December | 2021
Craving challenge, Cunningham joins SAA staff
Tim Unruh
October 2021

Well into a third decade of logging experience in everything from engineering and design to qualify inspection, truck driving and auto repair, Maynard Cunningham has entered the vast and demanding airport game.
Every experience he’s collected so far will come into play as the director and facilities and construction at the Salina Airport Authority.
The North-Central Kansas native started in the new position Oct. 12, knowing full well there would be much to absorb.
“I do gravitate toward a challenge,” Cunningham said. “I know this is going to be a learning experience, but that’s part of it. I enjoy having to learn, also wanting to learn and grow.”
He is replacing Kenny Bieker who is retiring Nov. 30 after 13 1/2 years.
“We couldn’t be more pleased that Maynard accepted our offer to succeed Kenny,” said Tim Rogers, airport authority executive director.
“People who meet Maynard will realize that with his educational background and work experience, he’s well-prepared to guide us in the future development of airport and airport industrial center facilities and construction,” Rogers said.
A mechanical engineering technologist, Cunningham came to the airport authority after eight years as a product engineer and manager with Bergkamp, Inc.
Based in Salina, Bergkamp has been manufacturing pavement maintenance equipment since 1980 and serves customers throughout North America and the world, according to the company website.
Cunningham, 47, brings a plethora of work experience, as a project manager for Maico Industries of Ellsworth; designer for Doonan Trailer Corp. of Great Bend; self-employed in residential repair and remodeling; engineering technician for Salina Vortex; automotive technician at Cunningham Motors of Ellsworth and a driver for Cunningham Trucking of Kanopolis — both family businesses — and quality assurance manager for Central Ozark Machine of Alton, Missouri.
He graduated from K-State Salina with an associate’s degree in mechanical engineering technology. Truck driving certifications were achieved at Southwest Missouri State, along with national firefighting certifications through Kansas University. Cunningham is a volunteer firefighter in Ellsworth.

While attending K-State Salina, he worked at Exline, an industrial engine remanufacturing business in Salina, and worked at Central Mechanical Construction while taking classes at K-State in Manhattan.
“Maynard has a diverse background,” Rogers said. “He understands how things operate.”

Bieker will stay on and assist Cunningham through Nov. 30. He turns 62 on Dec. 2.
“We’ve got seven weeks to spend together. I’m gonna shadow him, and when he hits a hurdle, we’ll get it figured out,” Bieker said. “Whatever you think is coming, what you think you’re gonna do today, it will change.”
Like Cunningham, Beiker’s career has been loaded with rich experiences, from cooking in restaurants, building homes, and building airports, not to mention years of “keeping up with new regulations” at the airport and other job sites.
“It’s gonna be nice to walk away from problem solving. I hope I did it right,” Bieker said. “It’s been a great run, a great career. It’s very good when you can get things fixed under your own achievements.”
Now, he said, there are no plans. “That’s the beauty of retirement,” Bieker said.
Interest in construction and aircraft contributed in luring Cunningham to the airport authority openings.
While it’s not directly related to the job description, he has aspirations of becoming a pilot.
Cunningham and his wife, Deanna, plan a move to Salina soon. She is currently office manager and administrative assistant at First United Methodist Church in Ellsworth.
Expansion brings excitement to Salina Tech
Tim Unruh
November 2021

For lots of reasons, Salina Area Technical College is flourishing.
The learning institution made good on its own autonomy in July, by taking ownership of its 24-acre campus in the Salina Airport Industrial Center.
The college became independent from the Salina School District, USD 305, in 2009, but taking ownership was delayed by legalities relating to contamination from the former Schilling Air Force Base that closed in 1965.
Salina Tech is boasting of significant enrollment growth over several years, and has announced plans for major facilities upgrades, among them a $1 million-plus student center, more parking, the removal this past summer of a blighted blue building on campus that had served as the air force base’s motor pool.
The college’s amenities wish-list continues to grow as well.
“We want to make sure we fit into the higher educational systems in Saline County and this region, in the best capacity we can,” said Greg Nichols, Salina Technical College president.

“We are focused entirely on student success,” he added.
The mission is filling holes in the community that are either noticed or brought to the attention of Salina Tech leaders.
“We have a lot of tentacles, if you will,” Nichols said.
Needs find their way to the campus, he said, either through periodic community needs assessments, state labor data, communication from the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, elected leaders, Salina Economic Development Organization, the Perkins Needs Assessment from the Salina School District, or chance meetings from the public.
 “Anybody can bring a programming idea to our administrative council,” Nichols said. “We can’t do everything. We’re not a big college, but we want to strategically meet those needs.”
Among the champions of the college’s growth is the Kansas K through 12 education system that is “really adamant about getting students the ability to access higher education,” the president said. “We’re trying to make sure we provide access through general and technical education courses. We have gone to area high schools and talked to them about program offerings we have — college algebra, college composition — typical courses that every university student would need to take. If their teachers have the right qualifications, they can start working with them through dual credit.”
The State of Kansas pays for technical courses for high school students through the Excel in Career Technical Education program, he said, and Salina Tech maintains relatively low tuition rates for general education rate. Because the college is part of the Kansas Board of Regents system, those classes transfer to all Regents schools, he said, including community colleges.
“One of the metrics for K-12 is post-graduation success, and they make it easier for us to work with those school districts,” Nichols said. “If a students gets a certificate prior to graduation, that meets the post-secondary success for K-12.”
Salina Tech reported earlier this semester another enrollment record, with 852 students, up from 697 the year before, a 22.2 percent increase. Using full-time equivalency (or FTEs), enrollment jumped from 397 to 462, a 16.4-percent increase. Given that the pandemic contributed to a major dip in 2020 numbers, the “headcount at the college” compared to 2019, grew 7.7 percent — 791 to 852 — and credit hours rose 6.5 percent, from 6,541 to 6,970.
“I think we can grow to about 800 FTE in the next few years,” Nichols said, adding that Salina Tech should hit the 500 FTE milestone soon.
“The classrooms in our technical programs are just full,” he said, mentioning the 25 to 30 students in auto collision repair, that was “almost double what we had last year.” Same goes with computer aided drafting and machining programs.
Another factor was lifting enrollment limitations that were in place last year, resulting in gains of up to 10 students. New programs, such as Practical Nursing and Associate Degree Nursing, have also added to enrollment. 
Demand for workers is extremely high, Nichols said, and technical education provides a shorter path to the workforce.
“Every place in the country probably has a help wanted sign. I’ve seen more billboards up for Great Plains Manufacturing,” he said, while also touting higher wages, along with Tony’s Pizza.

Certified nurse aides are making 50 percent more than the minimum wage, starting out, Nichols said, and that’s after an eight-week course at Salina Tech.
“That’s a skill set that immediately pays off,” he said. “We’re coming to realize in the education world that the university route isn’t the only route to success. I’m glad our counselors and teachers are aware of that now.”
One program that launches in January could help many more than the graduates in the program.
Salina Tech is rolling out an Early Childhood Education program that’s been approved by the Board of Regents, Kansas Technical Education Authority, and the Chicago-Based Higher Learning Commission.
“Lack of child care has become one of the top five obstacles to growing the workforce,” Eric Brown, president and CEO of the Salina Chamber, was quoted as saying in Salina Tech’s Sept. 16 release.
He also mentioned the importance of early childhood education from the zero to five-time frame.
A return on investment of $11 has been logged for every early childhood education dollar invested in a community, according to Lori Blake, executive director of Child Advocacy and Parenting Services of Salina, in the release.
Salina Tech’s likely “next area of growth,” Nichols said, will be a medical training center for CNAs, certified medical assistants, Emergency Medical Technicians, Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses.
“Down the road, we are hoping to build a welcome center and the medical training facility,” said Larry Pankratz, development director of the Salina Tech Foundation. The foundation board has expanded from five members to 12.
“We’re trying to increase the fundraising process,” he said. “The college will need more than just funding from the state.”
During a special meeting Oct. 5, the Salina Area Technical College Board of Trustees approved Ponton Construction’s $1,075,000 bid to build the student center, to be completed by late summer 2022.
“One of the big things we lack as a college is a sense of community. We don’t have food service, dorms, athletics,” Nichols said. “This will provide a gathering place, where students, staff and visitors can come in.”
Included will be a small food court, and a storefront where instruction apparel and other school items will be sold, including pens, pencils, calculators and other necessary gear.
“It’s kind of a concept of a student union, with everything at your fingertips,” he said. “It will bring that sense of community.”
It All Started With A Date
Tim Unruh
December 2021

A personal and professional journey began for Chris and Paula Harapat on roughly the same day in 1987 in Phoenix.
The young man from Iowa was “just looking for a date,” when he found himself in the same space with Paula Pitts, the first installment in a special timeline.
“We just ended up here,” Chris said from the Superior Contracting & Manufacturing Services conference room in southwest Salina.
Some important steps were skipped.
A romance began that day in Arizona, where Chris was pursuing higher education at DeVry Institute. Paula was on her way, by car, to an art school in California.
“Within 18 months, we were starving in San Francisco,” Paula Harapat recalled. “Rent was high and pay was low.”
Then an offer came from Paula’s father, Max Pitts, owner of Superior Plumbing & Heating in Salina, where his daughter grew up.
“He said, ‘Chris, I’ll give you seven dollars and 50 cents an hour if you bring my daughter back home.’ That was a good deal, $7.50 an hour,” Paula said.
Chris was hired as a laborer in 1988 “hauling pipe around,” he said.
He and his bride established a home in Salina, and built a family with their three sons — Chance, Levi and Brandon.
And the Harapats ended up owning the company.
Today, their firstborn works at Superior as a draftsman with South Industrial, and like some 130 of his colleagues, is building company stock.
Paula said her father, who died in 2005, would surely have been amazed at how Superior has grown.
“In his wildest dreams, he would never have imagined something like this. He was a very humble man,” she said. “It would have made him happy and proud of each and every person out there. Chris has gathered a lot of good people, and they in turn gathered a lot of loyal customers through the quality of their work and teamwork of their co-workers.”
Max Pitts, Chris Harapat's father-in-law started Superior Plumbing & Heating in 1979. (Photo courtesy of Paula Harapat)
Real Estate Available

The Salina Airport Authority has land and facilities available for lease at the Salina Regional Airport and Airport Industrial Center.

The Salina Regional Airport (SLN) has over 200,000 SF of hangar, shop and office space available for lease and suited for MRO operations for air carrier, business and military aircraft. SLN is home to the K-State Salina campus and adjacent to Smoky Hill ANG Range.

The Airport Industrial Center has a variety of buildings available and shovel ready development lots. Corporate businesses located in the Airport Industrial Center include Schwan's Company, GeoProbe Systems, Salina Vortex, Superior Contracting & Manufacturing Services as well as many others.

Custom proposals detailing lease options and economic development incentives are available upon request.

For additional information, please contact Shelli Swanson at the Salina Airport Authority today at 785-827-3914 to schedule a tour, or email

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