LAWRENCE — Steve Epler was the only dentist in Woodson County when he arrived in 1978 in the National Health Services Corps, a federal program that places health professionals in underserved communities.
During his 36-year career he knew fellow dentists in rural areas who simply shuttered their practice when they retired, unable to find a successor.
“Honestly, I always figured there was a fair chance I would eventually shut my doors,” Epler said.
But after receiving a mailing from the University of Kansas and after a conversation with Matthew Standridge, a dentist in Eureka, Epler contacted RedTire, a KU program that matches rural business owners with successors.
In February, with the help of RedTire, Epler transitioned his dental practice, now known as Yates Center Dental LLC, to Standridge.
The RedTire team conducted a valuation of the business, outlined the succession steps and kept the process moving, Epler said.
“It’s amazing how much work goes into selling a medical or dental practice,” Epler said. “We are still working on some paperwork.”
Epler has recommended RedTire to friends who may be interested in selling their practices in the future. He said the fact that RedTire is a free service is a major benefit to rural professionals looking for successors.
All rural communities struggle to keep medical offices open once a doctor retires, said Carla Green, executive director of Woodson County Chamber of Commerce, which includes Yates Center. “We’re excited that Doctors Epler and Standridge were able to work with the RedTire program to keep a dental office in our town.”
“It takes a special person to want to move into a rural community,” Epler said.
He said he hopes the RedTire program will assist future dental students find the rural opportunities they seek.
KU is partnering with the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Dentistry to connect future buyers and sellers.
RedTire is currently assisting more than 100 business owners as they seek new ownership to preserve businesses in Kansas rural communities. The program is aiding 28 businesses listed at redtire.org. The program is a free service and is financed by the KU School of Business and a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Since launching in 2012, RedTire has been called a “national model” for addressing rural small business succession planning by Forbes.com.