Monty Rogers doesn’t come across as the dreamy sort.
As a pharmacist, he deals in medicinal formulas and measurements. As a businessman, his eye stays focused on the bottom line.
But as an entrepreneur, Rogers lets his thoughts take flight.
AS KEYNOTE speaker at Thrive Allen County’s annual meeting Friday night, Rogers beckoned an audience of 225 to “dream with me for a moment” as he walked them through some “out-of-the-box” scenarios that might develop jobs locally — a keen need since the recent closure of Haldex Brakes Corp. and subsequent loss of 165 jobs.
Rogers is a native of Iola, graduating from Iola High School in 1980. Today, he is an Overland Park pharmacist licensed in Kansas and Missouri. He is president of two companies, has ownership in eight pharmacies, and is an adjunct professor of pharmacy at the pharmacy schools of both the University of Missouri in Kansas City and at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, his alma mater. He also serves as a consultant to independent retail and specialty pharmacies.
His most recent venture is GROW IOLA, a partnership with Ryan Sparks, in which the duo manages rentals and has begun to build single and multiplex homes throughout Iola.
In hindsight, perhaps, Rogers can see a path that led to these successes. However they came about, they began as dreams that were fueled with passion, drive and focus.
For Allen County, Rogers proposed recruiting “ambassadors” to spread the word of the area’s many benefits to businesses looking to expand their capacities.
In his role with a prescription benefit management company, Rogers said he has the opportunity to meet with business owners looking to “increase their capacities in the most efficient manner.” Sometimes that means outsourcing to foreign countries.
How about Iola or Humboldt becoming their destination, instead, he proposed. Southeast Kansas can as easily be the base for a call center or a computer-programming hub as India, he said.
People whose jobs take them on the road or abroad should also take advantage of those trips to promote their hometowns, Rogers said.
Rogers’ talk was in line with the night’s theme of investing in one’s community.
THE BANQUET also was a celebration for things accomplished over the past year and a look to what lies ahead.
The highlight of the evening was celebrating the decision by Allen County voters to enact a quarter-cent sales tax as the final leg in funding a new Allen County Hospital. The core group of organizers was awarded The Donna — the award that recognizes community excellence. The award is named after the late Donna Talkington and was especially poignant because she served as chairman of the hospital advisory board.
“She would have been pleased,” said her daughter, Jacki Chase.
It was at last year’s Thrive banquet that Iola and Allen County commissioners announced their decision to make 2010 “The Year of the Hospital.”
Other big news was the gift of $25,000 by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City for the recruitment of doctors and dentists to Allen County.
Steve Roling, president and chief executive officer of the foundation, said Thrive’s efforts to build healthier communities “have impressed us.” Roling noted “the positive energy in this room tonight,” and said, “Your can-do attitude is an inspiration to other rural communities.”
Iola Industries, represented by its president, John McRae, contributed $10,000 to the recruitment fund and it was noted that the Hospital Corporation of America, which leases Allen County Hospital, also lures professionals with advancements.
Another award winner was Abby Works, a senior at Iola High School, for spearheading last March’s Earth Hour event. Works orchestrated a “lights out” event throughout the county while educating groups about the impact an individual can have to conserve resources. The Iola Earth Hour had the distinction of having the largest registered community participation in Kansas.
Works’ award was in the category of education. Other nominees were The Iola Family Reading Festival, put on by Iola Public Library and the City of Iola, and the new LaHarpe Library and Museum.
In the category of recreation, the Walter and Helen Fees Memorial Park in Gas was the winner. Its sponge-like walking track “is like walking on the moon,” said award presenter, and Gas resident, Don Burns.
Since 2000, residents have worked to develop the donated land into a park.
The city of Humboldt was the other nominee for the recreation award for two projects: its outdoor fitness circuit in Centennial Park and its River Park project on the banks of the Neosho River.
The Elm Creek Community Garden on the south edge of Iola won the health and wellness award. The site, “was an eyesore,” said Carolyn McLean, who with her husband, Val, donated the land for use as a public garden. Today the garden has 122 plots for gardeners, including those who are disabled.
McLean thanked the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, who has awarded the garden a grant, “for believing in us.”
Today, “towns all across Kansas are coming to Iola to see what we have done,” she said.
Other nominees for the award were the Allen County Farmer’s Market and the Back Pack Ministries, which supplies food items to school-age children to carry them through the weekend. Members of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church began the food program three years ago. Today, Wesley United Methodist Church shares the responsibilities of the program.
Humboldt’s Peg Griffith was recognized as a volunteer extraordinaire. Griffith was noted as a person Thrive staff could count on, no matter the situation.
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