And that’s exactly what was facilitated by the University of Kansas’ RedTire program, which matches graduates from Kansas Regents institutions with business owners seeking a successor. In an inaugural case, a Junction City veterinarian was aided by the program when it helped him find a suitable buyer, as well as assisting in the negotiations on the sale.
In the end, Casey Thomas, DVM, sold his Flint Hills Veterinary Hospital practice to a Kansas State University graduate and fellow DVM, Julie Ebert, which enabled him to retire. This Redefining Retirement (RedTire) program focuses on helping small and medium-sized businesses in rural Kansas with business management issues of this nature. This kind of a process isn’t an easy one, especially when it involves an overly busy small business owner whose life is so consumed by his or her business that no time is left to identify and recruit a replacement business owner.
If not for this kind of an offering from KU, the Junction City business, which matters greatly to its community and to the economic vitality of the state, might have been lost — but instead its life was lengthened. That’s a win-win situation benefiting not only the economy, but also the students who helped make it happen. This process offers real-life lessons and practical hands-on experience that really makes a difference. The program received a grant from the Economic Development Administration and also is financed by the KU School of Business.
Higher education in Kansas has taken some hard hits financially, if not philosophically, from many Kansas lawmakers who seem to have given KU in particular a lot of grief. The university’s RedTire program, which has been termed a “national model” by Forbes magazine, is just one reminder of the kind of public/private partnerships facilitated by institutions of higher education.
“As a public institution, we are committed to the growth of Kansas,” Neeli Bendapudi, KU School of Business dean, said. “As a business school, we are proud to find private sector solutions to social challenges. RedTire typifies entrepreneurship in action.”
The program, which is a free service, is working with 20 other Kansas business owners to preserve their business and increase jobs. At a time when Kansas wants and needs to grow its jobs, this program serves as a shining example of what can be done when innovative thinking is allowed to flourish at institutions of higher learning.
— Jeanny Sharp,