Wichita’s Tourney Celebration Was A Slam Dunk

Everyone was a hoopster during Tourney Week. The Wichita Thunder’s mascot, TDog, scored big time with this winning image.

Wichita celebrated March Madness in style last week as the community hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Our thanks to all the tourney planners and organizers who did an extraordinary job of securing the event and then rolling out the red carpet for tournament fans, officials, coaches and players. They made Wichita shine and all of our visitors feel welcome!

We’re rooting for the teams who are still playing and enjoying all the highs and lows associated with March Madness. And we’re still cheering for the over-sized basketball hoop and Wichita flag backboard in front of the Chamber building that was installed by Luminous Neon Inc. Art & Sign Systems to celebrate the event. This engineering marvel easily withstood several earthquakes in early March and strong wind gusts that peaked at 51 mph around Wichita on March 6. It was definitely built to last.

Alison Percy from the Chamber did a crossover dribble before posting a basket and a picture during tourney week.

Tournament fans have been taking videos and photos in front of the three-dimensional display showing off their best basketball moves since it went up in late February. Some of the images have been posted and shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell was the first person to stop by and take a picture on the day it was installed. Area team mascots like TDog from the Wichita Thunder, Heartyandme with the American Heart Association and Baby Jay from the University of Kansas School of Medicine also posted pictures and videos. Congressman Ron Estes shot some hoops in front of the Chamber last weekend and posted a picture on Facebook that he also included in his constituent newsletter. And it’s been a unique backdrop for reporters covering the tournament.

Last week’s social media contest sponsored by Luminous Neon awarded daily winners on Twitter and Instagram who posted images with the hoops display. They earned gift cards from Chamber member restaurants located in the downtown area. Our congratulations to these winners and our thanks to Luminous Neon for their contest sponsorship.

TWITTER WINNERS:  @KirstaMNews – @andymcfayden – @weberk – @AHAKansas – @shaychic – @KUSM_Wichita – @Wichita_Thunder

INSTAGRAM WINNERS: @markhchamberlin – @mandynfouse – @randilanggmailcom – @maryblea08 – @dannymike – @crystalathrop – @jcody864

Although it’s tempting to keep it in place until the NCAA Tournament returns to Wichita in 2021, our giant hoop and backboard are scheduled for removal when the tourney ends. Until then, keep showing us your basketball fever Wichita. We love seeing and sharing your #ILoveWichita posts.

POST A PIC Promo for NCAA Tourney

Post your pictures from March 11-17. Photo credit: Andy McFayden and Mandy Fouse.

Our partners at Luminous Neon had so much fun developing our over-sized basketball hoop and backboard that they are sponsoring a social media contest next week to generate more NCAA tourney excitement. The rules are pretty simple and there are daily gift card prizes to Chamber member eateries.

So get creative and snap a photo in front of the Chamber with our giant basketball hoop and backboard when you’re downtown. Then post your image between March 11 and 17 to welcome NCAA fans, coaches and players. All the official rules are shown below.

– Post your picture with our giant basketball hoop and backboard at 350 West Douglas on either Twitter or Instagram (or both) from 1 a.m. on March 11 through midnight on March 17.

– Tag @chamberwichita and include #ilovewichita in every post.

– One $30 gift card will be awarded daily to one winner on Twitter and one on Instagram. Winners chosen randomly every 24 hours.

– Contestants must have a public profile to participate.

– The promotion complies with all Twitter and Instagram content regulations and contest rules including only one Twitter post per day per person and Instagram winners must be at least 13 years of age.

– Chamber employees and employees of their affiliates are not eligible for prizes.

Follow the Chamber on Instagram and Twitter to see all the creative contest entries. And keep using the #ilovewichita hashtag to welcome our NCAA guests and to highlight all the great things they can experience in Wichita.

Chamber announces 2018 Small Business of the Year finalists

Congratulations to the 2018 Small Business of the Year finalists.

It’s official. The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has announced the finalists for the 2018 Small Business of the Year award. This is the 14th year for the Small Business Awards program, which is presented by the 2017 award recipients: Mahaney Roofing Company and The Monarch.

In addition to offering well-deserved recognition to small businesses for their achievements and contributions to our community, the program provides owners and their employees the opportunity to showcase their company, share their story, and be rewarded for their efforts.

“Small businesses are at the heart of our community, with more than 80% of our members falling into the small business category,” Chamber President Gary Plummer said. “This program is one of the ways we can recognize the outstanding companies that are creating jobs, giving back to Wichita and making this a stronger community. Congratulations to each of these finalists.”

The award program is split into two categories: Tier One, for companies with 25 employees or less; and Tier Two, for companies with between 26 and 100 employees.

Tier One Finalists
McCurdy Auction, LLC
Paint the Towne
Reverie Coffee Roasters
Shelden Architecture
Watermark Books & Cafe

Tier Two Finalists
Allmetal Recycling, LLC
Elite Staffing Solutions
Stearman Field Bar & Grill
The Anchor

More than 120 small businesses were nominated for the award, and 18 completed the application process. The finalists will be featured at a Sunrise Scrambler event on April 11, and an Awards Luncheon will be held on May 23 to announce this year’s winners.

To apply for the award, companies must be headquartered in Wichita, have been in business at least three years, and be Chamber members. Applicants are then evaluated on their business success, employee relations and community contributions.

More information about the Small Business Awards program and a complete list of past winners can be found at wichitachamber.org/awards.

Surprising and Delighting Hoops Fans!

Our thanks to Luminous Neon President Joe Ontjes said his team for making our hoop-tastic dreams come true!

We’ve been counting down the days until the region hosts the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament March 15-17. The primary tourney hotel, the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview, is just across the street from us, so we have the perfect location for welcoming basketball fans, coaches and players to Wichita. But we had to get a bit creative with our welcome message since we don’t have a marquee or digital signage.

That’s where Joe Ontjes and the creative Luminous Neon Art & Sign Systems team came into the picture. The Luminous team installed a new pedestal sign for the Chamber last year as part of our rebranding initiative. Today they stopped by to install some large temporary “Welcome” decals for us. But they didn’t stop there. They decided to surprise and delight both locals and visiting hoops fans with something very special.

We’re now the proud owners of an oversized basketball backboard that’s perfect for memorable photo ops. The creatives at Luminous outdid themselves with this unique three-dimensional display that includes our favorite hashtag, #ILoveWichita.

The team at Luminous Neon created a special welcome display for basketball fans, coaches and players who will be visiting the city in March.

Luminous Neon President Joe Ontjes said his team enjoyed developing the concept and then producing the king-sized basketball goal. Ontjes said, “Although this big hoop is a departure from the business signs we fabricate daily, it’s the kind of challenge that drives our creative team to do its best work. We feel like we accomplished our mission of making the Chamber’s basketball swishes come true.”

So stop by in the next few weeks and take a selfie with our temporary hoops signage. You can post it as a welcome to the teams, coaches and fans that Wichita will be hosting during tourney week. And then get ready to celebrate at one (or more) of the events our staff has put together to maximize your hoops experience.

YPW/CHAMBER LUNCH & LEARN | “Courtside Q&A” – March 6
A Lunch & Learn for YPs and Chamber members where panelists will discuss the upcoming basketball tournament and what hosting it means for Wichita! We’ll hear from AJ Boleski of INTRUSTBank Arena, Cindy Claycomb from the Wichita City Council, and Moji Rosson of Visit Wichita. Follow this link to register.

Join us as we partner with Xclusive Events on Wednesday, March 14 for the Mingle on Commerce from 4:30 – 6:30 PM. Wear your favorite basketball jersey or team colors and enjoy a cash bar and food trucks. There’s no fee, so no need to register. Learn more here.

Young Professionals of Wichita and the Realtors of South Central Kansas will host an evening mingle at Distillery 244 to celebrate all things basketball. Follow this link to register.

Spreading #ILoveWichita across the city

We like to say that the #ILoveWichita movement has been fueled by pride, passion and partnerships. Without all three, the message would not be as far reaching as it is. One example of these partnerships is with the team at Atomic Billboards. In 2016, Atomic donated billboard space to display images from Instagram that were posted using #ILoveWichita.

Now a second rendition of the campaign is underway. We’re asking you to share what you love about Wichita so that others have an authentic view of what makes our region so unique. Maybe it’s the food scene. Does the thriving art community fill you with pride? Do you love experiencing diverse cultural events throughout the year? Do you find yourself sharing images of our first-class sunsets with friends who don’t live in Kansas? Is there a high-caliber area sports team that you always support? Do you live in the friendliest neighborhood on the planet? Whatever the reason, post it on Instagram and use #ILoveWichita, then look for your image on Atomic Billboards across the city.

Also partnering with us on this campaign is M.A.D. Ad Company. Starting next week, the #ILoveWichita messages will be shown on their Mirror Billboard Displays, located in several area bars and restaurants.

Our thanks to the teams at both Atomic Billboards and M.A.D. Company for helping spread #ILoveWichita throughout our city and region. Find more info at ILoveWichita.org, and join the #ILoveWichita movement today.

YPW hires Ulises Gonzalez

Ulises Gonzalez has joined YPW as the Program Coordinator.

By Dara Quastad 

Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) is excited to announce Ulises Gonzalez has been hired as the Program Coordinator. Ulises was previously the Director of the Hispanic College Institute and the Student Leader of Inclusion & Diversity Excellence at Fort Hays State University. While at Fort Hayes, he served as the Student Body President from June 2015 to May 2016. He also has held positions at Hays Public School District and at the Broadmoor Hotel.

Ulises is a 2017 graduate of Fort Hays State University with a Bachelor of Science in Tourism & Hospitality Management and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management.

In his new role, Ulises will oversee event and program management for YPW, manage and coach volunteers, and support membership onboarding and engagement. Ulises says that he loves Wichita because the city “embraces an inclusive community that celebrates diversity, supporting people from different backgrounds. It makes people feel like they belong, just like it did with me.”

He officially joined YPW Monday, February 19.

On Valentine’s Day (and every day), we love our interns

Written by Dara Quastad and Emma Meyer

We love our interns: Dara Quastad and Emma Meyer!

Our team has grown by two, as Dara Quastad and Emma Meyer have joined the Chamber as marketing interns.

Dara Quastad is working with Young Professional of Wichita (YPW) as their communications and marketing intern. Born and raised in McPherson, Dara has spent the past four years at Sterling College and will graduate in May with a Bachelors in Public Relations. She is a member of Pi Kappa Delta National Speech and Debate Organization, a published author in the 2017 manuscript of top speeches by the Interstate Oratorical Association, and a representative and member of the Sterling College Forensic and Debate team. After graduation, Dara plans to stay in the Wichita area and pursue a career in public relations. As somewhat of an outsider to Wichita, she will bring a unique perspective that will be helpful when teamed up with individuals from the area. When asked about the her internship, Dara replied, “I am thrilled to join the YPW team and begin working with volunteers, as I share YPW’s passion for Wichita and all this city has to offer.” Dara officially joined YPW on January 30.

Emma Meyer, a senior at Valley Center High School, is contributing to the Chamber’s marketing and communications department. At school, Emma is involved in many different activities including softball, Letter Women’s Club, National Honors Society, Women’s Choir, and many more. Emma is also a part of Valley Center High School’s Internship Program, which brings her to the Chamber. When asked about her internship, Emma replied, “I am excited about my internship at the Wichita Chamber so I can learn more about business and marketing, which will help me decide what I would like to pursue as a career.” Emma joined the Chamber on January 16 and will be here through May. Next year she plans to attend Kansas State University.

Both Dara and Emma are receiving school credit for their time at the Chamber. In Dara’s case, this internship will earn the final credits for her degree. Please join us in welcoming them both to the Chamber!

Envision’s New Workforce Innovation Center Will Accelerate Workforce Diversification

Michael Monteferrante is the President and CEO of Envision.

Where can people with disabilities learn the skills they need to find jobs in new and emerging industries? How can U.S. companies meet the growing demand for more skilled labor? Envision produced an important answer this week with the announcement of a new facility that will provide intensive training for people who are blind or visually impaired and then help place them into skilled positions around the country.

Locally-based Envision has been promoting advocacy and independence for those who are blind or low vision since 1933. Envision President and CEO Michael Monteferrante announced on Monday that the organization has hired an Executive Director, Mike May, to oversee Envision’s newest initiative, the BVI Workforce Innovation Center.

Jonathan Long is the Chamber’s Director of Community Advancement.

Jonathan Long, the Director of Community Advancement for the Chamber, applauded the new Center and the diversification it will bring to the local, regional and national workforce. Long said, “We’ll all benefit from the dedicated and highly qualified employees who will emerge from this program. They’ll enrich the work environment wherever they go.” Long has several years of employee recruitment experience for area businesses and also directs the Chamber’s diversity and inclusion initiative.

The Chamber commends the leadership demonstrated by this initiative and congratulates all those involved. Follow this link to learn more about the initiative from a recent Wichita Eagle story.

Final Honors Night Recipients Announced

The Chamber’s Honors Night recognizes some of our community’s finest, following a tradition started 55 years ago.

Following a tradition started 55 years ago in 1963, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its annual Honors Night event on Thursday, April 26. Honors Night recognizes an outstanding individual, an exceptional young professional, exemplary corporate citizens, exceptional commitment to the community, and a striking architectural achievement. The 2018 award recipients are as follows:

The recipient of the Spirit of Wichita award is JR Custom Metal Products Inc. Established in 2002, this award is given to an organization or not-for-profit organization that received the Over the Years award at least 20 years ago, in recognition of its continued strength of employment, leadership, innovation, and community involvement. JR Custom Products Inc. received the Over the Years award in 1996.

The recipients of the Over the Years award are the Wichita Community Foundation and Yingling Aviation. The Over the Years award recognizes businesses and institutions with long-standing performances as good corporate citizens and major contributors to the community’s economic well-being; displaying leadership, innovation and community involvement.

The recipient of the Keeper of the Plains award is CrossFirst Bank. The Keeper of the Plains award recognizes an outstanding architectural achievement completed by a firm, organization or individual, which has contributed to the beauty of our community.

The two previously announced recipients of the Uncommon Citizen award are Clark Bastian and Clay Bastian. Clark Bastian is the chairman and chief executive officer of Fidelity Bank. Clay Bastian is the chairman of Fidelity Financial Corporation. The Uncommon Citizen award recognizes individuals who have served their community year after year in an extraordinary capacity, and therefore made outstanding contributions to the civic and cultural institutions in Wichita.

The previously announced recipient of the Exceptional Young Leader award is Christina Long, owner and principal consultant of CML Collective. This award recognizes an individual who displays extraordinary young talent through service to the community and noteworthy accomplishments. Candidates for Exceptional Young Leader have a history of demonstrated leadership within their job and philanthropic involvement.

Honors Night 2018 is presented by Metro Courier, Inc. and will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 26 at Textron Aviation Activity Center, 9710 E. Central. Tickets are now available for $90 per person or $720 for a table of eight and can be purchased online at wichitachamber.org/HonorsNight.

Formal invitations will be sent to Chamber members, but the general public is also invited to attend.

Jonathan Long Hired as Chamber’s Director of Community Advancement

Jonathan Long has been named as the new Director of Community Advancement for the Chamber. His first day will be Jan. 29.

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has named Jonathan Long as the new Director of Community Advancement. The founder of the Wichita Urban Professionals, Long was most recently employed as a Talent Acquisition Recruiter for T-Mobile USA. He has also held positions with the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, Wichita Public Schools and the Wichita Eagle.

Long has been involved in a number of community initiatives related to attracting and retaining talent, fostering community pride, and advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives. His previous Chamber volunteer experience includes:

– 2017 Leadership Wichita Graduate
– 2016 YPW Distinguished Professional Award Recipient
– 2016 Panelist on improving race relations in Wichita
– 2015 City-to-City Young Professionals of Wichita Scholarship Recipient

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, he has also studied at Wichita State University.

In his new role he will oversee the Chamber’s Community Advancement initiatives including diversity and inclusion, City-to-City trips and Leadership Wichita. Chamber President and CEO Gary Plummer said, “Jonathan has the vision, talent and expertise to make a real impact on the region. I have complete confidence in his ability to lead his team, forge new partnerships and inspire our volunteers.”

Long officially joins the Chamber on Monday, January 29. He replaces Suzy Finn who resigned December 22 to join the Wichita Public Schools in a marketing role.