a dozen faculty members from the College of Business and
Entrepreneurship made a road trip Monday to the new Fort Hays State
University wind turbines and further away to the city of Greensburg,
which was wiped out by a tornado in 2007.
Called the Energy
and Innovation Tour, Mark Bannister, dean of the business college, said
the goal was to visit businesses that would help faculty connect rural
Kansas to their classrooms.
"I want faculty to
know what innovative businesses are doing and that those businesses are
seeking FHSU graduates," Bannister said. "They need to know the skill
sets required for prospective employees. We saw on the tour how critical
community leadership is and that there are very exciting career
opportunities in rural Kansas settings."
The tour began on
campus with a presentation by Mike Steinke, executive managing partner
of Enid-based WECC LLC, the consultant for the FHSU wind project.
Steinke said the two 2.0-MW turbines, manufactured by Vestas, together
with existing diesel generators, create a micro grid that can supply
most of FHSU's electricity needs most of the time. He said the two wind
generators would be operational by mid to late September.
"This is really a
beautiful project," he said. "With an educational component and payback
in just nine years, it will provide benefits to FHSU students who are
not even born yet."
Steinke led the
business faculty to the next stop on the tour, which was a visit to the
site of the new turbines just over three miles west of the campus.
Faculty went inside one of the towers and agreed it was exciting to see
"This is a good
example of how FHSU is forward-thinking," said Jon Tholstrup, instructor
of informatics. "We will use the wind turbines to drive down costs."
Next the business
delegation re-boarded vans for the nearly 100-mile drive south to
Greensburg. They were greeted by Mayor Bob Dixson, who ushered them
around the community to see the progress that had been made since the
devastating tornado that destroyed 950 homes and every business on Main
The first stop was at BTI, a John Deere dealership that also has stores in Bucklin, Ness City and Pratt.
BTI President Kelly
Estes said Fort Hays State had been a great partner with Greensburg,
sending down volunteers to help right after the storm. "When you lose a
whole town, where do you start?" he asked. And yet, he described how BTI
immediately bought the John Deere dealership in nearby Pratt to provide
a base of operations for its Greensburg employees. The company has
since expanded to $150 million in annual sales and 160 employees.
Because there was
no service from the electric grid while they were building a new
dealership in Greensburg, they temporarily generated electricity from a
donated wind turbine. Seeing the potential, BTI created a subsidiary --
Harvest the Wind -- and began selling and servicing wind generators. BTI
provided the Vestas wind generators for the FHSU wind project.
Kent Kirk, manager of integrated solutions for BTI, said the growing company was always looking for new employees.
"We need employees
with an aptitude for technology, agronomic skills, business skills and
communication skills," Kirk said. "And they need to know something about
everything," he added, emphasizing the need for a well-rounded
Brad Estes, who
heads up the Kansas division of Harvest the Wind, said FHSU was well
equipped to provide the education those new employees need. "For a kid
from western Kansas, there is an opportunity in this industry to see the
entire globe as your workplace," he said.
Bannister said it
was exciting to see what BTI was doing. "Its growth and innovative
approaches are remarkable," he said. "BTI is expanding with an
international footprint that reinforces the FHSU model of being
associate professor of informatics, said he was impressed that after
years of entertaining visitors from places far and wide, the people of
Greensburg were still willing to take time to give tours.
In addition to BTI
and Harvest the Wind, the business faculty visited the new Kiowa County
schools, the City of Greensburg SunChips Business Incubator, and the
Kiowa County Commons, which includes the public library, a media center,
a museum and soda fountain, a state-of-the-art broadcast studio, and
the K-State Research and Extension Office.