Michael Monteferrante, the turnaround specialist who first came to Wichita in 2003 as CEO of Optima Bus, is returning as the new president and CEO of Envision.
“It’s a nonprofit, and we didn’t know if someone with as entrepreneurial spirit as Michael has would want to make the leap to the nonprofit world,” says Sam Williams, chairman of Envision’s board.
“This opportunity I’m looking at completely different than I have at previous opportunities of employment,” Monteferrante says. “I can’t be more excited than to take all the things I’ve learned over the years and apply it to a company that helps people.”
In addition to serving the blind and low-vision community through services and education, Envision is the second-largest employer of blind and low-vision people nationally. Envision Industries has a number of production and distribution divisions.
“I’ve always been extremely passionate about the mission of Envision,” Monteferrante says.
He still remembers his first tour of the Envision plant on Water Street years ago.
“I could not tell who was blind and who wasn’t, and I just said, ‘Wow. I want to be a part of this. This is one of the most inspirational plant tours I’ve had.’”
Monteferrante sees bigger things for Envision, though.
“While it has grown – it’s grown tremendously over the years – I believe that the boundaries of growth for the mission of Envision … are endless,” he says. “I’ve always felt that the mission at Envision could be more than a Wichita-based, Kansas-based situation.”
Monteferrante, who served on the Envision board for three years, most recently has been CEO of Carrollton, Texas-based Future Food Brands. He says he’s maintained ties with Envision friends, which is what led to his new job.
“When we started talking about the national and global opportunities … that’s where I really felt that I’d be able to add value,” he said.
Monteferrante plans to diversify services, grow Envision’s foundation, and get major corporations involved by forming alliances with what he calls some of the most important medical firms in the country.
“You’ll feel measurable impact of a more national exposure for Envision … within six months,” he says.
Williams says Monteferrante is a great choice because of “his ability to address business problems with vigor and with imagination. His ability to get along with people. His respect in the community. His successes he’s had throughout his career in managing organizations and returning value.”
Former Envision CEO Frank Clepper abruptly left the job this summer after only six months. Williams says there was a parting of the ways, but he won’t elaborate.
“We all agreed that it was best for everybody,” Williams said.
In spring 2011, longtime Envision CEO Linda Merrill-Parman announced her retirement due to health reasons.
Monteferrante says there will be a serious undertaking in the next year in which current strategies are reviewed and new strategies are created.
“It’s all about executing what we’re strategizing on,” he says. “This company’s been around since 1933, so we’ve obviously had a nice track record of great success, and we want to continue that well into the future.”
Monteferrante is wrapping up some projects with Future Food Brands this month, but he’s in Wichita on Thursday meeting with senior-level staff members.
“I’m honored for the opportunity to come back to Wichita to lead such an extraordinary company,” he says.
Monteferrante was with Optima until American Capital sold it in 2006. He then joined Wichita’s Occidental Management as CEO before leaving in 2010 for Future Food Brands, which American Capital also owns.
“Future Food Brands has been a fascinating journey learning about the food business,” he says. “I’ll never go in a supermarket and look at things the same.”
When Monteferrante first came to Wichita in 2003, he quickly jumped into a number of civic organizations. Only a year after coming, he helped attract more new Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce members during a membership drive than anyone else.
It sounds like Williams is expecting more of the same from Monteferrante now that he’s back.
“He brings a lot of energy, and it’s going to be fun,” Williams says. “This is really good for Wichita to have Michael come back to the community.”