Something to Think About
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Steve Sauder is president of Emporia's Radio Stations, Inc. the owners of KVOE-AM 1400, Country 101.7 and Mix 104.9. Steve has been in a leadership position with ERS, Inc., since 1987.
On December 30, 2014, I read an editorial in the Gazette entitled “Emporia is a Very Generous Community”. To quote Brandy Nance, “The generosity here in Emporia is an integral part of the fabric that makes up Emporia and the area.” This statement is so true when I think about what Emporia has done for The National Teachers Hall of Fame. We are getting ready to celebrate our 24th induction ceremony, and 5 teachers from across the United States will be chosen to participate as our newest inductees. We would not be in existence had it not been for this great community. Founding organizations back in 1989 were The City of Emporia, Emporia State University, The Chamber of Commerce, and USD 253; and each of these organizations is still an integral part of the Hall of Fame.
Honoring teachers is not a new concept. Before the Hall of Fame began, there were awards given to teachers such as: Disney Awards , The Millken Awards, Internet Innovators Awards, State Teacher of the Year Awards, and The Fulbright Distinguished Award .
What sets the Hall of Fame apart from these awards is that we honor teachers who have dedicated their lives to education, with 20 years of full-time teaching being a requirement for nomination.
We have all had teachers who have impacted our lives in one way or another. I remember Mr. Plank who was my 5th grade teacher at William Allen White School here in Emporia. I remember him teaching me something, I remember him being very respectful, I remember him having different ways to teach us, and I remember he was just a darn good teacher. I have been blessed to have received my entire public school education right here in Emporia and to have had many wonderful teachers. There was Mr. Collier, yikes he was kind of scary but a he sure knew his social studies, There was Mr. Nelson a great science teacher, There was Mrs. Jacquith my English teacher, and the famous Mr. Bloxom who was a huge humorist. When 18 wheeler trucks would go by on west 6th right by the school, he would say, there goes another EHS graduate. Then there was Mrs. Hendriks, the music teacher. So many memories have come from that class. It’s just recently after the Christmas holidays that I have reminisced back to my time in Mrs. Hendricks chorale, the Christmas Program, the performances made throughout the community and the trips to state music competitions. I will treasure forever what these teachers have given me.
At the Hall of Fame, we are getting ready to make our selection. A group of 15 people from across the nation will be flying to Kansas City to discuss and choose our 5 inductees. Those on the committee represent national education organizations as well as several of our corporate partners. They will spend the better part of one day watching videos, collaborating and trying to narrow 20 great teachers down to 5. Announcement day will be in March and then these 5 selected teachers will converge on Emporia in June to be honored for what they do with America’s school children. So many of the new inductees have praised our wonderful town of Emporia, they love being here, they love the experiences they have had here and they feel honored. From the band concert in the park to the friendly greetings and banners downtown to the gala banquet on Friday night, these inductees are made to feel like royalty. Thank you, Emporia, for helping support the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Emporia is truly “Teacher Town, USA” in the heart of America, and you capture the hearts of these educators who represent all that is great in American education.
And… how recently have you thanked a teacher? It’s something to think about……
Some folks say that one of Emporians' greatest shortcomings is their modesty. We expect the best, but when successes present themselves, we rarely even talk about them. Yes, we did boast a bit when we won the Best Water in the World award, but that talk dwindled away quickly. We're Emporians, after all, not Texans.
I'd be willing to bet, however, that no other city in the nation can claim more successful people and products -- per capita -- than Emporia.
You already know about William Allen White's two Pulitzer prizes. You probably know that his son won the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer when he was reporting for CBS from the European Theatre in WWII. W.A.'s son also was a roving editor for Reader's Digest and author of several books, three of which were picked up by Hollywood and made into movies starring the likes of Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed and John Wayne .
But do you know about Murdock Pemberton, an EHS graduate who went on to become the first art critic for New Yorker magazine?
His brother, Brock, moved from Emporia to the East Coast, where he produced and directed shows on Broadway. Perhaps his best-known production featured a man whose friend was an imaginary rabbit -- The play was "Harvey." In 1950, a few months after his death, he was posthumously awarded a Tony, in recognition of his role as founder and first chairman of the Tony Awards.
Remember former Gazette reporter Pete Earley? His books routinely hit the New York Times best-sellers list.
Emporian Pat Hopper Dahnke has truly made a name for herself in western fashion design with her elegant leather-and-lace clothing and has added a new line of bedding and other home items.
Then there's John Forsythe, who came to Emporia in the early 1970s to attend College of Emporia, and stayed. His gorgeous bronze statues are in demand at museums and state houses, and other high-profile settings.
If you're into tough guys, Emporian R. Lee Ermey must be one of the best-known drill sergeants this side of Sgt. Bilko and Sgt. Carter.
When the owner of the Evel Knievel museum needed someone to restore the motorcycle daredevil's furniture, whom did he call on for the job? Emporia's woodworking artist Conrad Wempe.
Emporia has sent out some successes in sports, too. Dean Smith spent part of his childhood here, when his father was principal at Emporia High School. Dean Smith went on to be pretty well known as a basketball coach.
Let's not forget champion steer-wrestler Jason Lahr, and John Lohmeyer, who played defense for the Kansas City Chiefs; NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer, and racer Gary Stinnett, who also builds race car engines that are in demand worldwide.
We're home to gravel-grinding bike races and disc golf tournaments that bring in competitors from across the U.S. and several foreign countries.
I think we also can count the successes of sports at Emporia State. Baseball, softball, and basketball teams all have won NAIA championships. This year, it looks like the Lady Hornets could repeat the feat.
Let's not forget that a couple of years ago, ESU's debate team took double national championships.
And how many times has U.S. News & World Report named our university among the "best" -- a best value in education, a best program in a variety of fields. Just this month, the magazine ranked ESU 11th in the country for its online graduate education programs. No university in Kansas ranked higher, and most of the rest of the country trailed behind, too.
Home-grown businesses also have made their mark.
Sauder Tank Company, which moved here from Greenwood County, has been supplying monstrous tanks to the oil industry world-wide for decades. Hopkins Manufacturing produced an ice scraper that was the most-popular Christmas gift in 1985, and they've only expanded their product line since then.
Carl Didde and Don Glaser teamed up to invent a collator that revolutionized the printing industry. Didde Web Press had a long run dominating the market for small- and mid-sized presses world-wide, until technology and copy machines supplanted the need for most presses.
Even the city itself has done well. Emporia is -- by a Congressional resolution -- the official Founding City of Veterans Day. We have the National Teachers Hall of Fame and the new Fallen Teachers Memorial that's bringing in more visitors every day.
And this is only a sampling. There are many more that time prohibits mentioning.
Sure, there are things we need to improve, and we realize that doing a little better job every day will result in a better product or performance. But we do already have a great deal to be proud of in Emporia. The overall level of achievement in so many areas surely is unequaled by any other city our size.
We don't talk about it much, though. But if this were Emporia, Texas, instead of Emporia, Kansas, we wouldn't be able to stop ourselves.
Faith or fear? Which one do we choose, for all men are driven by one or the other?
If we choose faith, then we believe in the hopeful potential of what we haven’t yet seen.
Fear disrupts us and will keep us from our goals, dreams and our destiny, so fear is not an option for this community to move forward.
Over the last few years you have heard me talk about partnerships and relationships that make this community much stronger. Let’s recap quickly of just a few of these. The City of Emporia and Lyon County have created many joint efforts that will benefit services and enhance the quality of life throughout the county. Emporia State University, Flint Hills Technical College, City of Emporia and Lyon County are working together to better understand what is needed to have the highest qualified workforce in this region and what it means to be a “university community”. Newman Regional Health and Lyon County are working together to provide this region with the absolute best health care available. By becoming a member on the Flint Hills Regional Council we now have a 7 county partnership that has the potential to provide cost savings to our county by sharing resources, and give us leg up in attracting new business to this area. It also gives us the opportunity to create ties with Fort Riley, mostly through education for troops transitioning to private life. These are positive changes.
Currently we have RDA leading the way for industrial development and working with existing business to address the needs that they require to be even more successful, throughout our region. We have Main Street that does a phenomenal job increasing consumer business and bringing many activities downtown, and more than willing to say downtown is everywhere. We have the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, which does a great job of promoting business and community success, and have a tremendous leadership program second to none, again throughout the Lyon county area. And now Lyon County is looking to become more active in economic development. Again this is a positive change.
So why is Lyon County taking the time to research where we can be most effective in helping this community take a positive step forward? First answer is that is why you hired us. You put your faith in us to make the decisions that will make Lyon County more efficient, have a better quality of life, and provide an atmosphere that will foster structured growth. This will be an ongoing process that requires public input that we desperately encourage.
Second answer is that with all the organizations that have been mentioned above, why aren’t we more successful. We must challenge ourselves every day to be better. We cannot afford to become defensive when ask if there is a different way to create jobs, housing, and utilize existing infrastructure to be more efficient. I think that we have proven that partnerships and relationships are the key to success and if we all, and I do mean all, work together we will find that we have the same common goals. And that is a positive change.
And finally let me read the mission statement of Lyon County. “The mission of Lyon County government is to create an environment of economic growth within a framework of fiscal responsibility and transparency to the people of Lyon County.” And that folks is the action we will take.
Many are fearful of change, but I already said that fear is not an option so faith it is!
Scott Briggs, Lyon County Commissioner
This morning when you woke up what was the first thing you did? Grab a cup of coffee? Let the dogs out, at some point you turned on the TV. By breakfast you had turned on your cell phone and checked emails, possibly sent a few texts. Just think how technology has changed our lives in the past hundred years?
Yesterday I read an article entitled The Flint Hills Stone Shelters, 1800’s underground stone structures scattered around the Kansas landscape. As my mother referred to them these “root cellar” were the shelter farmers and ranchers alike went to cool off after a long days harvest in the blistering summer heat. Thinking about those old root cellars, I’m curious, what did their morning routine look like?
It’s fascinating to think how our day to day lives have evolved in the past hundred years. When I was a new college student, carrying a laptop to class was unthinkable—the most exciting portable device was a palm pilot. Yet, Today students are equipped with an entourage of technical devices, cells phones, touch screen laptops, tablets and blue tooth audio ready to go. I think of all the technical preparation these students have today that I didn’t. A transition of the time, maybe, moving from the old to the new, but then I think about the workforce this generation is entering. Our working world is quickly evolving to reflect this new technical age. Currently 74% of Americans are using a computer at work to access the internet, check their email or utilize specific piece of software. Without computer programmers we how would we organize and retrieve the million pieces of data companies use daily? How would we communicate a company’s a growth to stakeholders without software engineers. Our economy is directly linked to the strength and skills of our current and future workforce. Technology is where our workforce is heading.
As factories expand and companies find new ways to get products to the public, we see the need for technological minds to be a part of that. Jobs for the future involve machine tooling operators and engineers working together to create new infrastructures. Consider how our understanding of what’s possible changed with the invention of the 3D printer. In high schools across Kansas students are learning to incorporate technology into their normal studies, and also focusing on career and technical pathways to set-up their working futures. The importance technology plays in todays’ workforce and our students futures is immeasurable.
We’re living in a time of transition. Our county is currently full of working men and women who may have had little exposure to technical education. Yet, in every December and May graduation we see new talent emerge and join the workforce. With each working day we learn from one another and we certainly rely on the expertise we both bring to work, but living in transition is exciting, new, ok at times scary. We’re uncertain of where all this technology will lead us, but we do know having access to technology will help push us into the future. It will help bridge the gap from the past to the future.
Tina Khan - Flint Hills Technical College
There is or should be an ongoing debate locally about the strategy for economic development utilizing local Emporia and Lyon County tax revenues.
Decoded that means the recent failure to obtain re-zoning of the Price tract has the Regional Development Association and Emporia Enterprises questioning the commitment of Lyon County to be a partner in their plans.
Commissioner Scott Briggs cast the dissenting vote. An RDA member as well Briggs said his vote reflected not knowing what the land usage would be and his personal feeling the RDA’s strategy for attracting jobs needed to be re-visited.
No doubt the Price tract is well suited for development and maintaining Emporia’s foot in the door is not a bad idea. But, if we plan to keep offering free shovel ready ground plus tax abatement to prospects we need to make sure the jobs attached are not marginal in nature. My suggestion is the RDA look more strongly at the quality of the jobs versus the number.
All economic development activity needs to consider three factors present in Emporia today.
First is the potential for assisting Emporia State University as our most effective economic development strategy.
Please consider these two questions:
Number 1. Which would benefit Emporia more?
Seventy new full-time students at ESU or seventy new jobs?
Number 2. Which – students or jobs - would be more difficult to attract?
Second, part of attracting and growing new jobs is having workers to fill those jobs. I am watching with interest Birch Telecom’s efforts to add over a hundred new employees. Are there applicants for the new Birch jobs? And, where are these people coming from.
Emporia appears to have a lack of qualified people looking for work.
Last is housing - if Emporia is successful in attracting new people to Emporia for jobs – where will they live? Lack of suitable housing must be addressed if we hope to grow.
Failure to address the labor market question and availability of housing for new employees might undermine the most excellent efforts of the RDA!
With all that said I hope the stated efforts of Lyon County to be more active in economic development is not viewed as a challenge to the RDA, but as a more willing partner. The re-zoning disagreement should not be viewed as a road block, but maybe as a challenge with legitimate questions needing good answers.
Hopefully everyone concerned will come to the table to examine and re-examine the strategies for growing our area. Cooperation between our units of government is at an all time best, so let’s keep pulling together.
I’m Steve Sauder and there’s something to Think About.