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.”

Monteferrante says Envision has to partner with original equipment manufacturers.

“It’s time for Envision to step up and take a leadership role,” he says. “I mean, we have a very talented workforce here in Wichita that have the ability to manufacture a variety of items.”

Monteferrante says the 14 visually impaired workers who lost their jobs at the Kansas City plant will be offered jobs in Wichita “once we get the work volume to … give them something to work on.”

“We will be diversifying our focus on … business development efforts to where we will make more than just bags for the military, and we will be entering the retail and commercial markets with the products that we make.”

Monteferrante says he’ll be presenting Envision’s board with a “bold strategic plan” on July 11.

He says Envision has been in Wichita since 1933, and he wants to make sure it is strong enough to stay around for years to come.

“The focus is on the future and expanding and diversifying Envision to make sure it’s a sustainable model for the next 100 years.”