Wichita Regional Chamber Supports WSU/WATC Affiliation

Today I testified in Topeka before legislators in support of S.B. 174 concerning higher education. The bill authorizes the affiliation of Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) with Wichita State University (WSU).

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

Both of these institutions are vital assets for the economic growth of the south central economy. The Chamber supports the proposed affiliation since it will provide growth opportunities for students at both institutions and benefit the business community.

Others testifying today in Topeka include:
–Blake Flanders, President and CEO, Kansas Board of Regents
–Jeff Fluhr, President, Greater Wichita Partnership
–Sheree Utash, President, WATC
–John Bardo, President, WSU
–Lyndon Wells, Community Volunteer

Written testimony was provided by:
–Sam Sackett, Senior Manager of Government Relations and Corporate Communications, Spirit AeroSystems
–Shelley Hansel, Mayor of Wellington, KS

Chamber testimony
SB 174 WRCC

Inclusion: Experience Rather than Appearance

Dan Powers addressing the crowd of 500+ at Chairman’s Lunch on Feb. 7.

Following the Chairman’s Lunch centered on diversity and inclusion, Dan Powers (Managing Partner at Grant Thornton LLP) recapped his thoughts on the topic. The original published content can be seen on page 3B of today’s Wichita Eagle.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical that employers and communities recognize that inclusion has and will continue to be a benchmark for perception and success.

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Chairman’s Lunch on February 7 brought together public and private-sector leadership to discuss how Wichita can utilize four specific tactics to build an inclusive community: utilize a new talent app and website that will launch later this year, expand diversity and inclusion training, support a youth employment project and partner with minority business organizations. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, Wichita is striving to cultivate and sustain an open environment that nurtures both growth and development.

For us to be as inclusive as possible, it’s important to recognize that diversity is defined by much more than just appearance. Rather, diversity includes attributes that aren’t as readily seen, such as religion, educational background, socioeconomic status and work experience. Inclusion is accepting and understanding that varied perspectives and past experiences foster innovation and create a competitive advantage for Wichita in today’s global environment. It’s capitalizing on the strengths of each person to build a more empowered and efficient workforce.

Addressing diversity and inclusion is a priority, and the consequences of failing to acknowledge them are profound. However, I’m confident our city has the power to enhance Wichita’s image at the regional and national level as a leader in diversity – but to do so, it will take everyone’s support. Intention doesn’t always translate into action. We must all play an important role in advocating for and celebrating diversity and practicing inclusion in our businesses and throughout our community.

Grant Thornton LLP was the presenting sponsor of the 2017 Chairman’s Lunch. The event took place on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at INTRUST Bank Arena and featured a panel discussion titled “Creating a Workforce for the Future Through Diversity and Inclusion.” To see photos and video from the event, please visit our Facebook page.

To learn more about the Chamber’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, please contact Suzy Finn.

Chris Callen to be honored as Chamber’s first Exceptional Young Leader

Chris Callen, CEO of Builders Plus Construction and Grit Virtual, is the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s first Exceptional Young Leader. He will be recognized at the annual Honors Night celebration on Tuesday, April 11.

In honor of the Chamber’s Centennial year, the Exceptional Young Leader award is being added to the lineup of traditional Honors Night awards. Its purpose is to provide premiere recognition of extraordinary young talent through service to community and noteworthy accomplishments. Future recipients will have a history of demonstrated leadership within their job and philanthropic involvement.

A graduate of Maize High School and the University of Kansas, Chris assumed the role of CEO at his parents’ business, Builders Plus Construction, in 2013. Since that time, the company has brought high-tech to the construction industry through the use of virtual reality, which led to the launch of a new division of Builders Plus (Grit Virtual) earlier this month. The company has seen four years of record revenue with Chris at the helm and was one of our 2016 Small Business Awards finalists.

An entrepreneur himself, Chris is passionate about supporting start-up companies in Wichita. When Builders Plus relocated to downtown Wichita, he dedicated 2,200 square feet of space to GroundWork – A Startup Hub for start-up companies to reside. Currently, five companies and three freelancers are utilizing the space.

In addition to his professional accolades, Chris serves the community through involvement on several nonprofit boards, including the Arthritis Foundation, Wichita Symphony Orchestra, and the Associated General Contractors of Kansas. He also acts as a mentor for the e2e Accelerator and is a member of Young Professionals of Wichita.

Formerly announced Honors Night award recipients include:

  • Uncommon Citizen: Dawson Grimsley
  • Spirit of Wichita: Foley Equipment Company
  • Over the Years: Conco Construction and Howard + Helmer Architecture.
  • Keeper of the Plains: Wichita Art Museum Art Garden.

Please join us in congratulating Chris and all the other 2017 honorees!

Reservations for Honors Night may be made online. For tickets and additional information, visit wichitachamber.org/HonorsNight or call 316-268-1123.

Wichita Regional Chamber Supports KanCare Expansion

The Chamber provided testimony yesterday in Topeka in support of expanding KanCare (Medicaid). Leadership from fourteen organizations joined the Chamber in support of H.B. 2064, an act establishing the KanCare bridge to a healthy Kansas program.

Leadership from fourteen organizations testified in Topeka yesterday in support of expanding KanCare.

Among those testifying were David Jordan, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas; Joe Reardon, President & CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; Michael Mullins, President & CEO of Via Christi Health, Inc.; Jon Rosell, Executive Director of the Kansas Medical Society; and Tom Bell, President & CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association.

The Chamber supports the expansion of KanCare in part because it’s a unique, budget-neutral solution that makes healthcare coverage more accessible at no additional cost to Kansas taxpayers and without using State General Funds.

Please check the links below for more information:
Written testimony from the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce
-KAKE TV story – Kansas health committee to vote on Medicaid expansion
KFDI story – Legislative committee holds hearing on KanCare
-Wichita Eagle story – House health panel to vote on KanCare expansion

Chamber surpasses Centennial capital campaign goal

At today’s Chairman’s Lunch event, Chamber President & CEO Gary Plummer announced the completion of our Centennial Celebration capital campaign. Originally launched with a goal of $650,000 on Dec. 1 of last year, it concluded today with a total of $706,306.

The funds will be used to make updates to the public areas of our headquarters, originally constructed in 1972 at 350 W. Douglas and frequently used by our 1,600 Chamber members, 25 committees and five affiliates.

But the changes will be more than just cosmetic our organization prepares for the next 100 years of leading the community. Funds will also be used to initiate new programs focused on inclusion and education policy.

“Two of the Chamber’s four strategic priorities in 2017 are centered on these new initiatives that we believe will help establish the foundation for our future legacy,” said Scott Schwindaman, 2017 Chamber Chairman and President of Lubrication Engineers. “Our Education Policy priority will focus on the important issue of funding for K-12, and our Diversity and Inclusion priority will focus on specific tactics that will further position our region’s image as a leader in this area.”

“All of these improvements, both physical and in our programming, have been made possible through generous donations made from our members to our Centennial fundraising campaign,” said Plummer. “A special thank you to INTRUST Bank who committed $100,000 to kick off our campaign.”

A complete list of Centennial Celebration supporters can be found on our website here.

Young Professionals of Wichita announces new hires

The Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) added two members to their team last month. Alejo Cabral has been named the full-time Program Coordinator, and Meghan Madsen has been named the Marketing & Communications Intern for the spring 2017 semester.

A summer 2017 graduate of WSU’s Barton School of Business with double majors in Marketing & Management, Alejo has been working in the banking industry since 2012. His primary responsibility will be to manage the organization’s network of volunteers and the events they plan for YPs in our community.

Meghan is a senior at Wichita State University’s Elliott School of Communication, and her primary responsibility will be to assist YPW Executive Director Suzy Finn with the execution of the organization’s marketing strategies. Her previous internship experiences include the Wichita Eagle and Cowley College.

“Both Alejo and Meghan bring a new and energized presence to YPW and the Chamber,” Finn said. “Their background and experiences, along with their hardworking mentality, will serve them well in these new roles.”

Dawson Grimsley to be honored as 2017 Uncommon Citizen

Dawson Grimsley

Dawson Grimsley, retired President and Owner of Davis-Moore Auto Group, is the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Uncommon Citizen. He will be recognized at the annual Honors Night celebration on Tuesday, April 11.

Established in 1974, the Uncommon Citizen is the Chamber’s most prestigious individual award. It recognizes those who, by their individual efforts year after year, have made uncommon contributions to the people and institutions of Wichita and the surrounding area. Recipients are honored not only for their role in business but for their participation in cultural, civic, social and philanthropic activities.

Grimsley spent his entire career with the Davis-Moore Auto Group team, purchasing the dealership in 2001, when he became president and majority owner. A well-known community philanthropist, he used his company’s advertising channels over the years to highlight the work of a number of local nonprofit organizations. The partnerships he forged with Muscular Dystrophy Association, United Way of the Plains, the DUI Impact Center and the Kansas Humane Society, provided needed visibility to their important community services.

His dedication to community safety through television, radio and print advertising campaigns earned Grimsley numerous local, state and national awards during his career. His promotion of safe driving became an integral part of Davis-Moore’s messaging, branding and identity. The safety campaign he initiated continues today under new CEO Sean Tarbell.

Grimsely and his wife, Patty, have four grown children and seven grandchildren. He retired from Davis-Moore on Dec. 31, 2015.

Formerly announced Honors Night award recipients include:

  • Spirit of Wichita: Foley Equipment Company
  • Over the Years: Conco Construction and Howard + Helmer Architecture
  • Keeper of the Plains: Wichita Art Museum Art Garden

The announcement of the Exceptional Young Leader award will be forthcoming.

Reservations for Honors Night may be made online. For tickets and additional information, visit wichitachamber.org/HonorsNight or call 316-268-1123.

Our new website is live!

Chamber Marketing and Communications Manager Courtney Sendall welcomed the team from Howerton + White to the January 26 event to announce the launching of the Chamber’s new website and the unveiling of the rebranded signage at the south entrance to the building.

The Chamber’s new website went live yesterday. Here are some of the features we’ve incorporated to improve our user experience.

Our Membership Directory is now searchable by Google.
This Directory used to be a PDF that was updated monthly, so this upgrade is a great benefit to our members for their own Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well as ours.

The site is now  mobile friendly.
Besides being more easily viewed on phones and tablets, this change also helps our Google ranking and makes it easier for our members to use our site when they are away from their desk.

Both Chamber events and Community Calendar events can now be added to your Outlook calendar.
Just find the event you want to add from our Calendar section and use the Add to Calendar button. This is a great benefit for our members who list their events on the Community Calendar and a nice feature for members who want to add both Chamber and community events to their Outlook calendars.

We’ve increased the visual appeal of the site with a cleaner look and better images.
One of our new front-page features includes images from our last three blog postings to pique interest in the latest Chamber news.

We’ll be able to update information more quickly.
The new editing tools provided by Howerton + White are easy to use and our staff can now create new pages and make other needed changes more efficiently and effectively.

The website and our blog have also been updated to incorporate our new branding. And our staff has reviewed and improved the content to make it as concise and accurate as possible so that users can easily find what they need.

Websites are never finished and this one is no exception. We will continue to look for new ways to improve our site and encourage you to forward us your ideas about how to maximize it.

Our special thanks to Courtney Sendall on our staff for leading and executing this project with our partner, Howerton + White. She’s put in many extra hours on weekends and after 5 pm to guarantee that we have the best possible product. Producing a new website is a daunting task and she’s ensured that we all have a great new tool that reflects our commitment to meeting the needs of our members.

We also want to thank Alan Kennedy and the rest of the team at Howerton + White. Alan provided us with exceptional customer service on our previous site and we appreciate his round-the-clock dedication and assistance on bringing this new site to life.

Schwindaman Takes the Reins in 2017

In addition to his role as the 2017 Chairman of the Board for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and President & CEO of Lubrication Engineers, Inc., Scott Schwindaman has a family-run operation that breeds, raises, and shows rare black Clydesdale horses. Photo credit: Brett Schauf with tjstudios.com

Scott Schwindaman has a family-run operation that breeds, raises, and shows rare black Clydesdale horses.
Photo credit: Brett Schauf with tjstudios.com

Scott Schwindaman, President & CEO of Lubrication Engineers, Inc. is the 2017 Chairman of the Board for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. He’s been involved in the Chamber ever since Gary Mason with iSi Environmental recommended that it would be the perfect place for him to channel his passion for improving the business climate in Wichita.

Shortly after becoming involved in the Chamber, Schwindaman participated in the Chamber’s annual Washington, DC Fly-in. His visit with the Kansas delegation and his conversations with Chamber leadership solidified his interest in contributing his talents and energy to Chamber programs and initiatives.

He’s serving as the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board during the organization’s centennial year and recently took the time to share his thoughts on the company he leads, what he likes about doing business in Wichita, and the Chamber’s 2017 strategic priorities.

Company background

What products and services does Lubrication Engineers provide?
We’re a high-performance lubricant manufacturer and service company, operating in 74 countries around the world. We help businesses improve their bottom lines by improving their uptime and efficiencies from an operational standpoint.

Where do you see Lubrication Engineers in five years?
We’ll continue to offer our customers high value products and services. And we’ll be growing at a rapid pace through new international and domestic joint ventures and some acquisitions.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to your company?
I am highly committed to growing our company and taking care of our employees. I also enjoy this industry because of the things I get to see and experience. One day I could be standing on a NASA launch pad, and the next day I could be eating ice cream at the Häagen-Dazs factory. We supply lubricants to a vast array of companies and industries.

Describe your business’ most recent success.
We’ve undertaken a joint international venture with Kyodo Yushi USA to create a new company, Kyodo Yushi Manufacturing Americas, LLC. The new company will be located in the Wichita region and we anticipate that they’ll create five permanent jobs and up to 30 contract jobs.

To what do you attribute your growth and success?
Our success is 100% due to our commitment to customer service and satisfaction. Our ability to give our customers what they need, when they need it, is our highest priority.

What’s the best thing about doing business in the Wichita area?
It’s very easy to do business here. Many deals are still done on a handshake and a relationship. You don’t find that on the coasts.

When did you get started in the business world?
My first job was with Southwest Grease and Oil when I was 16 years old. At that time they had three plants and one of them was located where the Hyatt now stands. I started with Lubrication Engineers when I was in college as a lab tech. So I grew up in the business.

Thoughts on the Chamber

What one word best describes the Chamber?
Dynamic. I see a lot of things happenings in our community right now, and I feel that some of that positive movement can be attributed to the Chamber. One example is the work of the Leadership Council’s Entrepreneurship Task Force that was launched at the Chamber. There’s an excitement in the city that I haven’t sensed for a long time, and it’s because leaders are coming together to do things that benefit the community as a whole, and not just for their own financial gain. We’re united in expanding the opportunities for entrepreneurs and growing businesses.

Through my work as the co-chair of the Entrepreneurial Task Force, I’ve seen Startup Grind Wichita, e2e, 1 Million Cups ICT, the Chamber, Startup Wichita, MakeICT, GroundWork, SCORE, WSU MakerSpace, the Wichita office of the Small Business Administration, and so many others working in concert to connect entrepreneurs to the resources and expertise they need. And the visibility of the organizations supporting young entrepreneurs like DECA, Youth Entrepreneurs, Junior Achievement, and SocialPreneur has also increased dramatically.

How does this Chamber compare to other Chambers?
I travel around the U.S. quite a bit so I get to see how Chambers operate in other communities. We have a very strong Chamber and we should be proud of that. We’re looking forward to increasing our membership levels this year.

What is your favorite Chamber event, program, or service and why?
I always look forward to the Annual Meeting. This Chamber does a tremendous job of selecting and bringing high caliber speakers to Wichita. That’s not common in other communities. I really liked the new format we used in 2016. Moving from a formal sit-down dinner to an informal networking event generated a lot of positive feedback from our members.

What do you find most valuable about your Chamber membership?
One of the many lessons I learned from my father was that everyone has a civic duty to give back to their community. So for us, giving back to the community where our business is located and where our employees live is a priority. Being a member of the Chamber is one way to accomplish that.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how strongly would you recommend Chamber membership to a colleague?
9 – The benefits are so huge for both small and large businesses. From political advocacy, to education, to networking and leads generation – the benefits far outweigh the cost of a membership.

What do you consider Wichita’s biggest challenge that the Chamber can influence?Diversity and inclusion. The Chamber Board and staff have four strategic priorities in 2017, but our ongoing work in attracting and retaining our region’s workforce will be much more focused on diversity and inclusion. A workforce that’s engaged, innovative and productive is vital. But intent doesn’t always equal impact. Leadership is key to making it happen. Every single business and organization needs to step up and become involved. During our February 7 Chairman’s Lunch we’ll be providing our members with some specific tactics they can use to work on this issue. Working on this issue together strengthens our community as a whole and makes our region a much more attractive place to grow companies, careers and communities.

Personal

What is something people may not know about you?
My family is one of the major Clydesdale horse breeders in the U.S. Our operation has 30 horses. We’re unique because we raise and work with black Clydesdales, which are a rare color for that breed. We travel around the country showing and selling them and participating in events. All three of my children are involved in the operation and we’ve really enjoyed becoming part of an international network that’s allowed us to meet so many interesting people and even some celebrities. What I originally thought would be a six-month stint as a short-term hobby for my children when they were youngsters has turned into a lifelong interest and commitment that involves our entire family.

How do your colleagues describe you?
I’ve been called the “niche master” because I love the challenge of finding solutions to problems other people describe as unsolvable. Saying something is impossible to fix always motivates me to tackle it. Whether it’s researching horse pedigrees for breeding programs or finding solutions for my customers, I really enjoy engineering a solution.

Favorite app?
I’m a Weather Channel junkie, so I’m always checking my app to see what the weather is like, both in Wichita and other places I visit.

Favorite business book?
Good to Great  by Jim Collins

Favorite meal?
Bite Me BBQ (located at 132 N. St Francis)

Diversity & Inclusion to be main focus of Chairman’s Lunch

We have announced our program agenda for our 2017 Chairman’s Lunch, coming up on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at INTRUST Bank Arena.

Chairman's Lunch Panelists

In keeping with the event’s tradition of presenting perspectives from the City, County and Chamber, the event will begin with each organization addressing their respective 2017 priorities.

The second portion of the program will be a panel discussion titled “Creating a Workforce for the Future Through Diversity and Inclusion.” It will highlight the necessity of including people with different ideas and backgrounds to move our community forward.

The discussion, moderated by Chamber President Gary Plummer, will include the following panelists:

  • Scott Schwindaman, 2017 Chamber Chairman
  • Jeff Longwell, Mayor, City of Wichita
  • David Unruh, Chairman, Sedgwick County Commission
  • Junetta Everett, Vice President of Professional Relations, Delta Dental of Kansas, Inc.
  • Dr. Kim Krull, President, Butler Community College

“The importance of diversity and inclusion will be at the forefront of the Chamber’s top priorities as we celebrate our Centennial year in 2017,” said Plummer. “This year’s Chairman’s Lunch program is an opportunity to demonstrate how the Chamber, the community’s local governing bodies, and other organizations are being intentional about including people with different ideas and backgrounds in order to increase our competitiveness in the global economy.”

This community event is open to the public. Tickets are $50 for Chamber members, $60 for general admission, and $650 for a corporate table sponsorship (includes eight tickets and sponsorship benefits). Contact Rachel Douglass at 316-268-1127 with questions or visit wichitachamber.org to purchase tickets.