MANHATTAN, Kan. – Entrepreneurship and service to community are hallmarks of the rural Kansans recognized by Kansas State University’s Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development as Leaders of the Year for 2012. They received their awards in Manhattan on Feb. 22.
“These rural Kansans have demonstrated a high level of innovation, hard work, and service to their customers and communities,” said Renee Shaw, chair of the board of directors of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, in announcing this year’s winners.
This year’s award categories and winners are:
Agribusiness: Doyle Pearl, J.B. Pearl Sales and Service, St. Marys
Community Service: Northwest Technical College, Goodland
Entrepreneurial Development: Chris Sramek, Rawlins County Hometown Prosperity, Atwood
Entrepreneurship: Dave Dreiling, GTM Sportswear, Manhattan
Tourism: Jeff Oakes, Flint Oak, Fall River
J.B. Pearl Sales and Service is a full-service agribusiness offering a wide variety of products, services, and knowledge. They include custom application of fertilizers, lime, and crop protection products, liquid and dry fertilizer applicators, and diversified seed sales. The company offers crop consulting by certified crop advisors, soil testing and mapping using global positioning satellites and geographic information systems, and variable application of products for precision agriculture. Doyle Pearl is general manager of the company, which was founded by his parents J.B. and Eileen Pearl in 1961. Doyle has helped lead his industry nationally as chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association. The company has grown to three locations and 27 employees, including three generations of the Pearl family. For more information, see J.B. Pearl Sales & Service, Inc.
In 2009, Dr. Ed Mills became president of Northwest Technical College (known as Northwest Tech) in Goodland. He made cutting edge technology a priority for the school. Northwest Tech then launched an iPad Learning Initiative under which every full-time student would receive an iPad for their use. Various applications for the iPad were integrated into technology classes and general education classes. “We were the first two-year college in the nation to have a one-to-one initiative, with one iPad per student,” said Diane Stiles, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Northwest Tech. The City of Goodland launched an iPad initiative as well. In fall 2010, Fast Company magazine listed Northwest Tech as one of “five technologically decked-out schools,” along with Notre Dame, Stanford, George Fox, and Duke University. In January 2012, Northwest Tech won the Distinguished Program Award from the Apple Company. For more information, see Northwest Technical College.
Rawlins County was facing the typical rural demographic trends of brain drain and outmigration when Chris Sramek took the position of county economic development director. Chris was an entrepreneur himself, having moved back to the community to start a meteorology business. He got involved with bottom-up economic development efforts such as Ogallala Commons, a multi-state grass-roots initiative for sustainable development, and a Nebraska initiative called HomeTown Competitiveness. Based on the Nebraska model, Kansas Farm Bureau then launched its own program now called the Kansas Entrepreneurial Communities Initiative, and Rawlins County Hometown Prosperity was one of three organizations selected to participate. It emphasizes local leadership, strong local development organizations, community philanthropy, and youth engagement, attraction and entrepreneurship. Since joining this initiative, personal income by non-farm proprietorships in Rawlins County has grown to record high levels, and Rawlins County actually grew in population. For more information, see Rawlins County Kansas.
How does a person build an entrepreneurial business? It’s Greek to me. That’s not just an answer to this question, it was the original name of a remarkable business based in Manhattan, built by an entrepreneur with rural roots. Dave Dreiling learned the entrepreneurial spirit from his father, a small-town businessman. As a K-State student, Dave started selling Greek-lettered products to fraternity and sorority houses. Today, Dave has built the company now known as GTM Sportswear into $70 million in sales, $18 million in inventory and nearly 900 employees. For more information, see GTM Sportswear.
In the early 1980s, Wichita businessman Ray Walton was looking for a place in the country where he and his friends could go hunting together. So, Ray bought scenic acreage in the southern Flint Hills and then decided to use the land as a private member hunting club. Today, Flint Oak is a 5,000 acre hunting and fishing lodge and resort in southeast Kansas near Fall River. Jeff Oakes is general manager. He explains that Flint Oak now has more than 50 employees, 350 memberships from 29 states plus foreign countries, and more than 10,000 guests a year. For more information, see Flint Oak.
The 2012 Huck Boyd Leaders of the Year winners were selected by students in an entrepreneurship class in K-State’s College of Business. Each year the Huck Boyd Institute selects its leaders of the year from among those featured on its weekly Kansas Profile radio program and column during the previous 12 months. Kansas Profile is distributed by the K-State Radio Network and K-State Research and Extension News Media Services to radio stations and newspapers state-wide.
The Huck Boyd Institute is a public/private partnership between K-State Research and Extension and the Huck Boyd Foundation. The foundation office is at the Huck Boyd Community Center in Phillipsburg. The institute office is at Kansas State University in Manhattan.