Who is Wichita?

A Call to Action for Intentional Inclusion
By Courtney Hough


Young Professionals of Wichita members Courtney Hough, Ellen Decker and Ebony Clemons on the 2016 City-to-City trip.

I moved to Wichita from Detroit fifteen months ago and in that short period of time, I have learned about Wichita’s culture and the passion that people have for the Emerald City/Air Capital. I’ve made it a point to get to know my community by being a part of it. But when I boarded the plane for my first City-to-City Leadership visit, I did not know what to expect. I knew only a handful of people and questioned if I could relate to our group and if I added any value to the experience. Let’s just say that by the end of trip, I was sharing work and family stories and I had a voice! This experience allowed me to be the change that is being demanded from our community.

Wichita’s population is extremely diverse since there are many Hispanic, Asian, African American, Native American, African, and LGBTQ communities within the city. The diversity of our population is not always reflected in our businesses and the identity of Wichita. I think this City- to-City Leadership Visit opened our eyes to ways we can rebrand and develop a “Wichita for Everyone.”

Our biggest “ah-ha” moment was learning ways to engage and mentor young professionals. There is usually a negative perception of who millennials are and the tone is sometimes dismissive. The idea presented was to target 21 to 40-year-old professionals to mentor and mold them and to enhance their leadership and professional development skills. This will stabilize Wichita’s development, retain talent and increase opportunities. The reality is that in twenty years, many of our current community leaders and CEOs will be retired or will no longer be in a leadership capacity, so we are the future of Wichita! Opportunities for professional development and community outreach must be abundant to retain young talent.

My challenge to every Wichitan is to invest: invest in our businesses, invest in our children and young people, invest in our disenfranchised communities, and invest in our infrastructure. We must invest in order to recreate and grow!

Courtney is the Strategic Engagement Specialist at United Way of the Plains, as well as a YPW Access Team member and volunteer. She participated in the Chamber’s 2016 City-to-City Leadership Visit to Nashville in September. 

Stef Flores promoted to Community Advancement Manager

Stef Flores has been promoted to Community Advancement Manager for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. She joined the Chamber staff in November 2015, as the Community Advancement & Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW ) Program Coordinator.

Stefanie Flores“Stef has shown outstanding initiative in her work for both YPW and Community Advancement during her time with our organization,” said Director of Community Advancement Suzy Finn. “In particular, her leadership of the Chamber’s recent City-to-City Leadership Visit resulted in a successful trip for 51 community leaders. To even better accomplish the work of our leadership programs, Stef will now focus all of her time on the Chamber’s Community Advancement programs and initiatives.”

Stef has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a minor in French from the University of Colorado-Boulder and a Master’s in Education from University of California-Santa Barbara.

Please join us in congratulating Stef on her well-served promotion!

We are now accepting applications for a full-time YPW Program Coordinator. The job description can be found on LinkedIn.

Recap of Exposure 2016

When the Exposure show floor closed at 5 p.m. on Sept. 29, nearly 1,800 people had visited booths of 200+ Wichita-area companies. Connection were made. Deals were done. Fun was had. Our thanks to everyone who helped make Exposure 2016 a success, especially our presenting sponsor, Cox Business.

If you weren’t able to attend the show, you can check out photos of the event on our Facebook page. Then be sure to save the date of Thursday, September 28 for Exposure 2017. If you would like to receive information about exhibiting in 2017, let us know now and we’ll begin contacting exhibitors in April.

Although many of the exhibits topped our favorites lists, the panel of judges chose the following companies to be recognized. Congrats to all!


Best Biz Bite | Hooters of America


Best Branded | Xclusive Events


Best In Show | Cox Business


Best Table Top | Workforce Centers of South Central Kansas


Best Technology | Builders Plus Construction


Most Spirited | Auto Craft Collision Repair


People’s Choice | Davis-Moore Auto Group


Rookie of the Year | Range 54

Update on the new Department of Labor Overtime Rule

Gary Plummer is the President & CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

Gary Plummer is the President & CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has joined a broad coalition of more than 50 other national and Texas business groups that have filed a lawsuit challenging the new Department of Labor overtime rule. A second suit was filed by a coalition of 21 states in their role as employers.

The state of Kansas has joined the lawsuit. Your Chamber is also supportive of this lawsuit.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6094, a regulatory relief bill that would delay the effective date of the new overtime rule for six months until June 1, 2017. All members of the Kansas delegation voted in favor of the bill.

We understand that many of you may have questions about the lawsuit, its implications, and how it may impact your to plan for the coming change in employee compensation. To help address your questions on the legal challenge, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has prepared answers to some frequently asked questions below.

Legal Challenge to the new Overtime Rule – U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Q:        Who are the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit?
A:         The plaintiffs in the business groups’ diverse coalition include the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the Texas Association of Business, more than 40 local chambers of commerce throughout the state of Texas and other business groups in Texas, and more than a dozen other sector-specific business groups. 

Q:        Why did the business groups file the lawsuit?
A:        The Department’s unprecedented doubling of the minimum salary threshold for executive, administrative, or professional employees to be considered exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act will have significant adverse effects on businesses, nonprofit groups and associations, and employees. The Department of Labor’s new overtime rule will impose significant new economic costs and limit workplace flexibility, impede career and promotion opportunities, and make it harder for businesses and nonprofits to expand to meet the needs of their customers and constituents. The new overtime rule will be particularly damaging to nonprofit organizations, including trade associations and chambers of commerce, that will be subject to the rule.

Q:        What are the main legal arguments against the overtime rule?
A:        The business groups’ lawsuit advances three legal arguments against the Department of Labor’s overtime rule: (1) the excessively high salary threshold contradicts the intent of Congress to have executive, administrative, and professional employees exempt from overtime; (2) the new automatic update provision, which would impose new salary thresholds every three years without going through rulemakings, is not authorized by the FLSA, and in fact the FLSA directs the secretary to make changes to these exemptions through the notice and comment regulatory process; and (3) the Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously in promulgating its new overtime rule, in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

Q:        What other steps has your organization taken regarding the DOL’s new overtime regulation?
A:        The U.S. Chamber and its federation of state and local partners have been highly active in this rulemaking from the outset. We met with the Secretary of Labor before the regulation was proposed, submitted extensive and comprehensive comments describing in detail the problems this regulation will cause, and have explained at every step how the Department has gone too far. The Chamber and its federation partners also sent a letter to Congress urging action to provide relief from this regulation. The letter had almost 370 groups signed on.

Q:         Will this lawsuit impact the December 1st date that the DOL rule is scheduled to go into effect?
A:         While the Chamber’s suit seeks to invalidate the regulation, when or how the court will rule on this suit is impossible to predict at this point, therefore we recommend that businesses continue to prepare to be in compliance by December 1st. We will continue to provide updates as the suit moves forward.

Please contact me or the Chamber’s Government Relations Department if you have additional questions or concerns.

Wichita’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities Expanding

Scott Schwindaman is the President/CEO of Lubrication Engineers, Inc. He will chair the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2017.

Scott Schwindaman is the President/CEO of Lubrication Engineers, Inc. He will chair the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2017.

By Scott Schwindaman
President/CEO Lubrication Engineers, Inc.
Chair Elect of the Board of Directors for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber’s current Chairman, Barry Schwan, recently wrote a column for the Wichita Eagle and the Chamber’s blog about the renewal of Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit. As Barry noted, I helped initiate and have co-chaired the Entrepreneurship Task Force (ETF) with fellow Chamber board member Gary Oborny (Occidental Management) since it started several years ago.

Two organizations, of many, critical to the success of the entrepreneurial ecosystem are the Chamber and the e2e Accelerator, an initiative of the ETF focused on activating, accelerating and mentoring entrepreneurs. I’m pleased to see a developing partnership between the Chamber and e2e that will provide multiple opportunities to highlight entrepreneurship at some upcoming events.

I’d like to encourage you to circle a few dates on your calendar where you can learn more about some of these new opportunities and connect with the people leading them.

September 29 – Innovators can make valuable connections at the Chamber’s annual business-to-business trade show, Exposure, this Thursday. More than 200 businesses will be exhibiting, including many of the ETF liaison organizations. Representatives of the newly launched e2e accelerator will staff a booth to answer questions about how to apply for their unique mentoring program and to provide details about the upcoming Accelerate the Heartland event. Connecting with the Small Business Administration representatives should also be a priority for those who want to learn more about their successful Emerging Leaders program and their range of lending options. Wichita State University’s Kansas Small Business Development Center will staff a booth to share information about their free consulting services and upcoming educational offerings.

October 5 – Formerly known as the Great Plains Capital Conference, the renamed Accelerate the Heartland event offers a full day focused on jumpstarting Wichita’s entrepreneurial ecosystem with opportunities to learn, share and network. The conference will include entrepreneurs, service providers, government, universities, mentors, investors and others who want to be part of moving new ideas, products and services forward.

December 1 – We’ll be learning from the best when internationally renowned entrepreneur and investor Daymond John takes to the stage for the Chamber’s Annual Meeting. After sharing some of his thoughts about how to position and brand new products and services, John will interact onstage with local entrepreneurs and other area leaders who are fostering and mentoring new startups.

There’s been a tremendous groundswell in the number of opportunities for area entrepreneurs to connect with the people and resources they need to succeed. And it’s been rewarding to see so many organizations developing, supporting and promoting these opportunities together. I encourage you to be part of this movement. As the current chair of the Young Professionals of Wichita, Sam Foreman, so eloquently said earlier this year, our goal is to “shorten the distance from Dream to Done.” It’s all about creating new opportunities and transforming Wichita into the “Opportunity Capital.”

Renewing Wichita’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Barry Schwan 2016 Chamber Chairman

Barry Schwan
2016 Chamber Chairman

By Barry Schwan
Owner, House of Schwan, Inc.
2016 Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

If you’ve followed the work of Wichita native and economic analyst James Chung, you’ve heard him outline the four challenges facing Wichita. One of those is the Entrepreneurship Challenge. Chung’s findings indicate that Wichita is behind the curve in startup density and venture capital investments. He’s challenged Wichita to “move the needle” on entrepreneurship and drive innovation forward as we’ve done in the past.

The Chamber appreciates the efforts of two business leaders who are helping Wichita move the needle on entrepreneurship. As co-chairs of the Entrepreneurship Task Force (ETF), Gary Oborny (Occidental Management) and Scott Schwindaman (Lubrication Engineers) have spearheaded an inclusive approach to strengthening our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through their efforts, we’ve seen the emergence of e2e (Entrepreneur to Entrepreneur), a new nonprofit initiative where experienced area entrepreneurs are offering mentoring, seed money and programming to startups and scalable business ventures (see e2ewichita.com).

In addition to their involvement in ETF, both Oborny and Schwindaman are members of the Chamber board of directors. Schwindaman will take over the helm as Chamber chairman in 2017. A past Chamber chairman, Wayne Chambers (High Touch Technologies), recently donated a prime downtown location to launch the e2e Accelerator. It’s at that new site that John Dascher, President/CEO of e2e, and Accelerator Director Jacob Wayman have assembled a team who are working daily to recharge Wichita’s entrepreneurship environment.

Awareness was the first step taken by Oborny, Schwindaman and others to face Wichita’s entrepreneurship challenge. They started convening nearly 40 different organizations on a biweekly basis nearly three years ago to focus attention on the most pressing needs of our entrepreneurs and the gaps in our support of them. Our hats are off to the many loyal supporters who are still a part of that movement in the Wichita region.

One of those partners has been the Wichita district of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Entrepreneurs must have access to capital, and it was reported in August that SBA expects to achieve a near-record lending total of $85 million in fiscal year 2016 (ending September 30). That’s up more than 15% from $72.3 million in 2015. Wichita SBA Director Wayne Bell attributes the increase in lending to more awareness about the variety of financing tools available to startups. That’s a very positive step in the right direction.

We’re also impressed with some of the partnerships that private companies are undertaking. GroundWork is a startup incubator housed in the new offices of Builders Plus Construction in downtown Wichita. Builders Plus Construction CEO Chris Callen believes that entrepreneurism is the key to Wichita’s future and he’s committed to housing early-stage startups who are working collaboratively in the new space.

To further energize Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit, the Chamber has secured one of the most sought after entrepreneurial experts in the country to speak at our December 1 Annual Meeting. As a major investor on ABC’s Emmy-winning Shark Tank series, Daymond John has invested more than $8 million to date on 61 deals with entrepreneurs across the country.  And while he certainly understands the importance of venture capital investments, his most recent book also champions the “power of broke” and the importance of creativity, substance and passion in entrepreneurial ventures.

All of these “good news” activities are renewing and revitalizing Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit. The community leaders who are supporting these vital programs through financial investments, expertise and mentorship are too many to mention in this column. The Chamber applauds all of these efforts and is proud to be part of the growing network supporting the region’s businesses and advocating for the best possible business environment.

This column was originally published in the September issue of Synergy, the Chamber’s quarterly newsletter. Check this link for the full contents of the six-page issue.

Four Reasons to Attend Exposure

2016_exposure_stackedcolor_withsponsorIf you haven’t heard of Exposure, the simplest way to describe it is as ‘Wichita’s premiere business-to-business trade show and networking event’. Scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 29, the show will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Century II Expo Hall.

More than 200 businesses from across the Wichita area will be showcasing their products and services. If you are looking for products, vendors and partners, you can find them at Exposure.

Admission to the show is complimentary and open to the business community. Find more information about the show WichitaBusinessExposure.com, then register in advance (to expedite the check-in process and secure a printed name tag) here.

Two longtime Exposure attendees have shared why they attend each year and why you should too.

Carol Skaff, Owner & President at Cohlmia Marketing

Carol Skaff, Owner & President at Cohlmia Marketing

Carol: Networking. Learning. Generating opportunities…those are three reasons that come to mind. Wichita and South Central Kansas have an active business marketplace, and Exposure is one event where we can sample a broad array of products and services.
Brian: We use the Exposure event to identify those organizations that might consider partnering with our firm.

Carol: At least four. The exhibitors change every year, and Exposure provides so many opportunities to learn and connect, on one day and in one location.
Brian: 10

Brian Campbell, CFO at The Specialists Group LLC

Brian Campbell, CFO at The Specialists Group LLC

Carol: Business cards are a must. Also, I use my iPhone to take photos along the way and do some visual journaling. We usually do a staff download at our weekly meeting, and if there’s something particularly unique and memorable, we’ll have photo reference.
Brian: Business cards, a good attitude, comfortable shoes and personality.

Carol: I would encourage first-time attendees to review the exhibitor list ahead of time and plot your course: people you want to see and products you want to explore. Some booths you will spend more time at because they are a primary need for your business.
Brian: I have found success in using the exhibitor list to identify the companies that I have an interest in. It’s difficult to visit all 200+ booths without a strategy in place.

Carol: Cocoa Dolce and The Farris Wheel, for our event-planning and gift-giving needs. And we always stop by to see our partners in television, radio and print media. It’s important to our client interests to keep those relationships strong, and sometimes they roll out new opportunities at Exposure.
Brian: The sponsors along the ‘red carpet’ aisle never disappoint.

Carol: Too numerous to mention. We produce a lot of events for our clients, so visiting the Biz Bites are a must.
Brian: We don’t have many catering needs in our company, so we focus on making it to vendors that we would like to do business with.

Friends University making positive strides

Gary Plummer is the President & CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

Gary Plummer is the President & CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

I had the good fortune of attending a “State of the Organization” breakfast this week at Friends University in Wichita. Friends President Amy Bragg Carey updated a gathering of community leaders, faculty and boosters on major milestones hit by the University in the past year. It was an informative look at the pressures facing higher education today, including competition for students,  quality job placement for graduates, concerns about costs and rising student debt. It was these pressures, along with declining enrollment and a challenging financial outlook, that faced President Carey when she took over the helm in 2015.

The entire University community has responded well to this challenge, evidenced by the two-year Revitalization & Growth Plan adopted on campus. The plan focuses on Friends’ mission, focuses on the University’s strengths and proactively addresses the organization’s bottom line. Dr. Carey was quick to point out that the past year included some tough financial decisions, but has laid the groundwork for a turnaround at Friends University.

Of course, the success of any educational institution depends greatly on its ability to meet marketplace demands. Friends has a history of that and is nationally recognized for programs like zoology and spiritual formation. In the last year, they have also launched the first cyber security program in Wichita to meet the need to defend information infrastructure of business, government and the military. Friends also launched an innovative special education program that allows teaching licensure within a year, helping Kansas meet the increasing demand for special education teachers. Quality programs and affordability landed Friends at No. 44 on LendEDU’s 2016 College Risk-Reward Indicator. The indicator ranks institutions in terms of average student loan debt (risk) and average early career salary (reward). Friends was the highest ranking college in Kansas on the list.

At the conclusion of the presentation, one member of the audience summed up what everyone in the room was thinking: President Carey’s leadership in her first year has been the key to this turnaround at Friends. Dr. Carey deflects that credit to a supportive board and engaged team, but she certainly has built a tremendous culture on campus and is having an impact through her involvement in the Wichita Metro Chamber and other organizations. We are delighted to have Amy and Bryan as new members of the Wichita community!




Celebrating 60th anniversary of the KC-135

This letter to the editor was published in today’s Wichita Eagle. It was submitted by Jack Pulley, Chairman of the Friends of McConnell and Pat Gallagher, Military Liaison for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. 

Today McConnell Air Force Base will host a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. More than 50 years after the delivery of that first KC-135, the fleet remains an integral part of Wichita’s aviation history and an essential component of our nation’s defense system.FOM - Tanker Anniversary

Next year will bring exciting new opportunities. McConnell AFB will greet the next generation refueler, the KC-46 Pegasus, designed to replace the aging KC-135 fleet.  Many local businesses and contractors have been working to ensure the base is on target to welcome this exciting new aircraft.

Before the last of the McConnell’s Stratotankers has been replaced, however, we have an opportunity to pay homage to their great history. We are thankful that McConnell’s airmen and leadership team are part of our community and we have a deep respect for the service they provide to our nation.

On this important anniversary date the Friends of McConnell and the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce express our sincere appreciation to all those who serve at McConnell Air Force Base. We are grateful the base is part of our community and congratulate each of you on the pivotal role you have played in making this special anniversary celebration possible

The Friends of McConnell (FOM), an affiliate organization of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, is a support group of area business leaders and residents dedicated to providing meaningful social and economic linkage between senior military leaders and their metropolitan civilian counterparts. The FOM seeks to express community pride and appreciation of the area’s military by providing organizational and financial support for Commander directed programs on base. A primary goal of the Friends of McConnell is to make McConnell AFB the most desirable assignment of an Airman’s career.

Daymond John Energizing Entrepreneurship on December 1

By Barry Schwan
2016 Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors
Owner, House of Schwan, Inc.

Accelerating entrepreneurship and economic opportunities across our region is imperative to accomplishing the Chamber’s mission and vision. If you’ve followed the work of Wichita native and economic analyst James Chung (thechungreport.com), you’ve heard him outline the four challenges facing Wichita. As part of the Entrepreneurship Challenge, Chung has challenged Wichita to “move the needle” and grow entrepreneurship in our region.

Daymond's BlackSuitThe Chamber has always played a key role in driving innovation and improving our entrepreneurial ecosystem. And our 2016 Annual Meeting speaker will undoubtedly energize and inspire those developing new opportunities for our region. I’m pleased to announce that Daymond John, one of the most sought after entrepreneurial experts in the country, is speaking at our December 1 Annual Meeting. He will also be interacting on stage with local entrepreneurs.

As one of the stars of ABC’s Emmy-winning Shark Tank series, Daymond John has invested more than $8 million to date with 61 entrepreneurs across the country. And while he certainly understands the importance of venture capital investments, his most recent book also champions the “power of broke” and the necessity of creativity, authenticity, substance and passion in successful entrepreneurial ventures.

Known as “the people’s Shark” on the Shark Tank series, he’s developed a reputation for championing the underdogs on the show and helping them move their business models to the next level. An innovator, angel investor, television personality, author and motivational speaker, Daymond John is also a U.S. Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

Please plan to join me on December 1. And more importantly, please extend an invitation to the entrepreneurs, the innovators and the dreamers in your organization or company to join you. We must all be relentlessly fostering and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation so that Wichita becomes synonymous with economic opportunity.

Follow Daymond John @TheSharkDaymond on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Register to attend
Daymond John bio
Daymond John video – The Power of Broke (2 minutes)

Annual Meeting - Twitter