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Relationships Matter

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

In a previous column about the importance of telephone relationships and that we should be putting best efforts, not our most inexperienced people or ineffective message systems toward handling our incoming phone calls. 

Long term, in-person relationships are important too. Building these relationships is like feeding a steam engine; it may take a while, but once you reach 212 degrees, things start to happen. 

Recently, Lab manager Tim Haynes and I along with two great guys from the ICC maintenance department brought to the Lab, from the former Condon National Bank in Coffeyville, thousands of dollars’ worth of office furniture to use in our business incubator, we call the Entrepreneurs Bullpen. I had not yet figured out where we were going to get the money to provide the Bullpen furniture and this generous donation resulted from a long-term relationship with a banker from Coffeyville. 

Mike Ewy and I go back to a time in 2006 when I joined a group to help create the Coffeyville Main Street organization that became known as Downtown Coffeyville. There was lots of discussion and many meetings in the competitive process to become part of the now defunct Kansas Main Street program. (Governor Sam Brownback axed the state-wide program sometime in 2012 after being elected in 2011; likely part of his failed tax-cut experiment.) Mike and I served on the inaugural board of directors of Downtown Coffeyville and each of us had a part in hiring an energetic young woman named Shelley Paasch as the groups’ first—and only—executive director. 

Mike and I are both farm boys from small towns in western Kansas; he, Hanston, me, Satanta. Growing up, he admired his local bankerLendell Bass, for his character and community involvement. After stints with the Federal Land Bank in Wichita and a private bank in Okmulgee, Oklahoma Ewy came Coffeyville to work for Community State Bank (CSB). When the bank brought him on board, they said “Surprise, you’re going to be president of this bank,” the position he held when I first met him in 2006. I’ve always recognized Mike as being entrepreneurial. I credit his farm background and coming from a small town for why he sees the world differently. 

In 2013, while I was facilitating Entrepreneurial Mindset on the campus of Coffeyville Community College, Mike visited class in October as our guest entrepreneur. Though very busy—CSB was nearly finished in the acquisition of the massive Condon National Bank (CNB)-historic CNB was chartered in 1886 and one of the two banks the Dalton’s attempted to rob in 1892. Under the CSB brand Ewy continued operations in the Condon building for a time but eventually consolidated most business to the main location at 11th and Buckeye in Coffeyville, leaving much of the furniture and fixtures in the shuttered facility. 

In 2018, Mike decided to donate the former Condon National Bank building to the Coffeyville Historical Society so they could move the Dalton Defenders’ Museum to the building, giving them room to display thousands more artifacts currently in storage due to space limitations. This decision was likely influenced by the character of home-town banker Lendell Bass when Ewy was growing up. 

In an email several months ago, Mike told me that in conversation with Shelley she had mentioned that we might be needing some furnishings. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in some cubicles (the term cubicles doesn’t do them justice—the industry calls them modular office suites; very nice.) Of course, I said yes. 

Nearly all donations of money and resources to Fab Lab ICC result from relationships with community members built by me and others involved with the Lab. In a world of impersonal technologies and large unresponsive organizations long-term relationships developed through personal contact and community involvement pay big dividends in attracting customers and donors.  

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. 


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