Kauffman Center Ensemble Member Profiles
Populous is a global architecture practice specializing in designing the places where people love to be together. The firm has 500 employees in 14 offices around the globe and provides architecture, interior design, event planning and overlay, environmental graphics and wayfinding, master planning and urban planning. In its more than 30 years of existence, the firm has designed some of the world’s most memorable sports, civic, convention and entertainment places like the London 2012 Olympic Games, Yankee Stadium and the San Antonio Convention Center.
The firm joined Ensemble, the Kauffman Center’s business membership program, due to the overlapping goals of the two organizations. “What Populous does is in direct alignment with the Kauffman Center: we both draw people together for unforgettable experiences,” according to Todd Voth, a Senior Principal at Populous.
“Great cities have great cultural programs and venues. The Kauffman Center is a fantastic home for the Kansas City arts and is a way of telling the community—and the world—that great art is happening here,” Voth added.
In 2015, the company held a regional retreat at the Kauffman Center for 100 of its company leaders from around the country. “The venue was superb. It got us out of the office into a beautiful, unique space with great light. It was a memorable event and energizing for our creative process,” Voth said.
Populous intends to take full advantage of its Ensemble membership by making sure its employees and clients know what is happening at the Kauffman Center. “Through our work and global connections, we have a lot of opportunities to show off the great things that are taking place here. Our Ensemble membership allows us to do just that,” Voth said.
Bank of Blue Valley
Bank of Blue Valley sees the Kauffman Center as a Catalyst for the Arts
Bob Regnier, President and CEO of Bank of Blue Valley, wasn’t surprised to find that his employees had a passion for the arts. “It is an inspiration to see the artistic talents of many of our employees during our annual ArtsKC Week and a great way for everyone to learn and give back to the amazing art resources we have in Kansas City,” said Regnier. Bank of Blue Valley has participated in the ArtsKC Fund Workplace Campaign for eight years, donating more than $90,000 to the ArtsKC Fund.
Since Bank of Blue Valley was already an ambassador of the arts, joining Ensemble, the Kauffman Center’s business membership program, was a simple choice. “The arts are important to our employees and we want to continue to provide opportunities for everyone to learn about the resources in Kansas City such as the Kauffman Center and all it represents,” said Regnier. “The Kauffman Center has been a catalyst for the arts and their position in downtown and the Crossroads guarantees that it will be the centerpiece of the arts for many years to come.”
Regnier says that the Bank of Blue Valley is looking forward to using their Ensemble membership to provide opportunities for everyone, offering tickets so that everyone gets to enjoy a performance at the Kauffman Center. “We want to use our membership to connect the arts with our community because we want everyone to be able to enjoy the arts.”
Portfolio Kitchen & Home
Geri Higgins, President & CEO of Portfolio Kitchen & Home is an unabashed Kansas City booster and by direct extension, of Ensemble, the Kauffman Center’s business membership program.
“Our community is an amazing ensemble of people and culture. Our Ensemble membership gives us synergy and connections with business leaders who support Kansas City and the arts,” says Higgins.
Higgins decided to join Ensemble in 2014 because she found the group to be in direct alignment with how she thinks about her design company which is headquartered across the street from historic Union Station. “In our work I think a lot about destinations and connectors. Portfolio is a destination for design, like the Kauffman Center is a destination for performing arts,” Higgins says.
“Design is also a connector, like the arts, music and architecture. They are all major connectors for society as a whole,” Higgins says. “Our Ensemble membership brings it all together for us.”
Portfolio Kitchen & Home is a design firm, widely known for their kitchens. But the company also creates beautiful spaces that range from bungalows and historic mansions to lofts, sleek penthouses and condominiums. Over the past year, Higgins has been busy doubling the size of Portfolio’s space at her flagship store. Clients connect with design experts there in an expansive, yet intimate, boutique atmosphere not previously found in the Midwest.
“Now in our 11th year of operation, we will have an entire block of design available for clients,” Higgins says. “It was a critical decision to move downtown four and a half years ago. Our expanded home and our Ensemble membership give us even more ways to connect with the community.”
Samson Capital Management
Ensemble Helps Samson to Connect Employees with the Arts
Samson Capital Management’s MLP Income Portfolio, a Master Limited Partnership (“MLP”) midstream energy portfolio aims to provide tax-advantaged income, as well as capital appreciation for its investors. The company inherits strong Kansas City roots from its founder, James E. (Jim) Ferrell and his legacy company, Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. Due to that, becoming a member of Ensemble, the Kauffman Center’s business membership program was an easy decision according to Pam Breuckmann, President and COO of Samson Capital Management, LLC.
“Samson is an established manager in the MLP investment industry, with an impressive annualized return since its inception 11 ½ years ago, in March of 2003 and a founder with over 45 years of experience running a publicly traded MLP,” says Breuckmann, referring to the company she leads and founder Jim Ferrell.
Jim was President of Ferrellgas from 1965 to 2009 and is currently Chairman of Ferrellgas. Jim enjoys spending time in Kansas City and is married to wife Elizabeth (known as Zibbie). They are avid travelers who have a sincere appreciation for arts and culture. As a result, both are known for their support of many organizations and institutions in the Kansas City area. “Having Samson become a member of Ensemble to support the Kauffman Center made sense from a lot of angles,” says Breuckmann. “We look forward to being part of the business networking that is taking place within the Kauffman Center’s membership program. And it will be great to further connect our employees with the arts.”
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Belger Cartage Service
Ask the folks at Belger Cartage Service why they joined Ensemble, the Kauffman Center’s business membership program, and they reach back to the company’s 1919 beginnings for an answer. That’s when company founder, Richard Belger, launched his business idea and realized that his ability to succeed relied not only on a strong work ethic, but on creativity and innovation. He also established the principle that service to the customer and community was the most important guide to the company’s actions.
“My grandfather bought a 1919 Dodge truck and was set on improving the way the printing industry was serviced. He didn’t know how to drive the truck, because horse-drawn wagons were used in those days,” says C. Richard “Dick” Belger. “So innovation was his watchword from day one. He was a creative problem-solver who saw himself—and eventually his company—as uniquely tied to the greater community.”
In 2000, this focus led to the opening of the Belger Arts Center at 21st and Walnut, located in Belger’s headquarters. As Dick Belger adds, “Artists have a different perspective–a creative one that we should always keep in mind as we work with our customers.” And customers are now served through six locations throughout the Midwest, offering crane services, machinery installation and de-installation, specialized heavy hauling and warehousing.
Supporting the Kauffman Center seemed a natural for Belger. Like his grandfather, Dick Belger believes that being a successful company with longevity comes with responsibility. “We haven’t been successful on our own, there’s a community supporting us,” he says. “We welcome the Kauffman Center to the Crossroads and want to be part of its success, because we count on it to inspire us, our employees and the greater community.”
While Fike Corporation has offices all over the world, its nearly 70-year-old roots are in the Kansas City area. “Fike is committed to supporting the community where our company began in 1945,” said Brad Batz, president.
Fike believes that the Kauffman Center is playing an essential role in elevating the performing arts in the region. “All of us at Fike look forward to watching how the Kauffman Center will enhance and grow the arts culture in the Kansas City area, “said Batz.
“We look forward to entertaining customers at the Kauffman Center and showing off this remarkable community asset,” Batz said. “We also plan to share the free tickets provided by the Ensemble program with Fike employees. We would love for our employees to have the full patron experience.”
While Fike supports many organizations and programs throughout the area, Batz believes the Kauffman Center provides a unique and premier experience for residents and visitors in the Kansas City area. “We are proud to be one of the founding members of this incredible organization,” Batz said.
Mid-America Merchandising, Inc.
Mid-America Merchandising, Inc. (MMI) considers their Ensemble membership to be a rock solid investment with a multiplier effect: it helps them to accomplish business goals while contributing to the arts in Kansas City, a cause dear to the hearts of business owners Tom and Carol Barnett.
MMI is an incentives and promotional products business in Kansas City, Missouri. For the company’s 30th anniversary last fall, 150 guests joined in a celebration at the Kauffman Center. “Since we are a business in the River Market and are passionate about supporting the arts, it was an obvious choice,” said co-owner Carol Barnett. “It was an extra bonus that our Ensemble membership made it affordable.”
Carol says that the Ensemble membership also increases the Company’s range of client entertainment options. “We love taking clients to Kansas City’s wonderful sports events. Having arts options available, too, expands our ability to meet the range of our clients’ interests,” Carol said. As an Ensemble member, MMI can select from more than 300 performance options each year, with a personal concierge to arrange tickets.
In February, Ensemble also helped the Company thank its 40 employees for their work during their busiest months of November thru January. Working with their Ensemble concierge, they secured a block of tickets to two upcoming performances. “Each employee picked the show that was more attractive to them, plus they were able to bring a guest,” said Carol. “It was a sincere thank you and the chance to introduce employees to something new or different.” By sending their team to the Kauffman Center, Carol and Tom hope employees and their families will return again and again.
Tan Nguyen, founder of NuWin Enterprises, speaks as enthusiastically about his four year-old software company as he does about the arts. He sees connections between the two that date back to his days as a student at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a school founded by chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey and dedicated to helping children of need reach their full potential.
“Milton Hershey gave me so many opportunities to experience things that were not available to me as a Vietnam War refugee,” Tan said. In school choir Tan learned songs from the musical Annie. “We were taken to see a professional production on stage and it did something to me,” Tan remembered. “The arts really stuck with me.” In creating the NuWin Foundation, Tan wanted to find ways to reach kids in need from various socio-economic backgrounds. It is a way to honor the Milton Hershey’s tradition of providing both “inspiration and aspiration.”
Ensemble, the Kauffman Center’s business membership program, was a natural fit for Tan and NuWin. Not only was his company one of the first to join, but he readily agreed to become chairman. “Ensemble leverages the influence of our local leaders and provides a way for them to advocate the importance of the Kauffman Center to colleagues and friends.” Points of passion can be different for each member, Tan maintains, but he personally hopes to see even more young people reached through Kauffman Center programs like Open Doors.
When Henderson Engineers, Inc. reviewed its philanthropic goals, they made a conscious decision to include the arts as part of their support of the Kansas City community. HEI is also happy to support the endeavors of an industry they often work with.
“We’re pleased to support the Kauffman Center, which is a major focal point of arts in our community. We’ve also enjoyed the opportunities we can give to our employees to attend special events at the Center,” said Dana Kettle, Chief Financial Officer. “The Kauffman Center has been an incredible partner and we look forward to many years being a member of the business program and encourage others in our community to do the same.”
Hawthorn Bank became a Kauffman Center Ensemble member in part because of its philosophy of encouraging community engagement among its employees.
“Hawthorn Bank appreciates the Kauffman Center’s emphasis on making this outstanding facility available and accessible to everyone,” says Keith Asel, NW Regional President. “The center’s outreach to young people, affordable ticket prices and range of art programming is impressive.”
Through its headquarters in Jefferson City and branches around the state of Missouri, Hawthorn Bank has shared the word about the Kauffman Center’s cultural opportunities to all of its markets. “We tell employees, partners and clients that this is a regional cultural treasure. We encourage them to keep an eye on it and find a way to participate.” The Kauffman Center Employee Day and volunteer program offer interesting connections for the bank.
This philosophy led to an innovative partnership with Washington University’s Olin Business School. Asel encouraged the university to host a thought leadership session at the Kauffman Center in April 2013. “I’ve participated in their executive education and found it to be innovative and excellent. Hawthorn sponsored food for the one-day session and 300 people were introduced to the Kauffman Center,” says Asel. “It was a win-win situation and we hope to find more of these opportunities through our membership.”
When State Street executives bring clients to Kansas City, they want to entertain at a venue that sends a positive message about both the company and Kansas City. State Street’s involvement in the Kauffman Center Ensemble program provides that opportunity and more, Tom Forrester, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of State Street Kansas City.
“The Kauffman Center is an integral part of the community in which State Street works,” said Forrester. The company also likes the chance to get employees involved in the arts.
“We especially enjoy the membership benefits that allow us to show off Kansas City to the large institutional investors State Street brings into town,” said Forrester. “Entertaining clients at the Kauffman Center is unique, affordable and memorable. We plan to do it often.”
Since Travois moved to its Crossroads Arts District offices in 2009, they have enjoyed a birds-eye-view of the Kauffman Center—and have taken advantage of its proximity. “As a company we seek to inspire our employees, and we are fortunate that Kansas City’s arts community offers us so many opportunities,” says David Bland, chairman, Travois, Inc.
For years the company has supported the Kansas City Symphony and Kansas City Ballet and offered tickets to their staff. “Now that we are a Kauffman Center Ensemble member, we look forward to helping the Center to reach growing audiences,“ says Bland.
The company feels fortunate to be part of a community that created such a “magnificent performance venue” and shares this invitation: “Join with us as a Kauffman Center Ensemble Member to ensure that it continues to inspire, educate and transport us as only the arts can do.”
Contact Janet Mark, Senior Director of Development at 816-994-7235 or for more information.