Category Archives: Manufacturing

Todd Dechant creates OxCart to improve dump carts; Costco.com is first retail outlet

Todd Dechant unwrapping his new OxCart product.

WICHITA – Todd Dechant has spent a career as an employee and consultant helping companies and individuals bring new products to the market.

Now, he’s going to do it for himself with a new product called the OxCart, which he says is an improved dump cart for tractors and ATVs.

Dechant’s background is in sales and product development, among other things, at Coleman, Harper Trucks, Black & Decker and Pepsi.

During the last couple of years he’s been working on the OxCart, he’s also been helping other inventors launch their products.

“I got on an ‘I know a guy’ list,” Dechant says. “That was a lot of fun. I just don’t have time to do that anymore.”

When Dechant decided he wanted to create his own product, he did a category analysis to look for dead categories “that didn’t really have a lot of innovation in them.”

He says dead categories are ones that aren’t growing in sales.

“One that just kind of seemed glaring to me … was the dump cart category,” Dechant says.

“We tested a lot of products out there,” he says. “I started focusing on trying to get more out of a riding lawn mower.”

He says there’s not been much innovation in the field in the last couple of decades.

“The only way to grow a category is to come up with innovation.”

Dechant says he’s added durability and stability with the OxCart.

“You’ve got more control in the dumping process,” he says. “The pivot point is kind of like a teeter-toter in most dump carts.”

He says that means when loads shift they start sliding quickly.

“It’s very harsh and abrupt.”

For his cart, Dechant says he’s moved the pivot point back for more control.

He’s also added a power-assisted gas lift and wider, higher quality tires.

Dechant debuted the OxCart, which will sell for $300 to $349, today at the Green Industry and Equipment Expo in Kentucky.

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MoJack Distributors sues former CEO Nate Gregory for performance issues

WICHITA — MoJack Distributors has filed a lawsuit against former president and CEO Nate Gregory due to what the suit says were performance issues.

The company formed in 2007 to produce lifts that make maintenance of riding mowers and equipment easier. The suit says MoJack then expanded its business to hand trucks and moving accessories and created a model that would allow for further expansion.

According to the suit, Gregory was hired shortly after the company formed and initially “acted in the best interest of Plaintiff and its members” as the company grew to have $40 million in business.

MoJack then “lost a major retail customer that significantly affected” business in 2012, the suit says, and around that time Gregory asked permission to invest in CN Cash for Gold.

The suit says Gregory was told that he could if it were a passive investment but that he then began focusing on buying a majority interest in CN Cash for Gold and became an active manager in the company.

The suit further says Gregory inappropriately pledged his membership units in MoJack as collateral for a bank loan to invest in CN Cash for Gold and managed it during his MoJack working hours.

In March, the suit says MoJack’s manager, Dan Drake, discovered how much Gregory had been diverting his time away from MoJack and fired him.

Gregory referred questions to his attorney, Greg Drumright.

“We’re looking forward to presenting our side of things and responding to all of the allegations,” Drumright says. “We need to wait and respond at the appropriate time, and now is not it.”

MoJack attorney Todd Shadid won’t comment either.

“I’m not going to comment beyond what’s in the petition,” he says.

Drumright won’t say what Gregory is doing these days.

“That pertains to some of the allegations,” Drumright says. “It would be inappropriate to comment about that.”

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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Wheat State Distilling to open this summer

WICHITA — It’s been a long, laborious process, but Wamego residents David and Kim Bahre on Wednesday received final approval to open Wheat State Distilling in Wichita this summer.

“The city of Wichita did not know what to do with us,” David Bahre says of licensing. “It’s not that they didn’t want us.”

Wheat State will open in 3,200 square feet at the southwest corner of 37th and Hydraulic within — if all goes well — 45 days.

“I am the first ever licensed distiller in Wichita,” Bahre says. “I am proud of that.”

He says Kansas has some of the most stringent alcohol regulations nationwide.

“It’s been an uphill battle so far,” Bahre says. He says he also had a gas line issue that he worried would force him to abandon the site he chose and possibly the city as well, but he says it’s been resolved.

The Bahres, who are natives of Wichita, plan to produce vodka, flavor-infused vodka, gin, wheat whiskey, bourbon and two kinds of rum. The rum products, which will be made from a mixture of molasses from Florida and evaporated sugar cane juice from Maui, won’t be under the Wheat State name since they won’t be made from wheat.

Bahre says he’s been a business owner since he was 19. He has bought and sold a number of restaurants and has other business interests as well.

“Our real passion is what we’re doing right now in Wichita,” he says.

Bahre has a degree in milling science, which is the process of turning grains into products, from Kansas State University.

“It’s a lot of food chemistry and food science,” he says. He’s also finishing a master’s degree in agribusiness.

“I would like an identity-preserved program with … a premium grade product,” Bahre says of tracking the wheat that goes into his products.

“Kind of my dream is to buy the farm that goes with the distillery, but we’ve got to take one thing at a time,” he says. “Farms are expensive.”

Bahre says he’d like a small working farm that would be open to the public.

The distillery will be open to the public for tours, which will include Kansas history and information on distilling in general.

“This is a movement similar to … brewpubs in the 1980s,” Bahre says.

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Dold Foods plant to expand

WICHITA — The Dold Foods plant at 2929 N. Ohio is expanding.

The company, which is part of Hormel, has an almost $1.5 million building permit for an addition. It’s a new place to house water treatment equipment, which will be updated.

The Dold Foods plant, which has almost 300 employees, produces bacon for Hormel’s retail customers and food service clientele. That includes several kinds of Hormel bacon brands, such as Hormel Black Label.

Michael Monteferrante named Envision CEO

WICHITA — The fixer is back.

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.”

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You don’t say

“Well, we’ve had a great tour going on, on a Wichita-made motorcycle. That’s a Big Dog made in Wichita. Great company.”

– Gov. Sam Brownback on the Kansas Republicans’ Road Map for Growth Tour Friday in Wichita where he referenced Big Dog Motorcycles, which went out of business last year

Knork Flatware expands Bed Bath & Beyond presence to 650 stores

WICHITA — Newton-based Knork Flatware has landed a deal to sell its products in 650 Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

“It’s obviously going to impact sales substantially for us,” Knork president Tom Carson says. “It’s probably our largest retail account for a box store.”

The company began working with the chain in 2008.

“Bed Bath & Beyond started as a test,” says Knork vice president of marketing Lacy Simon.

Initially, the flatware that features its signature knife and fork in one utensil — a Knork — was in only the Wichita Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

“It’s just built from there,” Simon says. “The product sold very well.”

The number grew to 200 before jumping to 650, though Carson notes there are many more Bed Bath & Beyond stores than that, and he’d like to be in all of them. Knork is on the chain’s bridal registry as well.

“That’s done very well for us, too,” Carson says.

“I like to get Knork anywhere there’s heavy bridal,” Simon says.

There are 200 Dillard’s stores that sell Knork.

“Right now, Dillard’s is exploring the opportunities to expand, and that might be a possibility for spring 2013,” Simon says. “Macy’s is looking at a test for next fall.”

Target and Kohl’s also carry Knork online but not in their stores. Simon says Knork’s extensive manufacturing process makes it more expensive than other flatware lines sold in those stores.

There are now about 50 Knork products and $2 million in annual sales for the company, which started in 2004 with one product that Wichita resident Mike Miller created.

“It was kind of gadgetry,” Carson says. “A fork that cuts like a knife.”

The issue was “just overcoming some of the consumer skeptics of the new kind of unfamiliar product,” Simon says.

“It was quite a struggle at the beginning.”

It sometimes still is.

“It is truly such an experiential product,” Simon says. She says the goal is always to put the product into someone’s hands.

“You’ve really got to put it in your hands to experience the functionality of it,” Carson says.

Starting out, Carson says the company sold direct to other businesses.

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Colorado appreciates that Coleman Co. is making Golden its “global headquarters”

WICHITA — Last fall, when Have You Heard? broke the news that Coleman Co. was moving its leadership team back to Colorado,  president and CEO Robert Marcovitch didn’t characterize it as moving the company’s headquarters.

“Well, I think Coleman’s headquarters is in the United States of America if you ask me. I think on the global scale.”

That’s not how they’re taking it in Colorado.

Over the weekend, the Denver Post reported: “The Coleman Co., known for its array of camping products, will mark the opening of its global headquarters in Golden on Monday, about 15 years after it left the city for Wichita.”

Marcovitch initially wouldn’t say where in the Denver metropolitan area the company would locate, but speculation was it would be returning to its former headquarters in Golden.

The Post reports that’s the case.

“The company is moving back into the same $4.5 million custom-built, log-cabin-style headquarters it built in 1996.”

The paper says Coleman is announcing changes to its headquarters today.

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McGinty Machine has contract on part of the former Big Dog Motorcycles space

WICHITA — In late December, Have You Heard? reported that part of the former Big Dog Motorcycles space at 1520 E. Douglas is under contract.

There’s still not a done deal for the 20,000-square-foot warehouse space near Douglas and Hydraulic, which is east of where Big Dog’s 60,000-square-foot showroom was, but now it’s clear who the potential buyer is.

Nearby neighbor Don McGinty is eyeing the space for his McGinty Machine, which is in a 43,000 square-foot building at First and Hydraulic.

“We’re doing our due diligence now,” McGinty says. “It won’t be definite until I say I really want it.”

It depends on whether he can get tax abatements on the property and new machinery he wants to buy. McGinty says he’s looking at a $3 million to $5 million expansion. He says he’s likely to hire 10 to 15 people over the next couple of years.

“We’re just kicking it up a notch,” McGinty says.

That includes likely developing a sheet metal fabrication shop that will do table-top assemblies to serve aircraft companies.

“In the future, they’re going to want (us) to build the small assemblies, maybe to go into the bigger assemblies,” McGinty says.

His father and uncle started the company in the 1940s by making small aircraft parts.

“Now we go up to 40-foot long,” McGinty says.

More and more, he says, aircraft companies want their machine shop vendors to be one-stop shops for all their parts needs.

“That’s the direction we’re moving,” McGinty says.

To make that possible, his first choice is to expand into the Big Dog space. If he doesn’t get the abatements, though, McGinty says he might have to look elsewhere.

“It’s not really my desire,” he says.

McGinty thinks abatements make sense for Wichita for a couple of reasons.

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