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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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

“What it really means is we’re able to continue our mission.”

Envision CEO John Marstall on the nonprofit winning the renewal of a five-year, $47 million contract to manufacture bags and keep vision-impaired people employed

Envision CEO is out after less than six months on the job


UPDATED — Less than six months after becoming Envision’s president and CEO, Frank Clepper is gone.

Former board member and interim CEO John Marstall says Clepper is “off pursuing some other personal activities.”

Marstall says he won’t discuss Clepper’s departure further because it’s a personnel matter.

“I really couldn’t respond.”

Clepper couldn’t be reached for comment.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh, who is vice chairman of Envision’s board, says Clepper’s departure is a setback.

“Well, it presents a little bit of a challenge for us, and obviously these changes create some turmoil and uncertainty,” he says. “But we have a great mission, and we have a lot of committed leadership to our mission, and I believe we’ll survive. But it is a challenge.”

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.

Marstall is an accountant who just came off the Envision board, where he served for 13 years, including three as chairman.

“The board is real committed to finding a long-term, permanent, highly qualified CEO, so I’ve agreed to serve until that person can get on board.”

A source close to the situation says Clepper recently began a corporate restructuring. Marstall says he doesn’t know anything about that.

“I’ve been here two days, and I’m trying to learn what has been transpiring,” he says.

Unruh was aware Clepper had a restructuring plan.

“We hadn’t seen it yet, so that wasn’t a factor. Frank just wanted to experience other opportunities.”

Marstall says Envision is a “very solid operation.”

“We are financially strong and solvent.”

In spring 2011, longtime Envision CEO Linda Merrill-Parman announced her retirement due to health reasons.

Unruh says the board took its time replacing Merrill-Parman, but it won’t now.

“I would like to move fairly quickly, so I think we need to get it in gear and get after it.”















Michael Monteferrante to become CEO of Texas-based Future Food

mmf2WICHITA — Seven years after coming to Wichita to lead Optima Bus, Michael Monteferrante is leaving to work for the same company that used to own Optima.

American Capital has hired Monteferrante to be CEO of Future Food in Carrollton, Texas.

“It’s pretty interesting,” Monteferrante says of his career path. “From subway cars to locomotives to buses to real estate to food.”

Monteferrante was with Optima until American Capital sold it in 2006. He then joined Occidental Management as CEO.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” says Occidental chairman Gary Oborny.

He expected this to happen, though.

“Just because of his . . . business experience it would be difficult to keep him in Wichita very long,” Oborny says. “Not a lot of companies can compete with those larger national companies when they come calling. You can’t match what they offer.”

Future Foods has two major brands: Santa Barbara Bay, which includes spreads and dips, and Salads of the Sea, which has things like “krab” dip.

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Tweet of the week

“Ha Ha. Here at Envision . . . we have the INTRUST Community Room, we worry about people going to the bank for our events.”

— A tweet on Twitter from Envision’s Michael Epp (@michalepp) in reply to a tweet about the Intrust Bank concert calls