Monthly Archives: June 2013

Envision closes Kansas City plant, lays off 30 employees while restructuring

WICHITA — Envision has closed a Kansas City manufacturing plant and laid off 21 people there and nine in Wichita, but new president and CEO Michael Monteferrante says he’s instituting a restructuring that will position the nonprofit to flourish.

“Obviously, it’s a very difficult and painful situation to lay off employees, especially blind (employees),” he says. “Sometimes it takes a very tough decision.”

Monteferrante says the government’s sequestration “has caused a reduction of revenue of about 36 percent at Envision, which is a tough situation because 92 percent of our revenue is generated through the United States military.”

Although Envision has done what Monteferrante calls a “magnificent job” in expanding services for the blind and visually impaired, he says, “What we’ve done is we’ve remained very one dimensional on our revenue stream, which is making bags for the military.”

Envision manufactures a variety of plastic bags.

“We have to focus on diversification,” Monteferrante says. “We’re not going to be so dependent on the government.”

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Town & Country isn’t closing anytime soon, despite what some concerned diners fear

WICHITA — Town & Country diners are panicking that one of their favorite restaurants may close, but owner Larry Conover says that’s not happening – at least not anytime soon.

“Eventually, this place will be tore down,” he says of making room for a highway bypass. “It will happen.”

The restaurant, which opened in 1957, is on West Kellogg near Interstate 235.

Conover says it’s his understanding that there’s no money for the highway project right now.

He says he’s beginning to think it may not even happen in his lifetime.

“It may be another 100 years. I don’t know.”


You don’t say

“We made a mistake using an out-of-town vendor. Looking back, definitely work with someone local on LEDs.”

Genesis Health Clubs owner Rodney Steven, who is suing what he calls an unresponsive out-of-state company that he says installed such faulty LED lights that he’s had to revert to the traditional lighting he previously had

Department for Children and Families explains search for new Wichita space

WICHITA — A spokeswoman for the Department for Children and Families, formerly known as SRS, says the Finney State Office Building in Wichita is no longer adequate for the agency.

On Monday, Have You Heard? reported that nine state agencies, including more than 700 employees, will leave the building at 230 E. William when the state’s lease expires on Sept. 30, 2014.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, questioned the motives for leaving, and Department of Administration spokesman Chuck Knapp said each agency would have to explain for itself.

DCF has the largest presence in the building with more than 550 employees. DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed was unavailable to comment at the time but is available now.

“The reason we’re leaving is that the facility doesn’t meet our needs anymore,” Freed says.

She says part of the issue is that the office is spread out over multiple floors.

“It’s difficult to, obviously, have to go between the floors for the clients and the staff.”

Freed says a change in the agency’s business model in which it tries to get immediate answers for people who apply for benefits is leading to something of a logjam in its lobby area.

“The lobby at that building just isn’t adequate,” she says.

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You don’t say

“Eat here or we both starve.”

– A sign at the Family Cafe on North Broadway

FedEx Ground, Shuttle Aerospace likely to be next occupants of Bel Aire’s Sunflower Commerce Park

WICHITA — Bel Aire’s new Sunflower Commerce Park has landed a major deal and has another significant one in the works.

“We’re pretty pleased that just six months after groundbreaking, we’re really getting a lot of interest,” says Bel Aire city manager Ty Lasher.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Jones Development has 22 acres under contract at the park, which is just south of 53rd Street North and Webb Road in Bel Aire.

Sources say Jones plans to lease a 181,000-square-foot building to FedEx Ground.

Neither Lasher nor Marlin Penner of John T. Arnold Associates, the broker handling the deal, will confirm the building is for FedEx.

“Yes, we are under contract with Jones Development Company, and there will be a project out to bid,” Penner says. “It is a Fortune 100 company, and it will be a very nice facility, which will be a great thing for Sunflower Commerce Park.”

Lasher agrees and calls the deal “exciting.”

“It’s a big building,” he says. “We’ve actually signed a contract with them to purchase that, and they’re in the due diligence process. … We’re hoping to close in about 60 days.”

In an e-mailed statement, FedEx spokeswoman Allison Houser says: “FedEx Ground continuously evaluates opportunities that can enhance our ability to serve our customers, but, as a matter of policy, we don’t have further information on specific proposals under consideration.”

Lasher says he also expects to have a deal shortly with Wichita-based Shuttle Aerospace.

“We’ve negotiated the contract,” he says. “We’re waiting for their signature.”

Shuttle Aerospace currently is in 12,000 square feet of leased space at 2106 E. Industrial St. near Interstate 135 and Hydraulic. The company would own its new 25,000-square-foot building at the park.

“We grow at 25 to 30 percent a year,” owner Clovis Ribas says of the company, which makes small-to-medium-size parts and assemblies for the aerospace industry. “We are expanding, obviously, buying new machines and hiring people.”

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Cow & Sow Deli and mini grocery coming to the Renfro apartments downtown

WICHITA — Renfro residents, along with other downtown dwellers and workers, soon will have a taste of country cooking from Conway Springs.

Tracey Coln and Teresa Gerber now live in Wichita, but Coln describes herself and Gerber as “just the country girls . . . trying to bring some country cooking into the city.”

They’re opening the Cow & Sow Deli next month at the new apartment building at 612 E. Douglas.

Coln’s mother grew up on a dairy farm in Viola, which is Coln’s inspiration for desserts and side dishes with lots of cream and butter — thus the “cow.”

Gerber grew up on a farm outside of Conway Springs, which is where she learned her family’s recipe for German sausage — thus the “sow.”

“We were being silly,” Coln says of trying to come up with a name.

Joking about the Cow & Sow “caught on, and everybody loved it,” Coln says.

Coln, who owns Heartfelt Memories photography studio, and Gerber, who recently left Cessna Aircraft, grew up together in Conway Springs.

“We were best friends,” Coln says.

Gerber’s departure from Cessna is what’s leading the two to open the deli, which will specialize in take-and-bake sausage, sandwiches, side dishes and a salad bar that Coln calls “something fresh and unique and not just a basic salad bar.”

They’re also going to carry some grocery items, such as milk, eggs, toilet paper and toothpaste as a convenience to residents.

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State gives city of Wichita notice that nine agencies and more than 700 employees are leaving the Finney State Office Building

WICHITA — The state of Kansas has notified the city of Wichita that its nine agencies that occupy the Finney State Office Building downtown won’t be renewing their leases after 20 years in the city-owned building.

“It raises a red flag,” says Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita). “I have a concern there is a history of the governor rewarding financial contributors with state contracts. I know he has contributors in Wichita that own (buildings) that fall into that category. … I don’t want that to be the reason we’re moving.”

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, says Ward’s fears are unfounded.

“For Representative Ward to say that, what he said was inaccurate,” she says.

There are more than 700 state employees in the building, more than 550 of whom are with the state Department for Children and Families, which formerly was known as SRS. The other eight agencies are the Department for Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Revenue, the Kansas Human Rights Commission, the Department of Health and Environment, the Department of Administration, the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Office of the State Bank Commissioner and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

“We consulted with our agency tenants,” says Chuck Knapp, a spokesman with the Department of Administration. “After visiting with those agencies, we just determined it would be in the best interest of those agencies and their clients to seek space elsewhere.”

Knapp says he can’t be more specific and that each agency will have to answer for itself.

A spokeswoman for the largest tenant couldn’t be reached for comment. A spokesman for another agency referred questions to Knapp.

“I would like them to be able to articulate why this is a good idea, and I haven’t heard any of that,” Ward says.

He says his other major concern is a move from the building will hurt the clients who use it.

Ward was a Wichita City Council member in 1991 when the city was investigating ways to stimulate economic development downtown and proposed a plan to help the state reduce expenses by consolidating numerous offices into the vacant building at 230 E. William, which previously was home to Macy’s. The following year, he was in the state Senate “where we in fact accepted the city’s offer to do that.”

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You don’t say

“It’s time to move to the other side of the lake. Here in the middle of the lake there aren’t as many fish, I don’t think.”

– Paul Hudson, who likes having his Lawrence Photo downtown but says he’s close to signing a deal elsewhere to increase business

County Commissioner Jim Skelton and Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie trade insults over financial dispute

WICHITA — Payment for what was supposed to be a joyous wedding in July is now cause for an acrimonious court date instead.

At issue is almost $3,000 that County Commissioner Jim Skelton says one of his daughters paid to the Grand Chapel to reserve wedding space. He says she decided to hold the event elsewhere and now can’t get back the money, some of which he says is from her savings and some of which he says he paid.

“This guy’s an idiot,” says Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie. “He’s trying to wiggle out of this.”

Wilkie says he would have been willing to work with the bride if her father hadn’t been so rude.

“He was trying to use his political office to … try to strong-arm me to give him all his money back,” Wilkie says. “The minute somebody starts trying to bully me, I take a pretty firm position myself.”

Skelton says a small claims court already sided with him but that Wilkie appealed to district court.

“He made some statements that I will look forward to him clarifying in court,” Skelton says.

He calls Wilkie’s comments “pretty weird” and “disappointing,” and Skelton says he particularly takes exception to Wilkie’s claim that he’s abusing his elected office.

“That just sounds crazy and unreasonable,” Skelton says. “I guess if that’s his best defense on this matter, then I look forward to winning twice, which is better than winning once.”

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