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.

February 14, 2018

I devote my days to finding ways to provide the opportunity for Higher Education to students because I believe wholeheartedly – that higher education lifts up our local, state, national and global communities.  In last week’s, Something to Think About segment it was pointed out that by the year 2021 70% of careers in Kansas will require some form of higher education. The value and accessibility of higher education is a public good and should not be reserved only for the select. 

While education, technology and the world in which we live, are evolving at unbelievable rates, the founding values of higher education institutions endure. Education is something our nation has believed in - for example, the GI Bill of 1944 was established and instituted to reward veterans - based on the national belief that Higher Education is key to public growth and prosperity.

There is much conversation about Higher Education today and whether it is worth the investment by the individual or by the state. As we look closer at the return on investment of those graduating with a four-year degree, there is a significant difference over a lifetime.

I would share a few interesting highlights that are true for those graduating with a bachelor’s degree. On the individual level, those with a bachelor’s degree earn significantly more – an average of 40% more - over a lifetime, which translates to the ability of graduates to create greater opportunity for their families. Additionally, those graduating with a degree tend to have an overall healthier lifestyle.  Beyond earnings and personal benefit, these individuals also are more likely to exhibit a higher level of civic engagement. They give back to their communities providing an overall increase in the quality of life.

Education alone is a change agent. Today’s students are deciding to change their story, elevate their communities, and provide a brighter future for generations to come. We are educating this generation to be lifelong learners that will prepare them to adapt for jobs that have not yet been created, discover solutions to problems not yet identified, and develop leaders within our organizations, communities, and nation.

So the next time we hear of a budget cut aimed at higher education a high school senior wavering about their future, or someone debating about returning to school; the value of education and our future is without question worth every dollar!

Last year Emporia State University was recognized as a college of distinction for providing high impact learning experiences, has a 98% placement rate, and is ranked by US News and World Reports as having the lowest student debt of any public university in Kansas, 2nd in the Midwest and 15th in the nation. And even more impressive – while all other institutions are seeing an increase in student debt – ESU’s average student debt has actually decreased.

No matter what you may hear or read in the news- the truth is, college is a real option for any student that has the desire and determination to get a degree. There are many scholarships, programs and financial aid solutions that can make the dream of a college education a reality for anyone.

I’m Shane Shivley and that is something to think about!

February 7, 2018

Since the opening of the 2018 Legislative session in Topeka, the buzz has been how the Legislature will respond to the Kansas Supreme Court order to fix the school finance system while being able to balance the budget at the same time.  The Governor’s budget calls for a $200 million dollar increase in educational funding for the FY19, and then an additional $100 million increase each of the next 4 fiscal years.  While at first glance, this is seemingly a significant increase, and let’s just be honest, $600 million dollars is a lot of money; but before we pass judgment or form an opinion on the Governor’s budget proposal, I would first like to point out a few items for you to think about:

Dr. Randy Watson, the Kansas Commissioner of Education, started his tenure as commissioner by visiting 20 different communities across the state holding 287 focus group meetings with around 1700 people ranging from students, parents, educators, business owners, and community members discussing one question:  what are the characteristics, qualities, abilities and skills of a successful 24 year old Kansan.    Dr. Watson learned that while teaching students academic skills are extremely important; it is equally important to teach students non-academic skills as well.  Schools need to focus on the social and emotional growth of students.  Curriculum needs to be re-designed around individualized goals, planning, instruction, and experience, as well as incorporating real-life problems and projects.  Schools need a deeper dive into individual career planning, and establish internships, job shadowing, and work experiences with business and community organizations for students. 

There is more on the list for school redesign but I think you get the picture that schools in Kansas are changing.  Changing for the better.  Schools are redesigning how we educate students, as the world is different today than it was years ago.  Technology has been the catalyst for exponential growth and advancements in our society.  The Kansas State Department of Education’s response to this growth and advancement was to establish a new accreditation and accountability system for public schools that use an educational framework called, “The Five Rs.”  Those 5 Rs are Relationships, Relevance, Responsive Culture, Rigor, and Results.  Within the 5 Rs are several indicators schools are focusing on.  These indicators are:

#1:  Social-Emotional Growth (Social-Emotional learning is the process through which students acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others and establish and maintain positive relationships.)

#2:  Kindergarten Readiness (the success of each student begins with high-quality, early childhood care and education)

#3: Individual Plan of Study for every student in middle school and high school. 

#4:  High School Graduation (from the first time a student enters kindergarten, every educator, kindergarten through grade 12, shares in the responsibility of preparing that student for success.)

#5:  Civic Engagement (Civic engagement is necessary so students can become active members of vibrant communities.  Students can’t be civically engaged by learning lessons in the classroom about civic engagement, they must themselves be civically engaged.)

#6:  Post-Secondary Success (did you know that according to a study produced by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, at least 70 percent of all Kansas jobs will require some level of postsecondary education?  This means that 70 percent of all Kansas students will need to obtain some sort of post-secondary training via a technical institution, a two-year college, or a 4-year college.)  If we want Kansas to prosper we have to prepare students in kindergarten through grade 12 with the skillset to continue their education via a post-secondary institution in order to meet the workforce demands in 2020 or else those business will leave Kansas and relocate in a state that is producing the workforce. 

As you can see, all the above is a shift from how education has been approached in the past.  To be successful in this shift, it will require more resources such as social workers, school counselors, family support specialists, instructional coaches, early childhood education programs, classroom resources, technology updates, curriculum changes, and most importantly, we have to be able to attract the best and brightest teachers to stay in Kansas.  Because let’s face it, the right teacher makes all the difference!  However, did you know that Kansas currently ranks towards the bottom in the nation at 42nd out of the 50 states in average teachers’ salaries?  We have to do better than that to attract the best and brightest!

I had a local patron tell me not long ago that school was good enough for him, so it is good enough for kids today.  I asked him when he graduated from high school and he replied in the early 1960’s.  In closing, I want to leave you with a few questions in comparison to think about. 

A 2018 Chevy pickup is different mechanically and technology wise than a Chevy pickup that was new in the early 1960’s.  Mechanics are now technicians, and shops require specialized tools and machinery to diagnose and work on modern day vehicles.  So, would you take your 2018 Chevy pickup to a mechanic to be worked on if the mechanic only had access to tools from the early 1960’s to work on it with? 

Earlier this year, I had a teacher at the John Deere Technician Training Program tell me that there are more computers on a modern day John Deere combine than there were on the first space shuttle!  Technology has improved processes and practices in our agricultural communities that have allowed our farmers and ranchers to meet the needs of our growing populations.  So, would a farmer or rancher be able to function and sustain operations in 2018 with only access to equipment and methodologies form the 1960’s?

As I circle back to the current legislative session taking place in Topeka and the sticker shock I’m sure many of you had when you heard the $600 million dollar figure over 5 years for education, I ask you to think about whether that seemingly big number in the Governor’s budget is a small investment to make for the much needed and necessary changes Kansas is making to improve education.  I believe education is the foundation of a strong economy and education is the foundation of strong communities.   Investing in our children is constructing a foundation Kansas can build a future on!

January 31, 2018

In the sport of competitive rowing, there are different types of boats that travel the 2000 meter distance. The world record for a single scull boat that one rower propels it that distance is six and a half minutes. The world record for a double scull boat that two rowers propels it that distance is six minutes. The world record for an eight boat that eight rowers propel it that distance is five minutes and nineteen seconds.

 So why is this something to think about?  Teamwork is the answer.

My first example is the City of Emporia and Lyon County’s commitment to working together to share costs, equipment, and personnel to provide services to the community that provide savings and better service for everyone. The history of this relationship has changed over time from somewhat adversary to a teamwork approach on local government. This has happened because the two commissions have chosen to sit down together and have the difficult conversations that were avoided in the past, and the results have been more than successful. Through this joint effort of propelling our boat faster, we quickly realize that another couple of rowers would be beneficial. Obviously, it would be difficult to just choose two.  Would it be Emporia State University, or would it be Flint Hills Technical College?  What about Newman Regional Health, Main Street, Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce, or RDA?  My suggestion is to throw them all in the boat and grab an oar.

In 2013 Lyon County joined with 6 other counties to form the Flint Hills Regional Council to take a regional approach to economic development.  The 7 counties involved are Lyon, Chase, Morris, Geary, Riley, Pottawatomie, and Wabaunsee.   By having a seat at the table for the monthly meetings we made many connections that have opened doors for exciting opportunities.  Whether it be Fort Riley working with Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College on educating and training troops that are transitioning out of the military, or the fact that the seven-county economic development directors are now meeting every quarter, good stuff is happening.  

Currently, the National Bio and Agri-Defense Facility (NBAF for short) is being constructed in Manhattan Kansas and is anticipated to be in full operations in 2023.  At a joint city-county meeting last spring we had Ron Trewyn, the NBAF liaison, speak to us on how this facility impacts Lyon County.  His main point was that with three pet food manufacturers and a regent university within a short distance from the facility we have enormous possibilities for economic opportunities for this region, and I totally agree.  Already companies from around the world are looking at locations to settle in, and we are it.  In this global economy, we cannot afford to go it alone.

The future of our success will be our ability to work strongly together to create an environment of economic growth and make Lyon County the place where people from across the globe look ‘to call home. I’m Scott Briggs and that is something to think about.

“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.”

January 24, 2018

Happy New Year!  I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and are ready for a successful 2018.  This is Jeanine McKenna, President of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, and as most years, I have sat down and charted out my goals for the upcoming year, both personally and professionally.  I have thought about what is the best way to make it a successful year for all of our members and the community as a whole.  I have looked back at all we have accomplished, talked to our members and the leadership of the Chamber, and I believe we are in store for a successful and fulfilling year.  I am proud of our office that includes the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and what we accomplish together.  I am happy to have the Regional Development Association in our building as well.  We all work hard to Build Community, Through Business.  I believe that we truly are meeting our mission of being “proactive in creating an environment for business and community success”.

We have members who represent all sectors of our community, each with varying needs to grow and prosper, but in the end, I believe we all want Emporia to be a community in which we can live, work and raise our families. 

We are kicking off the year with a lot of great and dynamic programs.  The Government Matters committee has already traveled to Topeka and delivered our Joint Legislative Agenda.  This is the fourth year that we have come together as the Emporia and Lyon County area, and thirteen entities have joined us in sharing what is important for growth in our communities, business, and region.  This group will also be continuing their Dialogues with our elected officials throughout 2018, so be watching for more information as we draw nearer to each event.

Workforce Development, Leadership Development, and Housing will take center stage this year at the chamber.  Workforces across America are changing and seeing challenges they have never seen before.  According to SHRM (Society for Resource Management) Foundation, 35% of U.S. labor force participants will be over 50 in 2022.  This is up from 25% in 2002.  10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, and by 2050, the 65-and-older age group is expected to grow by 75%.  The 25-to-54 age group will grow by only 2%. Not only is the workforce aging, but the supply of younger workers is diminishing in comparison. 

Mature workers—generally defined as workers over age 50 or 55—have experience and skills honed during decades of employment. Retaining talented mature workers—and recruiting new ones—is simply good business for most organizations.

A recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute predicts that “the U.S. Manufacturing sector is likely to suffer a shortfall of 2 million workers by 2025.  This is a marked increase from the 600,000 jobs that went unfilled in 2011.

The Emporia Area Chamber will focus on several areas related to workforce development to assist the business community in this time of workforce shortages such as addressing the skills gap; bridging the generational gap; and preparing employees to step up when leadership steps down. 

We are uniquely positioned to offer Leadership training in various shapes and forms.  Skill development for aspiring leaders, departments, and companies as a whole.  Consistent feedback through one-one-one coaching as well as group coaching is available to help our members build their teams. 

The workforce in the Emporia Area must have affordable and adequate housing available to them.  The Emporia Area Chamber supports efforts that are being made to increase housing to fit the needs of its current and future citizens. 

I challenge you to look at the most significant economic development and job growth opportunities experienced, and you will find the Chamber’s fingerprints all over it. Whether its providing leadership development, advocating or supporting local business, the chamber is dedicated to helping Build Community through Business.

It is an honor to be a part of this great organization, and to be able to talk to you today.  Thank you, Steve Sauder, and KVOE for this opportunity.  Remember, It's a great day in Emporia; please tell someone! I’m Jeanine McKenna with the Emporia Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau and That is Something to Think About.

January 17, 2017

I’m Ed Bashaw, an Emporia newcomer.  My wife Sara and I moved here in June of 2016 as I came to town to become Dean of the School of Business at Emporia State University.

This has been a great move for us on at least two fronts.  First, Emporia and ESU form the best combination of university and community relationships that I’ve ever experienced.  It is clear to me that both “Town” and “Gown” leaders understand the importance each other plays in building a more thriving community and a more thriving university.  Second, we’ve found Emporia to be a great place to live!  Emporians have been extremely welcoming to us.  We’ve found “Midwestern Hospitality” exceeds “Southern Hospitality” – and I’m a Southerner! 

Because of this hospitality, we’ve been included in many circles.  A good example of this is that I was asked to join Emporians for Growth, the community group advocating for extending the half-cent sales tax for Emporia economic development in last November’s elections.  Emporians overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure.  No doubt many voters recognized the effectiveness of this fund in helping attract new companies and new jobs to Emporia. 

The importance of job growth to our community is clear.  It is well-documented that thriving communities are able to attract new companies from established industries that create more jobs.  They also attract entrepreneurs willing to take risks to start up new enterprises that create new jobs when they are successful. 

Establishing incentives for small businesses, and the entrepreneurs who found and run them, are critical to our community.  The U.S. Census Bureau reports that small businesses in the U.S. account for nearly two/thirds of all private sector jobs.  The creation of new businesses by entrepreneurs is the life-blood of our local economy.  This is a critical area where the interests of Emporia and ESU overlap and where we need Town and Gown leadership.

The School of Business is moving towards a greater emphasis on entrepreneurship. The goal is to create entrepreneurs who stay in Kansas, but more importantly, stay in Emporia!  The popularity of our Elevator Challenge and the Entrepreneurial Challenge (with Flint Hills Technical College) along with my interactions with students lead me to believe the desire to launch startups is strong among ESU students.  

Why don’t more ESU students become entrepreneurs right out of school?  While Emporia State graduates leave school with the least amount of student debt among KBOR schools, they still accumulate just over $20,000 of debt.  And, they must begin making loan payments six months after graduation.  This keeps many would be entrepreneurs on the sideline as they cannot afford to make loan payments and go without a paycheck as they launch their startup. 

One of my goals this year is to address this situation by developing a proposal where a very modest amount of the economic development resources created from the successful sales tax extension vote are made available as incentives for business startups founded in Emporia.  This can be important to new ESU alums with a business startup idea and to Emporia’s economic future.  

And I hope you think that this idea is something to think about!   

January 10, 2018

Last September Forbes contributor, Laura Bloom, - in an article featuring the 7 best places in the U.S. you can afford to be an entrepreneur wrote “Emporia is a charming, walkable and bikeable town with 14 buildings on the National Register of Historic places and the home to Emporia State University. And with a population of only 25,000 people, you won’t feel like a number.  Emporia is a great place to be part of a community that has an active main street, restaurants and a bustling performing arts and entertainment scene. “You will fall in love with the architecture of Emporia – and who knows, you may even be inspired to start up your own downtown business.  The cost of living is very affordable and access to high speed internet is readily available.

Only a matter of months before the Forbes piece - Emporia was chosen by USA Today, readers choice, as the Best Main Street in the USA.  A panel of main street and downtown revitalization experts nominated Emporia citing beautiful architecture, a sense of history, locally owned business and community-centric spaces as elements that make Emporia’s Commercial Street so inviting and so quintessentially American.

More recently Emporia received attention of the wrong kind when, in a snarky satirical article published in December, the Onion named our town as the “best small town in America to escape from?  OUCH The Onion article unfortunately received more attention than it deserved when Michael Smith, in a syndicated opinion piece referring to a “tale of two Emporias” called attention to challenges we face in Emporia, including poverty, health care disparities, poor housing and racism.

I will choose to focus on the positive, Dr. Smith, and point out Emporia is meeting our challenges head on just as we have historically!!  Average wages are on the rise and unemployment is falling.  Housing stock in Emporia is improving, both quantitatively and qualitatively.  Government, non-government and faith-based organizations are combining to provide improving support and services for those in need.  A small sampling of these entities includes – United Way and it’s many agencies, Emporia Community Foundation, Abundant Harvest, Kansas Children’s Service League, Flint Hill’s Community Health Center, Crosswinds, Shiloh House and many, many more.  Emporia is blessed to have literally scores of organizations pursuing various missions to build our economic vitality, to improve our quality of life and create an even more appealing community to live, work and raise a family.  Groups like our Parent Teacher Organizations, various neighborhood associations and Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow have a legacy of leadership in our town that is the envy of other communities.  Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College faculty, staff and students participate in many of these community endeavors and in addition have unique campus activities focused on growing and achieving a greater good.

When we reference “a tale of two Emporia’s”, I observe we have challenges just as all cities and towns do, and we will not ignore those challenges.  As we have historically, we will always recognize opportunities for improvement. Emporia is an extraordinarily generous community. Emporia is doing well and has a bright future.  Each of us has an opportunity to engage in supporting our town and working to make it better.  Let’s focus on the positive and have another super year in 2018.

Did I mention I think we live a great community!