Robbie Davis stamps a card before it is blister-sealed to another card while packaging dog bones at the Sunflower Diversified Services manufacturing plant. Davis is a client at Sunflower.
A phone call from a Great Bend non-profit agency to a McPherson business has led to a brand-new production line and more employment options for people with special needs.
Sunflower Diversified Services is now packaging dog treats for Ferguson Production Inc., McPherson.
Shawn Bates, Sunflower director of production, recently called Scott Ferguson to determine if his company could provide job opportunities for people served by the non-profit agency.
“Scott was happy to set up a meeting and the next thing we knew, we were on our way to McPherson,” recalled Bates, who worked for Ferguson a few years ago. “Ferguson is one of the premier injection molders in Kansas.”
In this new partnership, Ferguson molds the dog bones and then ships them to Sunflower where clients blister-seal individual packages.
Ferguson employees delivered the packaging equipment to Sunflower and trained staff members and clients on its use.
“Since we can’t efficiently transport people to McPherson, they were kind enough to come to us,” Bates said. “They used their own semi and trailer to deliver the machine and all raw materials. They even shipped a second machine to help boost production.”
Currently, eight Sunflower clients work full-time with the equipment, which is technically called a shuttle table blister-packaging machine.
“It’s difficult to put into words how much we appreciate Ferguson Production,” Bates said. “They are providing jobs for people, which leads to more independence and confidence, and the rewards of earning a paycheck.
“We are very excited to begin a nurturing, long-lasting business relationship with this great company.”
Bates also noted his gratitude to Brook and James McGinnes of Mac-Clet Electric for volunteering their time to help with electrical needs. “They are amazing people, as are all the Sunflower staff and clients who spent long hours making this happen.”
Mark Wells, Ferguson senior vice president and chief financial officer, said the company’s sales orders are “rapidly growing, which creates significant challenges for us to adequately staff our three shifts and meet customer expectations.
“After talking with Shawn Bates, we decided Sunflower would be a great fit. In addition to providing a valuable service to us, it is equally gratifying to provide people with special needs a rewarding job that makes a difference in their lives.”
After the dog bones are sealed in a custom-designed package, the finished product is boxed and returned to Ferguson for distribution throughout the United States, Japan, The Netherlands and Canada.
“We anticipate this project will be a great success for Sunflower and Ferguson,” Wells commented. “Sunflower has been very accommodating and easy to work with. I would not hesitate to recommend Sunflower to other companies.”
Jon Prescott, Sunflower chief executive officer, commended Bates and Ferguson Production for getting this project off the ground. “Shawn is a great asset to Sunflower. Because of his willingness to go the extra mile, Ferguson now provides job opportunities for the people we serve.
“Scott Ferguson and Mark Wells are making a huge impact on Sunflower clients. And it’s fun to work with Mark, an Ellinwood High School graduate with family connections here in Great Bend.”
Prescott also noted the new business partnership has a positive economic impact on Sunflower’s five-county service area. It allows more people with special needs the opportunity to earn part of a $302,000 annual payroll. They earn an hourly rate.
“But the biggest reward for everyone here is the excitement on their faces when they pick up their paychecks. They are being recognized for a job well done,” Prescott said.
Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is in its 54th year.