers and uses the copyrighted phrase, The Haul of Fame.
Liberty Inc. is based in north central Kansas, in the Marshall County town of Waterville. Waterville is a community of 543 people. Now, that's rural.
Yet this rural town is the site of this internationally known trailer company. In fact, would you believe there are four stock trailer companies found in this one community? On a per capita basis, that must make Waterville the stock trailer capital of the universe.
Buzz Harris grew up not far away, near Centralia. He went to K-State and took several positions in banking. In 1991, Buzz, Tom, and Nancy Grieshaber, and John Call bought this company in Waterville.
At that point, the company had been operating for about 20 years, had about 15 employees, and virtually no dealer network.
Today, there are 70 employees and a network of more than 200 dealers nationwide. Its products have sold as far away as Canada, New Zealand, and Germany. The company is expanding its plant for the third time in the last year. In addition, they have recently purchased an aluminum trailer manufacturing company in Missouri. What is the secret of this success?
Buzz Harris says, "It's probably three things: quality of product, quality of people, and service."
And what exactly is it that this company does? Well, it started out making what you and I would call a horse trailer: that is, an enclosed wheel-mounted vehicle which can hold horses or cattle and is pulled behind a pickup truck. It can carry a horse to a rodeo or show, or to a pasture to work. For that matter, it can carry livestock anywhere. These trailers are a cowboy's best friend -- maybe after his horse itself.
But to say this company makes trailers is like saying Noah took a boat ride. The company makes high quality trailers including custom projects, with hand-done pinstriping and special metallic paints.
Besides carrying livestock, these can also include living space for people, if they are staying overnight at a horse show or trail ride, for example. Of course, that means the trailer saves money by avoiding motel bills -- at least that's what I tried to tell my wife...
Anyway, Liberty Inc. is now working with a company in Kansas that will finish the living quarters on these trailers. Imagine a stock trailer with a shower, microwave, stereo -- even a queen size bed. That's my idea of roughing it, and it's possible through these companies.
Liberty also produces flatbed or enclosed utility trailers. And as I said, all types of these products can be custom-made. Buzz Harris says, "We have gifted people. We can tailor-make the trailer for you. Our guys can do anything."
And the trailers have been tailor-made. Buzz Harris says, "We've built trailers for everything from elk to emu." These might include special gates, removable panels, or other special features.
The company likes to incorporate innovations from its workers, dealers, and customers. For example, Liberty is now outfitting its stock trailers with composite flooring, which is made from recycled tires and plastic gallon jugs. Not only is this good for the environment, it is more flexible than lumber yet has a 20 year warranty.
Yet Buzz seems most proud of his people. Of the employees at Liberty Inc., he says, "These are good, hard-working rural folks, the type of people you'd like to be associated with, people you'd like to have as your neighbor."
It's time to say goodbye to Buzz Harris and the people at Liberty Inc. We appreciate the internationally known trailers they make for hauling and the employment they generate in a rural setting, but most of all, we're thankful for these good people who are making a difference. For their good efforts, they have earned their place in a hall of fame.
Now here's a story that makes me really want to ham it up...and when I say ham, I mean it. Today's program is about pork. No, not the kind they blame politicians for, this is the type of pork that goes on your plate and tastes delicious.
Pork will be one of the products processed at the new, state-of-the-art, 40 million dollar meat processing plant being constructed by Armour Swift-Eckrich near Junction City, Kansas. It will process boxed pork, beef, and turkey into sausage, and will create more than 300 new jobs.
But today's program is not about the new sausage plant, it's about a man who for years has been a leading producer of pork. It happens that he lives in the same county as the new plant.
Meet Fred Germann. Fred is a long-time farmer and pork producer in Geary County, in north central Kansas.
Fred is an outstanding agricultural producer, but more than that, he's an outstanding agricultural leader. For example, he is the only person in history to have served as president of both the Kansas Livestock Association and Kansas Pork Producers Council.
Fred was born and raised on a diversified farm in Riley County. When he was a little boy he planted corn in the back yard. That was the beginning of an agricultural career which leads today to an interest in international agricultural trade. As a 4-H youth, he won blue ribbons for his Duroc swine and began a lifelong career in pork production.
Fred majored in animal husbandry at K-State. He was an outstanding judge of livestock and served on K-State's livestock judging teams, where he placed in the top 10 in contests at Fort Worth, Kansas City and Chicago. See, we were in the top 10 even before Bill Snyder came along...
Fred returned to the farm after graduation. But in the early 1950s, there was a crisis: proposals were made to build a huge dam and reservoir on the Blue River, which would cover the Germann and other family farms with tons of water. This proposal was hotly contested, but in the end it prevailed and the family farm was lost.
Fred Germann says, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." So the family relocated to a new farm east of Junction City. Since he was on a new place, Fred decided to try a new technology: specific-pathogen-free, or SPF, pork. What that means is raising hogs under carefully controlled conditions to minimize disease and improve herd health.
His innovation and good management paid off. The Germann farm became the site of an internationally-known livestock enterprise. It is located near Dwight, Kansas, population 365 people. Now, that's rural.
As noted, Fred was a pioneer in producing SPF pork. In fact, for two years his herd produced more recorded purebred SPF litters than any other producer in the nation.
Fred sells breeding stock across the country from California to Maryland, and was one of a group to sell hogs in Korea. And speaking of sausage, one customer in the U.S. was someone you might recognize: Jimmy Dean.
With several partners, Fred developed the F & R swine operation which produced as many as 27,000 hogs a year. The Germanns also produce beef cattle and field crops.
I mentioned an interest in global agricultural trade. He has participated in ag trade missions and tours to such places as Taiwan, mainland China, and Russia.
Fred and Helen have two daughters, one grandson, and another grandchild on the way. Fred has been very involved in rural, industry, and conservation organizations, and has been quite active in his church.
Fred has had many honors, but he says that one of the things of which he is most proud is that he has assisted young people in getting started in agriculture themselves. Several producers who began as Fred's employees are now out on their own. Fred says, "They're among my best friends."
Yes, this story makes me really want to ham it up. It's about an outstanding leader of Kansas agriculture and the pork industry. As we celebrate the new sausage plant to be opening soon, we also celebrate the 75 years of Fred Germann's life. We appreciate his entrepreneurship and his attitude of service, which is making a difference in rural Kansas.
You've heard that old saying, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it"? Well today, we've come to it. And this is no metaphor. Today we're really going to visit a bridge unlike any we've had in Kansas before.
It's made of an innovative product produced by an entrepreneur and his company, right here in rural Kansas.
Meet Dr. Jerry Plunkett. Dr. Plunkett is president and CEO of Kansas Structural Composites Inc., in Russell Kansas.
Dr. Plunkett says his real interest is in composites, meaning these compound materials. Dr. Plunkett is an expert in developing these blended materials into various uses -- dealing with everything from warhead re-entry to artificial bones for people. Now he is thinking about bridges.
Jerry Plunkett is originally from Missouri, where he got his first degrees. His studies and work took him on to other places, including MIT. He was a vice-chancellor at the University of Denver. Throughout his career his primary focus was on these composite products.
His current company, Kansas Structural Composites, produces a composite of fiber-reinforced polymers in a honeycomb design. These are formed into structural panels which are corrosion-resistant and light-weight but strong.
This type of technology was developed by Ben and John Kunz during the past 35 years. Today, John Kunz is vice president of this company.
And that takes us back to crossing the bridge. In the coming months, this company will build a new bridge in Russell. The deck of the bridge will be made of these composite materials -- the first all-composite bridge in Kansas.
Why would you want to build a bridge out of composites? Well, it turns out there are several reasons: composite bridges are lighter and built and installed quicker than the conventional bridges. Compared to concrete, for example, a composite bridge would only weigh one-sixth as much, and the cost is less than half.
Sounds good so far, but there is one other little matter: Will it hold you up??
The answer to that question is yes. Research has been done by the National Academy of Sciences and others to show that these bridges can carry the load. Dr. Hugh Walker in K-State's Mechanical Engineering Department is one of those who has tested the product. In fact, Jerry Plunkett says that these composite bridges may last 100 years, compared to some conventional bridges which will only last 20.
Still, they want to be positive that the bridges are safe, so they're starting small. After a lot of testing, Kansas Structural Composites will put down the new, short-span bridge in Russell in a few months.
These composite panels will be placed over the existing steel framework. And I mentioned these can be built more quickly? Jerry Plunkett says these interlocking panels can be used to essentially rebuild an existing bridge overnight. For those of us who are sick of dodging orange barrels on the highway, that sounds like a great deal.
As I said, the company is based in Russell, Senator Dole's hometown in western Kansas. It's the county seat, with a population of 4,667 people. Now, that's rural.
So why would this innovative company be located in Russell? Jerry Plunkett says, "This is the place to be." For one thing, it's centrally located in a part of the country with high education and work ethic. Jerry Plunkett calls it the "productivity belt."
Beyond that, Russell is located on an interstate. And rural Kansas is home to a high number of deficient bridges. Jerry Plunkett believes that these composite bridges will offer a low-cost but safe alternative for replacing a lot of rural bridges that really need it.
Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. And now, we've come to it. We've come to a company which will soon be building a bridge deck from these composite materials. And we've also come to a place where innovative business-people are at work. We're grateful for entrepreneurs like Jerry Plunkett who are making a difference in rural Kansas.
And, we'll see you on the other side of the bridge.
Dave Jones - Bella Fencing
On this program, we're always looking for interesting enterprises. Today we find an interesting enterprise in a logical place, or at least one that is appropriately named: Enterprise, Kansas.
This is the story of Bella Corporation Fencing, a small company operating from a rural setting in a fascinating way. The owners of the company are Dave and Kathy Jones.
Dave is originally from California. He spent a career in the Army, including two stints at Fort Riley. In his first stint, he met and married his wife, who is a member of the Dalyrimple family from near Manhattan.
When his second stint at Fort Riley came, they wanted to live in the country. So they found a house and some acres near Enterprise.
Enterprise, Kansas is not a long commute from the Fort. It is just south of Interstate 70, east of Abilene in Dickinson County.
In fact, it's near Detroit -- but I don't mean the automakers city. Detroit, Kansas is an unincorporated settlement nearby. Enterprise itself is a town of 940 people. Now, that's rural.
But a rural setting was what Dave and his wife wanted, so they settled there. And on the side, Dave and his son started a fencing company from their home. That company is known today as Bella Corporation Fencing.
Now we're not talking about the type of fencing that they do in the Olympics here. This is a company that rents or custom-builds and installs commercial and residential fences, made of wood or chain link products.
The company began by renting out temporary fencing to families who were in government quarters at Fort Riley and who needed a temporarily enclosed yard. The business grew to include permanent fencing as well. In 1987, Dave retired from the Army as a major and developed his business full-time.
Today, that business which started with just a few rental accounts has more than 600 such accounts, and the company has done commercial fencing projects as far away as Iowa, Colorado, and Oklahoma.
The company now employs 15 people, counting Dave and his wife. She does the books and the bills, while he does the estimates and marketing. A son is production manager. Their daughter, by the way, graduated from K-State in landscape design and is in business in Topeka.
And what I found particularly fascinating about this business is the way they serve an entire region using modern telecommunications technology. For example: If you were to look in a Manhattan yellow pages phone book under fencing, you would find an ad for Bella Corporation. The ad gives local telephone numbers in Manhattan and Junction City, plus a toll-free 1-800 number.
But whatever number you call, it is routed to the office at Enterprise. The office staff will then make an appointment for a company rep to come to the site to make recommendations and a free cost estimate on the fencing that is needed.
In other words, the location of the business is transparent. It is totally convenient to the customer, because the phone call is free and the company rep comes to them. So the fact that the home office is miles away and out in the country is immaterial.
I believe this is the wave of the future. Telecommunications will enable people to operate businesses from their homes in a rural setting.
Dave Jones says, "With fax machines and computers, you can pretty much do anything from a barn that you used to do from an office building."
He says, "We like the rural setting. There's less traffic, safe schools, and a good place to raise the kids."
We're always looking for interesting enterprises. Sure enough, we found this one near Enterprise, Kansas. Yet what really makes a difference isn't the name, it's that spirit of entrepreneurship. We salute Dave Jones and his remarkable rural enterprise.
Today let's visit a small town hospital, where the medical staff has a decision to make. A young patient has come to the hospital, with an asthmatic attack. It's serious enough that the medical staff considers whether he should be sent to a specialist at the regional medical center 55 miles away.
What should they do? If only there was a way to send him there instantaneously....
Well, now there is. Of course, they can't physically send him there instantly -- this side of Star Trek, anyway -- but there is a way to send his image there instantly, and it's happening in rural Kansas.
It's a form of telemedicine. What that means is using technology to bring vital health care across the miles to the people of rural America.
Meet Kris Ochs. Kris is administrator of Grisell Memorial Hospital in Ransom, Kansas. Ransom is located in Ness County in west central Kansas. Ransom is a town of 383 people. Now, that's rural.
How does a town that size maintain a hospital? Well, the answer is, it makes changes, in response to the community.
Kris Ochs explains that this hospital has deep roots in Ransom. It was founded in 1928 by Dr. William Grisell, who ran it for nine years and then sold it to the community for one dollar.
Kris' husband is from nearby Utica. She came to the hospital as a registered nurse and worked her way up through the ranks to become administrator.
But the challenges were great. Costs were high, paperwork was burdensome, and the population was declining.
Then along came something called the "each-peach" program. EACH stands for Essential Access Community Hospital, and the peach part refers to a Rural Primary Care Hospital. The EACH-RPCH program provided grants for rural hospitals -- the "peaches" -- to join in a network with a larger regional medical center.
In 1993, the U.S. certified the first official peaches in the nation. I guess we could say that they picked a peach....Anyway, the first medical peach project in the state, and one of the first four in the nation, was the hospital was right here in Ransom, Kansas.
Using an EACH/RPCH grant, the Grisell Memorial Hospital bought an interactive video system to connect Ransom and Hays Medical Center. The equipment consists of video monitors and cameras which can be used to send a signal back and forth between the hospitals at Hays and Ransom.
This uses a technology called "compressed video." No, that doesn't mean somebody sat on your VCR. It means that the camera's electronic image is essentially compressed so that it can be transmitted through phone lines.
The video unit also includes a stethoscope which conveys heart and lung sounds when the physical exam is performed.
This means that a patient in Ransom can be viewed and checked by a specialist at Hays or even at the KU Medical Center, without ever having to leave town. That saves a lot of time, money, and stress.
The video equipment is mounted on a lazy susan, which can be turned toward the emergency room for consultations or toward the conference room for other purposes.
Kris Ochs says the equipment has been used for 60 to 70 patient consultations and numerous continuing education and in-service training courses.
She says, "Telemedicine will revolutionize the way medicine is practiced, especially as rural physicians retire and are replaced by nurse practitioners. I found it a wonderful way to link a small facility to a larger one..."
Well, here's a patient with an asthmatic attack. Looks like he needs to see a specialist immediately. And thanks to telemedicine, he can see that specialist almost immediately and receive that high quality of care while remaining in his hometown. We're thankful for people like Kris Ochs, whose pioneering spirit in telemedicine is making a difference in her hospital and in the lives of her patients.
Do you ever hear people talk about those "big telephone companies?" Well, here's a twist on that term. Today we'll visit a telephone company whose trade territory isn't exactly big. In fact, its trade territory is -- believe it or not -- slightly over one square mile.
Yet that small territory has not limited the vision of this company and the community it serves.
Meet Jim Dahmen. Jim is manager of the Columbus Telephone Company, a member-owned phone company in Columbus, Kansas.
Columbus is the county seat of Cherokee County, in the very southeast corner of the state. The county borders Oklahoma on the south and Missouri on the east. Columbus itself is a town of 3,338 people. Now, that's rural.
The one square mile territory of the Columbus phone company is believed to be the smallest in the country. How can a company survive with so little territory? Jim Dahmen says, "Our size allows us to respond to customers well."
That square mile is located right in Columbus, and Jim Dahmen and a host of volunteers have really worked to help the community succeed. He says, "The future of the community is the future of our company."
Jim is originally from Minnesota. He worked in business there and moved up through the ranks to become the state's assistant Commissioner for Economic Development. In 1979, he moved to southeast Kansas and joined MidAmerica Inc., the regional economic development organization, and came to Columbus Telephone in 1985.
At that time, the city of Columbus was under much stress. Businesses and people were leaving, and the downtown was falling into disrepair.
But local leaders responded. With the help of a consultant organization and input from more than 100 citizens, the community developed a strategic plan for the future. Jim Dahmen says, "The results of that analysis have been our marching orders for the last 10 years."
Since then, the downtown has been renovated twice, ten new businesses and 400 jobs have been created, and a new medical clinic has been built. And Columbus saw growth, in the face of declines all around rural Kansas.
When CoBank, the national cooperative bank, did a national video on rural development, one of the people they featured was Jim Dahmen. And in 1996 when it was time to appoint board members for the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, Jim Dahmen was one of those appointed.
But Jim doesn't brag on himself. He says, "The most rewarding thing is seeing growth in a balanced way."
Jim continues to serve on the town's economic development steering committee with other local leaders. And they do it in a fun way. The committee is called the Fat Wednesday group...Sounds to me like weigh-in day down at the rec center... But in this case, F-A-T stands for First And Third, which are the days of the month that the group meets. The goal is to get together to talk about the needs of the community.
They meet every first and third Wednesday at 7:01 a.m., for 59 minutes. Jim Dahmen says, "That group doesn't do anything, but it's been able to incubate more change than any other."
It starts with a can-do attitude, not waiting for someone else to come in and solve problems. In 1993, a community foundation was formed in Columbus, and it attracted more than $150,000. That demonstrates a community with the confidence to invest in itself.
Sometimes people talk about those "big telephone companies." Today we've met the other extreme: arguably the smallest telephone company in the country. Yet that one square-mile territory is home to people like Jim Dahmen, whose leadership and community spirit are making a difference in small-town Kansas.
Alvin and Zeneta Herbers
Today let's hear a story that covers A to Z. No, I don't mean just beginning to end, I mean a business with the name "A to Z." And this is no ordinary business. It's a long-time family dairy farm in the heart of Kansas.
Meet Alvin and Zeneta Herbers. Alvin and Zeneta are farmers near Rose Hill, Kansas. Their town is located in Butler County southeast of Wichita. Rose Hill is a town of 2,649 people. That's rural -- but stay tuned.
After a lifetime of farming, Alvin and Zeneta have decided to sell their dairy cows. The new owner runs a family dairy farm near the town of Sharon in Barber County. Sharon is a town of 231 people. Now, that's rural.
The rural lifestyle has always appealed to Alvin Herbers. He grew up on a farm where his parents were milking cows. In 1938, Alvin's parents moved to a farm near Rose Hill.
One day after a heavy snow, Alvin found a straw pile that had fallen over under the weight of the snow, and beneath was one of the dairy cows. He rescued that cow, and as a reward, his father gave that cow to Alvin. And that was Alvin's start in the dairy business.
Two important things happened while Alvin was in high school at Rose Hill: one was that he started selling Grade A milk, and the other was that he met a young lady named Zeneta. Of course, Zeneta became his wife and dairying became his occupation.
In those days, all the milking was done by hand. After Alvin got his own milk can, the milk from his cow went into his can and the milk from his parent's can went into theirs.
The dairy grew and expanded. After Alvin and Zeneta married, they farmed and sold milk on a share lease. One of their landladies was writing to Alvin and Zeneta and used their initials: A to Z. The name stuck, and it has been A to Z dairy ever since.
In 1960, Alvin and Zeneta bought a neighboring dairy farm, with the help and encouragement of a local banker. Alvin Herbers says, "(The new farm) needed a lot of work and cleaning up, so with the help of our friends and neighbors, it was a dream come true for us. We still want to thank everyone for their support."
The new place was innovative, having one of the first combination milk barn and milkhouse buildings in the area.
As the dairy grew, so did the family. Alvin and Zeneta had five children. Four of them graduated from K-State and the fifth attended two years and then finished at Wichita State. The oldest son, Martin, is farming with his father.
Their dairy was a landmark in the area. For years, busloads of schoolchildren would make a field trip to the Herbers' dairy. The kids would go into the milking barn and watch the workers attach the milking machines. If there were baby calves, the kids even got to feed a calf with a milk bottle. That's a great experience for kids, and a good opportunity for them to learn that milk doesn't just come from a grocery store.
But in the course of the years, Alvin had some bouts with ill health. So after 54 years of dairying, Alvin and Zeneta have sold the dairy cows, although they will continue to help their son farm.
Alvin Herbers says, "It was a good life." And Zeneta adds, "It was a wonderful place to raise a family. When the kids would apply for jobs, they wrote on the applications that they were raised on a dairy farm, and that was a plus because people knew that they were good workers."
It's time to say goodbye to Alvin and Zeneta Herbers. These are people who are not only committed to rural Kansas, they have helped to make it a better place. Through their hard work on the family farm, they've made a difference in rural Kansas. And through a willingness to share this with schoolchildren, they've helped future generations to learn.
And that's the story, from A to Z.
If you're a student in school, you never want to be considered dense, do you? Of course not. You want to be smart and get good grades. You don't want to be dense.
Today, we're going to talk about schools, and a population that is definitely not dense.
Of course, I'm making a play on words. Because I'm not referring to the intelligence of this particular population, I'm just talking about the distribution of them.
Meet Sonny Rundell. Sonny does a lot of thinking about schools, and he's located in a place that isn't dense at all -- by either definition. Sonny is a member of the State Board of Education, representing a district in far western Kansas.
Sonny and his wife live at Syracuse, in Hamilton County. And when I say far west, I mean it: Hamilton County is in the Mountain Time Zone, where it lops over from Colorado.
Syracuse is a town of 1,558 people and is the county seat. Hamilton County altogether has a population of 2,320 people, which makes it the sixth from the smallest population county in the state. Oh yes, we were talking about density, weren't we?
Demographers measure population density as the number of persons per square mile. In 1995, the average population density of Kansas was 31.4. But that average includes lots of differences. Johnson County, for example, had 841 persons per square mile. Riley County had 114. Wyandotte County had 1,019. By contrast, Hamilton County had 2.4 -- tied for the second smallest in the state. Now, that's rural.
In such a rural setting, how can a school survive? Sonny Rundell is a believer in such schools. He comes by that view from first-hand experience.
Sonny is originally from the Garden City area. He graduated from K-State and came back to the Garden City area to farm. His wife is from nearby Sublette. In 1969, they moved to Syracuse.
So how did he get so involved with education? Sonny says, "We have four children (3 of which graduated from K-State). When the kids were young, my wife and I went to a meeting at the school. We just decided it was very important to be involved with the schools."
And they got involved. First, it was with their children's activities. Then Sonny was elected to the Garden City Community College board. He later served 11 years on the Syracuse school board and went on to be elected to the State Board of Education.
Sonny has now retired from the farm, so he has time for these activities. Sonny says with a laugh, "I'm retired -- that means I've been tired before..." Gee, that definition could apply to a lot of us!
But in today's environment, is there hope for rural schools? Sonny Rundell says, "I think the hope is greater for rural schools." He suggests the smaller schools are attractive to many people, and that technology can help. Some research suggests that students learn better in smaller classes.
Several rural school clusters have formed interactive television networks through which classes can be taught at several schools at once. This technology bridges the distance found in rural regions.
For example, Sonny says, "There was a teacher at Hugoton, Kansas who taught a foreign language which was also needed at Healy," some 90 miles away. Through the interactive TV network, she was able to serve students at both schools.
And rural communities are collaborating in other ways. Sonny gives the example of the towns of Mullinville and Greensburg. The towns are seven miles apart. They've gone together to put a joint middle school in one town and a joint high school in the other. That's a win-win solution, that helps each operate more efficiently.
If you're a student in school, you certainly don't want to be considered dense. Sonny Rundell comes from a part of the country that isn't dense in any sense of the word: it's a very rural area, but it's also a place where people recognize the importance of school and community. We're thankful for people like Sonny Rundell, whose leadership and commitment to education are making a difference in the future of our state.
Do you ever need some TLC? Well, all of us do, sometime. But in this case I'm not referring to Tender Loving Care. I'm referring to a project where TLC stands for Tomorrow's Leaders for the Community.
This type of TLC was a project of an outstanding leadership development program in southeast Kansas. Today we'll learn about that program. It's called Leadership Coffeyville. The director of Leadership Coffeyville is Vickie Stonecipher.
Vickie explains that Leadership Coffeyville is a program for developing future community leaders. A number of towns and counties now have such programs. Coffeyville's began back in 1987.
The way the program works is that each year 20 citizens of the community are selected to go through training. They go through an eight-month training program to learn more about their community and their leadership skills. The program includes tours, speakers, and a reception with legislators in Topeka.
Coffeyville is located in Montgomery County on Kansas's southern border. In fact, Coffeyville is just two miles from Oklahoma. It's a town of 12,715 people. Now, that's rural.
Vickie grew up on a farm near Coffeyville. She married a young man who served in the Air Force. After his service, they moved back to a place near Coffeyville, within a quarter mile section of her great-grandparent's farm.
Vickie is an insurance agent with Coffeyville Insurance Associates. In 1991, she took the opportunity to participate in Leadership Coffeyville. She says, "It was a life-changing experience for me. I came to appreciate the value and importance of grass-roots participation."
So a year after graduating, Vickie was asked to serve as program director, which she does in addition to her job in insurance.
Now what does all this have to do with TLC? Well, each year the leadership class selects a project to benefit the community. Past projects have included scholarships and awards, renovation of a historic building, downtown clean-up, and development of a nature trail.
For example, true baseball fans may know that a famous big-league baseball pitcher named Walter Johnson lived in Coffeyville years ago. The leadership class researched and initiated a Walter Johnson scholarship for the best pitcher in the state.
Another year the leadership class decided to work on sprucing up the town of Coffeyville. It happened to be during the time of Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, so they called the clean-up project Operation Prairie Storm. During that time, 143 dilapidated structures were torn down and 62 homes were repainted. Boy, General Norman Schwartzkopf himself would have been proud...
What's that? TLC? Oh yeah. The 1994 class started a youth leadership program that came to be known as TLC: Tomorrow's Leaders for the Community. This was a college credit leadership program for high school juniors and seniors.
Through these various projects, the members of Leadership Coffeyville assist the people of the community in very tangible ways. In the meantime, class members get practical experience in teamwork and using their leadership skills.
The data suggests that the program is working well. Graduates of the program are involved in an average of 2.2 new leadership positions per graduate. And the graduates speak glowingly of the program and its opportunities for growth, networking, and new appreciation for the community.
Yes, everybody needs some TLC sometime. And certainly today, rural areas need to develop TLC -- as in Tomorrow's Leaders for their Communities -- because local, grass-roots leadership is really the key to a community's future. As Vickie Stonecipher says, "Going through this program helped me really want to make a difference locally." So, we salute Vickie and all those of who have done so well through Leadership Coffeyville.
Sharolyn Wagner, Bennington
Are you ready for a BIG story? Yes, this is a BIG story. In fact, it's a story about BIG.
BIG what, you ask? No, it's just about BIG.
Let me explain. In this case, BIG -- B-I-G -- stands for Bennington Improvement Group. This is a remarkable story of a self-help effort to improve the Bennington community.
Meet Sharolyn Wagner. Sharolyn and her husband farm near Bennington in north central Kansas. The town of Bennington is in Ottawa County, due north of Salina. Bennington is a town of 563 people. Now, that's rural.
In February 1996, some volunteers held a public meeting to talk about revitalizing the town. Sixty-seven people attended and a steering committee was formed. Four of the participants then enrolled in the Community Leadership program of Cloud County Community College.
The group got together and formed a new organization: Bennington Improvement Group, or BIG. The person who was elected chairperson was Sharolyn Wagner.
Sharolyn is originally from Lawrence. She graduated from KU, as did her husband who got his law degree there. But his family is originally from Bennington, where he farmed while in college. In 1989, they decided to move permanently back to the Bennington area, where he continues to farm today.
Sharolyn had been Quality Assurance Manager at the Hallmark plant in Lawrence, and she remains very active. She and her husband are in the process of renovating Bennington's old drugstore, which will be named the Linger Longer. They're even going to restore the antique soda fountain there. All this is in addition to her work as a volunteer and mom to three children under 5....Now, that's active!
BIG held a community meeting and had participants do brainstorming, as Sharolyn had done at Hallmark. The question was, how can we make Bennington a more pleasant place to live?
Sharolyn says that hundreds of ideas were generated, and then participants were asked to prioritize them. Everyone voted and selected the top 5 priorities. And then one more announcement was made: no one could leave until they signed up for one of the committees.
The strategy worked. Committees are now actively working to beautify the town, save the railroad depot, landscape the new sports complex, develop a town brochure, hold get-acquainted or re-acquainted events, and raise the necessary funds.
BIG raised funds from a quilt raffle at the Bennington Rodeo and received grants from the Kansas Department of Commerce and from the Kansas Center for Rural Initiatives at K-State. BIG is in the process of forming the BIG Foundation, which can further support community activities.
And what has BIG accomplished? A community work day was held, and 50 people turned up to clean up main street. Fifteen tons of trash were carried away, and people scraped and repainted the concession stand at the ball diamond. A community ice cream social was held and fundraisers were held at the rodeo.
The historic railroad depot has been purchased and repainted, and is being re-roofed. 150 small trees from KSU Extension Forestry have been planted by volunteers at the new ball diamond.
Sharolyn Wagner says, "I don't deserve the credit for this. I helped organize it, but there are thousands and thousands of volunteer hours that have gone into this effort."
She says, "Our whole intent is to build the community. There's more of a family atmosphere here, and people care about each other."
Yes, it's a BIG story. Of course, the name of the organization is BIG. But what is especially exciting to me is that all this effort is not the result of some federal mandate, it's a voluntary grass-roots effort by local citizens wanting to make their community better. We're grateful for the leadership and initiative of Sharolyn Wagner and others in Bennington.
They're making a BIG difference.
Has your town been named in the Wall Street Journal lately? No, mine hasn't either. In fact, most small Kansas towns -- with the exception of Russell -- probably haven't found themselves in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
But Walter Dean's town has. There it was on page B-2 of the June 21, 1996 edition.
And if there's a prize for the smallest town to be mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, Walter Dean's town might be the winner. Because his town is Grenola, a town of 234 people. Now, that's rural.
How did a Kansas town of 234 people make it into the Wall Street Journal? To answer that question, meet Walter Dean.
Walter Dean is the mayor of Grenola. He's originally from Allen, a town of 191 people north of Emporia. After Walter finished school, his parents moved south to Grenola in Elk County, east of Wichita. Walter worked for Boeing in Wichita and in 1972 moved to Grenola to be closer to his parents. He retired from Boeing 5 years ago. And seven years ago, he was elected the mayor of Grenola.
So what about the Wall Street Journal? Well, on June 21 the Journal printed an article about how the population of rural America is on the increase again. The article said that one reason for rural growth is that manufacturers are again putting plants in rural areas. An example given in the article is a new plant being started in Grenola, Kansas.
Walter Dean explains, "The R.C. Allen Corporation is an aviation instrument company in Wichita." Three years ago, it was bought by Carl Kelly, a Wichita attorney whose father is a rancher from Cedarvale, south of Grenola.
So Kelly knew of Grenola and knew the work ethic of rural people. After months of discussion, the R.C. Allen company bought the old school building in Grenola as a location for a new plant.
What is it the R. C. Allen company will do? Well, the first product to be produced at the Grenola plant will be something called a vacuum horizontal indicator. As business grows, the plant will branch out to produce more aviation instruments such as other indicators, gauges, gyros, and other things that you want to be sure work if you're flying in a plane.
One person is being brought in to the plant from the company in Wichita, but the intent is to hire the other workers locally. According to one report, Carl Kelly hopes the business in Grenola will grow to employ 100 people and generate 3 million dollars in revenues. Now, that's economic development.
Walter Dean says, "Economic development is a slow process. You just have to stay with it. And the Southern Kansas Telephone Company is a big help in encouraging economic development in the region."
Walter Dean is mighty pleased to have the new business in Grenola.
He says, "We're in a beautiful area of the Flint Hills. We don't have traffic, pollution, or noise here. And I really like the people."
He says, "Recently there was a storm here that knocked down a bunch of tree limbs. The community pulled together to clean it up. Here, everybody helps everybody else."
Has your town been named in the Wall Street Journal lately? Well, most Kansas towns haven't been. But Walter Dean's town of Grenola can make that claim, as the location of choice for a new aviation plant. And what doesn't make the headlines is the hallmark of rural America, that spirit of neighbor helping neighbor.
We're thankful for Walter Dean and Carl Kelly, people whose hard work and entrepreneurship are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Great Plains Manufacturing - Roy Applequist
The 1996 Olympics is history, but weren't they exciting? It was fun to see athletes establish themselves as international leaders in their field. Their stories were remarkable.
Today we'll meet another international leader in its field. It is not an athlete, it's a company. And the place where it has established its leadership is not on the playing field, but in a field of a different type: a field of wheat or corn or soybeans.
This is the story of Great Plains Manufacturing, which produces some of the leading grain planting equipment in the world. It is based right here in the heart of Kansas.
Meet Roy Applequist. Roy is founder and president of Great Plains Manufacturing, headquartered in Salina, Kansas.
Roy has Kansas roots. His grandparents came to the area from Sweden and farmed between Salina and Lindborg. Roy's father worked in a machine shop in Smolan and was a tool and die maker in World War II. After the war he built up an equipment business of his own.
Roy worked in that business for a time after college, but it was sold in 1975. So Roy Applequist thought about what to do after that.
In his father's business, he had been working with a component of grain drills. You know what a grain drill is -- no, it's not something you use to make a teeny-tiny hole in a piece of grain -- it's a machine that a farmer uses to plant the seeds in the ground.
So Roy Applequist talked to a hundred farmers about the type of grain drill that they needed. Based on what they said, he built a prototype: a thirty-foot wide, folding grain drill. Farmers liked it. Roy hired a guy to assist him, and they built another one...and then another and another...
That was the beginning of Great Plains Manufacturing. Since then the company has grown and diversified to include lawn and landscaping equipment -- called Land Pride -- as well as various types of Great Plains planters. Great Plains also has its own trucking division, a golf course equipment company in the southeast and a foundry at Lyons, Kansas.
In 1995, the company built a new headquarters building in Salina. Besides Salina, the company has production or development facilities at such Kansas towns as Abilene, population 6,400; Lyons, population 3,533; Lucas, population 414; Assaria, population 399; and Kipp, population 75 people. Now, that's rural.
Yet in this rural setting, we find modern high tech equipment at work, using robotics, innovative powder paint systems, and computer design systems.
What in the world is such high tech stuff doing in rural Kansas? Roy Applequist says, "We enjoy being in small towns. There are significant labor advantages over Kansas City and Wichita. In Lucas, for example, the work ethic is really strong."
The company is close to the customer in more ways than one. Not only is the company located in the heartland, it likes to hire people with farm backgrounds. Roy says, "We've hired several engineers from K-State whose farm backgrounds help them really understand the customer's needs."
And understanding the customer's needs has really paid off. The company has grown and diversified. And people right here in Kansas may not fully realize what this company has accomplished.
Today this company, which started with one man twenty years ago, employs approximately a thousand people and sells its products into all 50 states and 10 foreign countries and produces the largest line of no-till grain drills in the world. The story is remarkable.
The 1996 Olympics are over, but it was fun watching the international leaders of track and field. Today we've learned of another leader, in the field of producing quality equipment for farmers and others to use.
We're thankful for Roy Applequist and the people of Great Plains Manufacturing, whose hard work and innovation are making a difference in rural Kansas. In the Olympics of the rural economy, they've definitely earned a gold medal.
Ron Scott - Kansas Graphics
Let's go to Japan today. Hop over the Pacific Ocean, and we'll go to Japan where a newspaper inserter machine is being delivered. Take a close look at the decal on that machine -- where would you guess it came from?
That's right -- it's not from New York or LA. Sure enough, that decal came from rural Kansas.
This is the story of Kansas Graphics, the remarkable company which produced those decals.
Meet Ron Scott. Ron is co-owner of Kansas Graphics. The company is based in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Cottonwood Falls is the county seat of Chase County, nestled in the heart of the scenic Flint Hills. Chase County has a total population of 2,885 people, the tenth smallest population county in the state of Kansas. Cottonwood Falls itself is a town of 788 people. Now, that's rural.
Ron Scott was born and raised in Cottonwood Falls. He went to K-State one year and then graduated from Emporia State in Business Administration. His wife is from Chase County also, so after graduation he looked for work in the area.
At one point, he was working in construction in Cottonwood Falls with his brother-in-law Marvin Adcock, who had experience and training in printing. When the construction job was done, Ron and Marvin went together to purchase a small print shop from a man in Wichita. They did some part-time printing until they moved into the newspaper office there in town.
In 1981, they bought that local newspaper and went into printing full-time. In 1988, they sold the paper and built a new building for Kansas Graphics at their current headquarters along Highway 177 in Cottonwood Falls.
Today the company does two types of printing: the traditional offset printing of ink on paper, such as for business forms or newsletters, and screen process printing. Screen printing is what used to be called "silkscreening." It has great flexibility for printing most any design on various types of products.
For example, the company can produce decals, computer-cut vinyl legends, and magnetic signs. Kansas Graphics does screen printing for various manufacturers in eastern Kansas. Just looking at the samples displayed in the print shop is entertaining in itself.
But they also do decals for a company in Florida that manufactures flexagraphic printers and signs for a mall in San Jose, California -- in addition to the machine in Japan that I mentioned at the beginning today.
What is the key to their success? Ron Scott says, "We're customer-driven. Our strategy is to make sure we take care of our customers. We've grown steadily every year."
He says, "Maybe the thing I'm the proudest of is that we've kept all but one of our major customers from the beginning, and the exception was when a corporate owner took that business out of the United States. Our niche is short run projects. We're very competitive in smaller quantities."
I think it is remarkable that this company's products are going to Japan or Florida. But does being in a small town make it difficult?
Ron Scott says, "I think being in a small town is turning into an advantage. We're seeing people want to get out of the cities. I personally like the small communities, and that's where I want to raise my family."
Shall we go to Japan today? No, let's stay home. We don't have to go overseas to find the decals produced by this remarkable company. But we're proud of the international reach of this company. The entrepreneurship and hard work of Ron Scott and Marvin Adcock are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Tom MorganToday let's visit the offices of an internationally-known research and consulting group. Now doesn't that make you think of some think tank in a big building in Chicago or somewhere like that, where it takes a long elevator ride to get up to their headquarters?
Today, we'll meet such a research company, whose work extends overseas. And sure enough, they used to be based in the Chicago area. But you won't need a long elevator ride to get to their current office. In fact, the only elevator near this office is the one they store grain in.
That's because this research firm is now headquartered in the town of Garnett, Kansas -- population 3,240 people. That's rural -- but stay tuned.
Garnett is the location of Morgan Research Group, Limited. Its president and owner is Tom Morgan.
Tom does a lot of economic forecasting, number-crunching, and analysis. He is the ultimate economist.
Tom got his bachelors and masters degrees from K-State in ag economics. He was always one of those guys with an amazing ability to work with numbers, particularly as they relate to ag commodities and forecasts.
He worked for the Peavey and Heinhold Commodity companies as a senior analyst, and in 1986, decided to take his talents independent. He established his own firm called Morgan Research Group. For a number of years, the firm operated in a suburb of Chicago.
But in the summer of 1993, Tom made a big decision: he chose to relocate his firm back to his home county in Kansas.
Tom is originally from Anderson County in east central Kansas. Garnett is the county seat of Anderson County. Tom is from a farm northeast of Garnett near the town of Greeley -- population 345 people. Now, that's rural.
Once you've seen the bright lights of Chicago, why come back to a rural county like this one? Tom Morgan says, "I wanted to be part of a community. I like the rural area. And I wanted my son to be able to participate in FFA and go to K-State."
He says, "When we left the traffic of the Chicago area, my stress level dropped tremendously. You wouldn't believe how much nicer it was out here."
Meanwhile, the Morgan Research Group rolls on. Tom's clients for his economic analysis and forecasts range from small family farmers up to the Japanese. Just recently he completed a major project for a law firm in Chicago, for example.
But perhaps the most fascinating of his recent enterprises is his work with Internet. Tom's company has its own site on the World Wide Web, and is now doing web publishing. They are helping other companies develop web sites of their own.
Interest in this type of commerce in cyberspace is exploding, and the technology continues to advance rapidly. For example, Tom needs to upgrade his computers every couple of years. But through his virtual, electronic network, he is able to exchange text, data, and even photos with an associate in Liberal, Kansas at the touch of a button.
And would you believe that the Morgan Research Group website is getting "hits," or electronic contacts, from 20 countries around the world?
That's exciting. But Tom Morgan sounds a warning: He says rural areas are at major risk of being left out, of being Internet have-nots. He says, "We have problems getting Internet access through our telephone company, and it's going to be very important to our rural communities in the future."
It's time for us to leave this internationally-known research group. But it doesn't require a long elevator ride down to leave this office, because this business has been relocated to rural Kansas. In fact, you don't have to take any ride at all to get here: You can access the company right on your own computer.
It's exciting that a person can be accessing the world from a rural setting through these technological advances. And we're thankful that people like Tom Morgan are making a difference through their innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.
Imagine you're in a welding shop in a small town. Steel is stacked on the rack by the wall. You can hear the sizzle of the welders out on the shop floor. And here on the owner's desk are the typical odds and ends of papers, surrounding a laptop computer...
What was that last part? Yes, I said a laptop computer. What's something fancy and high-tech like a laptop computer doing in a small-town welding shop?
The answer to that question is today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Darrell Bohnert. Darrell is the owner and founder of Bohnert Welding, a welding shop and farm equipment manufacturer in Jewell, Kansas. Jewell is in Jewell County in north central Kansas. This is an area that was hit hard by the hard times of the 1980s. In fact, here's a scary number: during the past 25 years, Jewell County has lost 34 percent of its population.
The town of Jewell has a population of 468 people. Now, that's rural.
And yet we find something as high-tech as a laptop computer right here in this rural setting. Some of us in the cities might be surprised how much computerization exists in our rural areas.
Darrell Bohnert grew up on a farm near Jewell. He says, "When I was in ag (mechanics class in high school), I built a few projects and found I enjoyed it." He studied welding at what is now the North Central Kansas Technical College in Beloit, trained at Mankato Welding, and then farmed with his brother for two years.
In June 1975, he started a welding shop on the family farm. Darrell says, "I was selling Pioneer seed, and I was looking for as many reasons as possible for farmers to stop in and see me." If farmers needed something repaired in his welding shop, that would produce some income and also be good for Pioneer seed sales.
Darrell did the typical types of repairs needed on farm equipment. People found he was very good at it, and business grew. One year later, he built a building in Jewell to hold his welding shop.
Darrell says, "The first year I moved to town, business doubled." And today Bohnert Welding is manufacturing equipment that has been shipped as far away as to Alaska.
How did this remarkable company have such success? Darrell Bohnert says, "We always try to produce a quality product." And his agricultural background means he knows first-hand what will work for farmers and ranchers.
For example, the biggest volume of their business is in the production and sale of hay and livestock handling equipment. Such items as the round bale hay feeders are very popular. Bohnert Welding now produces such items as corral panels, loading chutes, bale movers, and various types of car or utility trailers, as well as doing custom-made metal fabrication jobs.
Darrell says, "We've been lucky to have loyal customers. One guy at Satanta, Kansas bought bale feeders from me at the state fair 5 years ago. This year, he was at the fair two days. He bought 10 bale feeders on the first day, and the second day he came around again and asked if we would build him a trailer. He said he wanted a trailer that was as good quality as the feeders we had made for him."
Another popular product is their twelve volt spot sprayers which they ship all over the country. And I mentioned their custom jobs. Recently, he designed and built a trailer for a person in Wisconsin.
And that brings me back to the laptop computer. That computer holds Darrell's Pioneer seed records as well as the software he uses to design these custom projects. He uses Key-Cad software to lay out such projects.
I was pleased to see such technology in a small town setting. Darrell Bohnert says, "In a small town, everybody's friendly. We don't have some of the labor problems you might have in big cities."
Darrell likes the quality of life in a small town. He lives in Jewell with his wife Debra and his children Gina, Jason, Damon, and Darica. He says, "It's handy. I can get to work in two minutes, depending on whether I drive, ride my bike, or walk." Now, that's my kind of commute.
It's time to say goodbye to this welding shop in a small Kansas town. It looks much like other welding shops -- until you see that laptop computer and learn where these products are being shipped. We're thankful for home-grown, progressive entrepreneurs like Darrell Bohnert, who are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Bar Six Manufacturing - Randy Bayne
"Let's mount up and ride to the Bar Six." Sounds like a line out of a western movie, doesn't it? The Bar Six is a great western-sounding name. But you won't need a horse and saddle if you go to the Bar Six today, because it's actually the name of a manufacturing business.
Stay tuned for the interesting story of how that name -- and that business -- came to be.
Meet Randy Bayne. Randy is the owner of Bar Six Manufacturing in Protection, Kansas. That town name -- Protection -- is interesting too. It makes me think of the weather advisories you hear in the winter time, when the wind chills are low and the weatherman says that people and animals who are outside should have some protection.
Kansas has protection. It's a small town located in Comanche County in south central Kansas!
Comanche County borders Oklahoma, and Protection is about 15 miles from the state line. According to the census, the town of Protection has a population of 604. Randy Bayne says with a smile, "The population might be 600 -- countin' a few dogs." Now, that's rural.
Randy Bayne was born and raised in Protection. He attended Pratt Community College and was a custom cutter during wheat harvest. He also worked for Bar Six Manufacturing.
Randy explains that a local farmer named Glenn Woolfolk was the founder of Bar Six Manufacturing. It all started in 1958, when Mr. Woolfolk built a sturdy metal feeder to feed cottonseed cake to his cattle. It worked so well that a neighbor wanted one, and then another.
Eventually a business was set up to produce these feeders, and it took the name of Mr. Woolfolk's ranch: The Bar Six. Randy Bayne worked for Bar Six Manufacturing and in 1990, he bought the business.
Today Bar Six Manufacturing produces a range of cattle feeding equipment. This equipment is designed for use in pastures. It includes bulk bins for storage of feed and grain, overhead feeders, and something called cake feeders. That doesn't mean cows are eating birthday cake, it refers to cottonseed cake which is a processed, high-protein feed.
These products are well suited for cattle country. Bar Six Manufacturing sells them through Farmland Industries and other dealers across the U.S. As one would expect, the dealers are concentrated in the heartland, from the Dakotas to Texas, but there are also dealers as far west as California and as far east as Florida. Recently a sale was made to a customer in Alberta, Canada.
It's remarkable to find this company doing business internationally and coast-to-coast from a very rural setting in the middle of Kansas. But the business is here because it grew here, in the heart of the cattle industry which it serves.
I think there is a lesson to be learned here about economic development. Rather than chasing smokestacks, and trying to bring in big industry from outside, we need to add value to our own economic base and encourage our existing businesses. That's where most of our economic growth will occur. End of sermon.
So why be in a small town? Randy Bayne says, "Here you pretty well know everybody. Personally, I wouldn't want to live in a big town."
Well, pardners, it's time to mount up and ride on down the trail from the Bar Six. Yes, the name is colorful, but this is no western movie. It's a story of a real business serving the cattle industry. We're thankful for businesspeople like Glenn Woolfolk and Randy Bayne, whose entrepreneurship and hard work are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Wheat Bowl - J. D. Gilmer
Let's go to the bowl game! The two football teams are on the field to play for the trophy. The fans are cheering, the bands are playing. I love the atmosphere. Who do you think will be the winner?
Well, where is this bowl game happening? No, it's not the Orange Bowl in Miami or the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. This bowl game is happening in Kansas. And it's not in Wichita or Topeka, either. This bowl game is in the central Kansas town of Ellinwood -- population 2,283 people. Now, that's rural.
How in the world did a bowl game come to be in a town that size? Well, the answer to that question is today's Kansas Profile.
Meet J. D. Gilmer. J. D. is the volunteer executive director of this bowl game event. J.D.'s family moved around in the oil business, but he attended high school in Ellinwood. After spending ten years in sales work for an oil field supply firm located in Fort Worth, Texas, J.D. then built a career in the chemical manufacturing business, managing and taking an interest in a company located in Chicago. Later he sold his interest to start Pride International, a firm involved with export trading and small business consulting activities; these operations continue active. But, J. D. always maintained strong interest in and personal ties with Ellinwood and many friends there.
By 1994, J. D. was making arrangements to transplant his business from Denver to Savannah, Georgia and had made a deposit on a condo there. But, a close friend in Kansas invited him to attend the annual After Harvest Festival in Ellingwood during July. J. D. came for the festival, and then decided to give rural lifestyle a try. He's now enjoying the rural ways of living and continuing his interest in Ellinwood and rural Kansas -- but now being "on the scene."
In the fall of 1994, J. D. was driving along the interstate, looking at the signs and thinking that central Kansas didn't get much attention. He thought to himself, "We need to do something to encourage people to come to central Kansas." Meanwhile, a sports broadcast came on the car radio, with scores from some small bowl games back east. And the thought formed in his mind: What if we were to have a bowl game of our own?
When he got to Ellinwood, J. D. got a group of friends together to discuss the idea. J. D. says, "At first they looked at me like 'you're off your rocker.' But by the end of the discussion, most of them said, 'Well, maybe it's just wild enough to try.'"
One question was, what would they call it? If the Orange Bowl is down among the orange groves in Florida and the Cotton Bowl is in the cotton state of Texas, what would you call a bowl game in the middle of Kansas? The answer is obvious, isn't it?: The Wheat Bowl. The name was suggested by one of the volunteers, Frank Koelsch.
And so the Wheat Bowl was born.
J. D.'s group approached the NAIA, which is the national athletic association of smaller, four-year colleges. Somewhat to J. D.'s surprise, the NAIA was willing to explore it.
One thing led to another. 87 volunteers and committee members from around the region spent countless hours working on the event. And on November 18, 1995, the first annual Wheat Bowl game was played. This is the only NAIA-sanctioned bowl game event in the nation, and it is held in Ellinwood, Kansas.
Ellinwood has an official population of only 2,200 people, yet more than 5,000 people attended the game! It is a phenomenal story, and it requires a lot of regional cooperation. For example, nearby Great Bend provides lodging, a banquet hall and convention center, and bleachers which are brought in for the game. A number of volunteers come from neighboring communities.
The game is played on the Ellinwood High School football field, which is entirely enclosed for this game with portable bleachers.
Now plans are in the works for the second annual Wheat Bowl, to be held November 23, 1996. This year's event will include an early-bird brunch -- sponsored by the Kansas Wheat Commission, appropriately enough -- followed by the Wheat Bowl parade with various floats and 23 marching bands. During the game, there will be a number of promotional activities and giveaways. Even a unique car will be given away.
On the Friday evening before the game, a huge banquet will be held in honor of the two competing schools. 500-600 people are expected to attend. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization, which has endorsed the Wheat Bowl event, is staging a major rally in Ellinwood that weekend.
Meanwhile, the Wheat Bowl Foundation has been established. Any profits generated from the game are administered and distributed for approved scholarships and other selected charities. The foundation board is made up of individuals from Council Grove, Winfield, Russell, Scott City, Ellinwood, Great Bend, and two from out-of-state -- a good cross-section of the state.
J. D. Gilmer says, "It isn't just a football game; it isn't just a banquet or parade -- if we can help young and needy people through scholarships and other monetary awards, then all of this effort is worthwhile for the state of Kansas."
If you would like information about the 1996 Wheat Bowl, call 316-564-3359. That number again is 316-564-3359.
Let's go to the bowl game! I love the atmosphere, and now I don't have to go clear to the Orange Bowl in Miami to find it. We're thankful for J. D. Gilmer and the organizers of the Wheat Bowl in Ellinwood. Their creative vision and hard work are making a difference. I don't care which team scores the most points: this is a winner for rural Kansas.
21st Century Alliance - Lynn Rundle
What do you want to be when you grow up? That's a common question kids are asked. Years ago I saw a cartoon of two boys on the farm. One says, "I want to be a farmer when I grow up." The other one says, "Well, when I grow up, I want to be a middleman."
I laughed when I first read that cartoon, but on reflection I realized there was some truth in it. The middleman makes more money than the farmer! By middleman, I mean those people and companies who take commodities from the farm and convert them into food products. The farmers' share of the consumer food dollar is relatively small, compared to the middleman. And so our young rural people leave the farm because there is more value -- and thus more jobs -- in being a middleman.
But what if we could change that paradigm? What if farmers found a way to add value to their own products -- in effect, to become their own middleman?
Well, guess what. An innovative group of agricultural producers is trying just that.
This innovative group is called the 21st Century Alliance. Its goal is to help producers capture more of the consumer food and fiber dollar through value-added processing.
The 21st Century Alliance was formed with a board of directors of leading farmers from across Kansas. The acting Chairman of the Board is Ken Frahm of Colby. The acting CEO of the 21st Century Alliance is Lynn Rundle.
Lynn knows first-hand about rural development and the farm economy. He grew up on a farm near Axtell, in Marshall County in northeast Kansas. Axtell is a town of 401 people. Now, that's rural.
Lynn graduated from K-State, was a successful high school ag teacher, became a rural development specialist for Kansas Farm Bureau, and in 1994 became executive director of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.
It soon became clear that one of the best ways for wheat growers to help themselves would be involvement in value-added processing. In July 1995, the Wheat Growers and Kansas Corn Growers Association agreed to pursue such a project jointly. And in late 1995, the 21st Century Alliance was announced.
The wheat growers agreed to have Lynn Rundle serve as interim CEO, while retaining his duties with the wheat growers organization.
Lynn says that Kansas growers have been encouraged by the interest in value-added cooperatives in North Dakota and Minnesota, for example. More than 50 new value-added cooperatives have formed in the northern plains in the past two years. Some 4,000 farmers have invested $5,000 apiece in the northern great plains.
Kansas farmers are able to get into the 21st Century Alliance for just $600. Their membership entitles them to join with other farmers in these value-added businesses. Already, nearly 500 wheat farmers have become members of the 21st Century Alliance. They represent 10 percent of the state's wheat production and have invested a quarter of a million dollars in the alliance.
And what specific types of businesses will the alliance pursue? Lynn Rundle says, "We would like to develop a formal alliance with hard red winter and spring wheat processors. We are working on a project with a Hutchinson firm to produce particle board from wheat straw. We are looking into frozen pizza dough with a central Kansas business. And there are other possibilities."
He says, "We want to capture that value and get more dollars flowing back to our members in Kansas communities."
If you are interested in the 21st Century Alliance, contact 1-800-748-8034. That number again is 1-800-748-8034.
What do you want to be when you grow up? In the future, maybe our rural children won't have to answer, "A middleman." Maybe the value added by the middleman can be captured by the farmer, adding jobs and returning dollars to Kansas communities.
That's the type of project that will make a difference, pioneered by the 21st Century Alliance and Lynn Rundle. In fact, this innovative organization has also helped launch a project for the beef industry. And we'll hear about that on our next program.
U.S. Premium Beef - Steve Hunt
Let's say you're a CEO of a Kansas business. You manufacture a component and sell it to someone else, and they put it into a finished product. All is going well, until you start hearing from customers that they aren't happy about the finished product.
So you look into the numbers. During the early 1970s, this finished product earned 65 cents of every dollar spent in this sector. But by the early 1990s, this product was earning only 10 cents out of every dollar.
That's cause for concern. If only there was a way for you to reach your customers directly...
Well, welcome to the beef business. The scenario I've just described is what beef producers are facing today. I'm talking about the farmers and ranchers who produce and sell beef cattle, but are deeply concerned about the declining market share for beef.
And if only there was a way to reach closer to the customer? Well, that's difficult in the beef business, but some innovative beef producers are trying that very strategy. They have gone together to form a new organization called U.S. Premium Beef. The CEO of U.S. Premium Beef is Steve Hunt of Winfield, Kansas.
Steve understands these issues firsthand. He's a farm boy, K-State graduate in agriculture, ag banker, and a third generation cattle producer himself.
Steve explains that a group of concerned cattle producers got together to form a cooperative to respond to these problems in the beef business. The goal is to develop a producer-owned system for processing and adding value to beef.
Steve says, "We can't wait on the federal government or the justice department to fix the problems. A group of producers from all segments of the beef cattle industry have come together with a shared vision. They are pooling resources, both cattle and capital, to do our own processing."
This group has gotten legally incorporated, formed a board, hired a staff, opened an office in Manhattan, and started getting memberships. The board consists of some of the leading cattlemen in the state. They are from Kansas towns like Ashland, population 983; Maple Hill, population 371; and Long Island, population 174. Now, that's rural.
Beef is big business in these rural areas and in Kansas itself. Yet the trends in consumption, and the loss of market share to competitors like chicken, have these leaders very concerned.
Steve Hunt says, "The Board was asking, if we don't do something about the downward trend in beef consumption, what will our next generation have?"
U.S. Premium Beef was incorporated on July 1, 1996. It is a closed cooperative, meaning that only co-op members have the right to deliver goods to the co-op for processing. It's the same value-added system that the 21st Century Alliance suggested in an earlier Kansas Profile.
Steve Hunt says, "The 21st Century Alliance was very instrumental in helping us get started."
U.S Premium Beef is brand new, but the idea has generated interest all the way from Kentucky to Utah. U.S. Premium Beef is now signing up producers and developing business plans to enter into processing. It's a way of connecting the producer with the consumer, so that the producer can produce exactly what the customer wants and needs.
Steve Hunt says, "We want to get more consistency and convenience to the consumer and return profits back to producers."
For further information, call U.S. Premium Beef at 913-539-6016. That number again is 913-539-6016.
Well, I'm sorry but it's time for your career as CEO of this business to come to an end. The pay wasn't very good, was it?... But now you've seen why beef producers are forming their own organization to better reach consumers and add value to their products. We're thankful for these innovative leaders like the board members of U.S. Premium Beef and CEO Steve Hunt, whose entrepreneurship and commitment are making a difference in rural Kansas.
Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing - David Uschwald
Back in the 1980s, the NFL had a star running back who was originally from Centralia, Kansas. His name was John Riggins. He played for the Washington Redskins, and I became a big fan.
I was living in the Washington area at the time, and I remember those games well. They would hand the ball to Riggins over and over and he would pound out the yards. He set the record for rushing touchdowns and was MVP of the Super Bowl one year. His nickname was "The Diesel."
He got that nickname because he was a power runner, like a diesel engine. He was strong, tough, and dependable on the field.
Today we're going to talk about diesels: not John Riggins but the real engines which are his namesake. Specifically, we're going to talk about a Kansas company which remanufactures these engines. It's a company that's experienced remarkable growth.
Meet David Uschwald. David is general manager of Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing in Emporia, Kansas.
This company produces and remanufactures diesel engines, but that's like saying Alaska gets snow. It understates the case. Detroit Diesel produces engines for 85 percent of the buses used in North America.
David Uschwald is proud of this record. He is originally from the city of Detroit, Michigan, which has more than a million people. Currently he's in Emporia, a town of 24,936 people. In other words, Emporia's population is less than two and a half percent of the population of Detroit. Now, that's rural.
Yet in this rural setting is a business which experienced remarkable growth. David explains that he was working for General Motors when it was bought by Roger Penske. Roger Penske is the famous race car driver. Apparently he is a winner in business as well as on the racetrack, because he now has several growing enterprises.
David Uschwald says, "Roger Penske is the most dynamic businessperson I ever met." In 1988, Roger Penske bought Detroit Diesel from General Motors. In 1991, he brought David Uschwald to Emporia as manager of Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing.
The results have been remarkable. The plant in Emporia has gone from 50 employees to 200. The facility has expanded from 28,000 square feet to 68,000. And productivity has gone from 80 units per month to 600.
What are the reasons for this success? David Uschwald says, "Roger Penske's whole focus is on customer satisfaction. He believes in growth and attention to detail."
David says, "Getting the right people is my most critical issue, and then training them." Detroit Diesel has entered into a partnership with Flint Hills Technical College in Emporia for specialized training in diesel mechanics, and it has paid off.
David Uschwald says, "Recently Detroit Diesel was adding a product line, and Emporia was selected as the place to build it. There were two reasons Emporia was selected: we had the right type of experience for that product, and a competitive approach which included a just-in-time inventory program. We have a quality, conscientious work force."
So what does someone from the big city of Detroit think about small town Kansas by now? He says, "When we first moved here, it was winter time. I stopped at a convenience store for some coffee, and I noticed the car parked next to mine had the engine running. It was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition, of course. The owner was letting it warm up while he was in the store. That struck me. If you did that in Detroit, when you came out, your car would be gone."
And he says, "We like the friendliness overall. Strangers will wave to you as you drive down the street. This warm expression is never realized in Detroit."
Yes, I became a Redskins fan in those days when John Riggins was nicknamed the Diesel, and he was pounding out touchdowns for his team. Today, I'm a fan of another team with a diesel: the team of David Uschwald and Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing in Emporia. In both cases, the principles of high performance and hard work are making a difference.
Vogt family - orphan trains
Today let's go to Tampa. It sounds good, in the middle of winter, doesn't it? Tampa bay: beaches, palm trees, warm breezes blowing...wait a minute, hold the phone. I'm not talking about Tampa, Florida, I'm talking about Tampa, Kansas.
Yes - just like Florida - Kansas has a city named Tampa also. This Tampa is located in Marion County in central Kansas. It's a town of 108 people. Now, that's rural.
This rural town is the home of a pair of authors who have written a touching book about a little-known and somewhat sensitive chapter of Kansas history.
Martha Vogt and her daughter Christina are the ones who have written this book. Martha is probably better known as Pat Vogt, the name that she used in her journalism career for more than 30 years.
The book is about orphan trains. No, that doesn't mean a train that is lost and without a home. It means a train that carried orphaned children. That's the topic of today's Kansas Profile.
Martha Vogt was a newspaper and feature writer in central Kansas. One day in Lindsborg, she overheard someone use the phrase "orphan train." The phrase made her curious, and she asked what it meant. Her research eventually led her to find this fascinating story.
Martha says, "From 1854 to 1929, there were trains that brought orphaned children from back east out to Kansas and other states. Many of these children were from families of immigrants from Europe. If their parents died or left, the children's extended families were still in Europe, so there was no one to take them in. The children went to overcrowded orphanages in New York City."
Martha says, "Then someone had the idea that the farm families in the midwest could take in these children, because there's always supposed to be room for one more mouth at the dinner table on the farm. So the Children's Aid Society of New York organized these train trips to Kansas."
Handbills and newspaper notices were posted in Kansas towns advising the townspeople that these orphans were coming. When the train arrived in towns such as Abilene, McPherson, and Sterling, the children were taken to the town opera house or a church.
There people would come and basically adopt these children on site. And if no one chose a particular child, he'd be put back on the train and taken to the next stop.
Can you imagine what an emotional roller coaster that would be for those children? They've already had a hard life, in losing their parents. Then they're taken to a strange land and shuttled from town to town, not knowing if they'll be chosen for new families or not.
Martha and Christina Vogt have written the true stories of three sets of orphans who came on the orphan trains. The woman who served as the placing agent for the Children's Aid Society was a woman named Anna Laura Hill.
She must have had a great heart for these children, who eventually found homes in Kansas. The book tells of their joys, fears, trials, and triumphs.
For example, one orphan was sure she would not be adopted. She had a crippled leg and deformed hand due to a birth defect. But she was adopted by a single woman, and she grew up to go to college and a career, retiring from her firm in 1978. She still lives in Kansas today, and her fascinating story was carried on the CBS national television news in 1986.
Martha Vogt says that the research on this book was challenging, because it was so personal. She said she met adults who would break down in tears when asked about their background on the orphan train.
The book is titled "Searching for Home," and it is on its sixth printing. If you would like to order a copy, for Christmas or for yourself, call 913-965-2245. That number again is 913-965-2245.
It's time to say goodbye to Tampa. No, we're not talking about the beaches and warm breezes of Tampa, Florida. There is a warmth of a different kind we find in Tampa, Kansas: the warmth of the human spirit. What a difference these Kansas families made in the lives of children. We're thankful to Martha and Chris Vogt for sharing this heartwarming story of the orphan trains.
Always Christmas - Robie Harries
Do you ever get one of those Christmas gifts that you just don't have a place for?
Today we'll hear about one of those gifts. The chain of events set in motion by this gift has proven to be far-reaching.
The story of this gift is today's special Christmas edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Robie Harries. Robie and her husband Jim live at WaKeeney, Kansas. Jim owns Harries Motor Company in WaKeeney. WaKeeney is located right on Interstate 70 in northwest Kansas. It's the county seat of Trego County. WaKeeney is a town of 2,034 people. Now, that's rural.
This rural town has a unique designation. It's called the Christmas City of the High Plains. The origin of this name goes back to 1955.
That year, a group of businessmen organized an effort to handmake a giant Christmas tree for the community out of genuine pine boughs. The giant tree is decorated and displayed at the town's major intersection. That tradition continues today.
Each year the citizens of the community build a 35-foot tall tree out of two tons of fresh fragrant pine. It takes more than three miles of wiring to connect all the Christmas lights. The lights are lit on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and each night until New Year's. There are Christmas carols, wagon rides, hot chocolate, and the stores stay open late.
All that sounds great to Robie Harries, because she loves Christmas. Robie just loves the Christmas season and loves decorating trees.
But ten years ago, Robie got one of those Christmas presents that she just didn't have a place for. Her mother-in-law gave them a set of bubble lights for a Christmas tree. The lights were nice, but Robie's tree was already full, and they didn't match the decor of Robie's tree. She just didn't have a place for them. So what do you do with a gift like that?
Well, my solution is simple: stick it in the attic until the next garage sale. But that wouldn't be my wife's solution, and it wasn't Robie Harries' either. Her solution was to get another tree.
Well, one thing led to another. Today, Robie decorates more than 20 trees at her home. And for years, friends had called on her for advice about decorating their trees. So Robie had another thought: wouldn't it be fun to have a Christmas store that sold Christmas things year-round?
On August 3, 1996, that dream became a reality. Robie and her daughter Teressa Williams opened a new store in WaKeeney called Always Christmas. The store sells trees and beautiful decorations. The trees are designed so elegantly that they look like an exclusive big city shop.
As I said, the store is named Always Christmas. The logo of the store is specially designed so that the Christ in Christmas is underlined. Robie says it was intended that way.
She says, "The Lord opened up all these doors and made it possible. We were thinking about this when a building opened up downtown, just half a block from the giant tree and next door to the city North Pole area where Santa Claus makes his visit."
So the timing and location were just right. Robie shops at such places as Kansas City and Michigan to find these elegant and distinctive decorations. Now her house is being featured in Kansas magazine. People have come from as far away as Denver and New York to admire Robie's handiwork.
Robie says, "I love Christmas, and this is fulfilling my dream."
Do you ever get one of those Christmas gifts that you just don't have a place for? Well, Robie Harries got a gift like that, and what a difference it made.
Maybe what's important here isn't the physical gifts that we receive, but the internal gifts and talents we have that we can share with others. We're thankful for rural entrepreneurs like Robie Harries, who are using their artistic talents. And we salute the people of WaKeeney, the Christmas City of the High Plains.
Wishing you happy holidays...