New Industry Group hopes to show impact of agribusiness has in Wichita.
Wichita Business Journal, July 29, 2005. Written by Jerry Siebenmark
When Curtis Wiltse was laid off as manager of seed quality and purity issues
for Monsanto Co. in St. Louis two years ago, he went looking for a job elsewhere
in the agribusiness industry.
The job search, he says, would have been a lot easier had he belonged to the
St. Louis Agri-Business Club. He had thought about joining, but didn’t
want to make the time commitment.
“After having your position eliminated you wish you had those contacts,” says
Wiltse, who now lives in Wichita and works as a territory manager for Redball,
LLC, a Minnesota manufacturer of farm sprayers and related equipment.
Wiltse and others in agribusiness have formed a new organization aimed in part
at helping them build that network of contacts.
The new group, Agri-Business Council of Wichita, will officially kick-off next
month as part of the Kansas Farm Bureau’s 30th Annual Governor’s
Farm and Ranch Tour in Sedgwick County.
But the group is more than just about networking. Its biggest role is to raise
awareness among city, county, state and federal elected officials of the impact
agribusiness has in the Wichita area, as well as the effects the decisions they
make will have on that industry.
Getting business done
Wiltse is one of a handful of people and organizations behind the idea of the
Agri-Business Council, which began taking shape in February and has had monthly
meetings since March.
The council has about 20 members that comprise businesses, associations and people.
The council’s officers are: Curtis Wiltse, chairman; Ed Frey of Farm
Credit, vice chairman; Sandy Scripter of Cargill, secretary-treasurer; and
of KFB, program committee chairwoman.
Other companies involved in the formation of the group are: AgraPlacements, Ltd.;
Armstrong/Shank Advertiseing; High Plains Journal; Kansas Livestock Association:
Kansas State University Research and Extension; Kennedy and Coe LLC; Monsanto;
SER Corp. and United BioEnergy.
“We had been talking about if this is even feasible in Sedgwick County
and we’re now to the roll-out point of that plan,” says Terry Holdren,
KFB’s policy director.
The new organization will not compete with KFB’s Sedgwick County Farm Bureau,
which Holdren says focuses on producers – farmers and ranchers – rather
than the various businesses that support agriculture such as banks and equipment
Holdren and Wiltse say they believe agribusiness is big business in the Wichita
area. But they don’t have the data to support that. The Agri-Business
Council hopes to become a clearing-house for information on the number of people
in agribusiness, the companies involved in that industry and the economic impact
on the Wichita area.
That kind of data will be helpful, they say, when they are working with elected
officials in shaping policy or addressing concerns about legislation.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know who all these people are, but
that’s the goal, to unite all of these people so we have a strong voice
together,” Wiltse says.
Officials from the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, a 105-member
group that formed in October 2003, have been advising local council officials
in the start-up.
Gina Bowman-Morrill, chairwoman and co-founder of the Kansas City group, says
the biggest draw has been the networking opportunities it offers, although
staying focused on building relationships with state and congressional legislators
and putting a good face on agribusiness.
“If you surveyed our members, the opportunity to network and get business
done (with each other) is probably the greatest value to them,” Bowman-Morrill
The Wichita Council’s official launch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday,
Aug. 31 at Eberly Farm, 13111 W. 21st. Wiltse says 260 people have been invited
Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 266-6192 or on the Web at email@example.com.