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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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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Farmers Insurance consolidates and renames two claims offices

WICHITA — Farmers Insurance is consolidating its property claims and auto casualty claims offices into one location at Occidental Management’s Northrock office building at 32nd North and Rock Road.

The 7,000-square-foot space at Northrock isn’t larger than the two offices currently have, nor does it particularly create efficiencies.

“It’s more to give our employees a better facility with . . . nicer and larger conference rooms, training rooms and more work space, basically,” says Rob Koch, assistant vice president of property claims.

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Dollar Tree to expand at Northwest Centre

WICHITA — The Dollar Tree at Northwest Centre at 13th and Tyler is expanding.

The store, which is almost 6,000 square feet, will expand to 10,000 square feet and should be ready before Thanksgiving.

That size “is more in line with what we call the Dollar Tree sweet spot,” says spokeswoman Chelley Davis.

The “sweet spot” is stores between 10,000 and 12,500 square feet. The larger store allows for expanded merchandise.

Michael Monteferrante of Occidental Management, which owns the center, and Leisa Lowry of J.P. Weigand & Sons handled the deal.

Dollar Tree’s second quarter earnings were up almost 12 percent over last year’s. Sales were $1.22 billion.

Davis says it could be the recession is prompting more people to shop at the discount chain.

“Our sense is yes, but I don’t have any metrics,” she says.

Syndeo Outsourcing to move into Great Plains Ventures building

greatplains1WICHITA — At a time when a lot of companies are downsizing, Syndeo Outsourcing is expanding.

“The best way I can describe it is downsizing equals outsourcing,” says president Bill Maness.

The company, which is a human resource outsourcing, payroll and staffing firm, is moving from 2,200 square feet at the former Brite Voice building at 7309 E. 21st to about 6,500 square feet at Great Plains Ventures‘ new building near 35th and Oliver.

In addition to being out of room on East 21st, Maness says, “I don’t have room to grow here.”

He does at the new space, which he’ll be in by October.

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