Building a Better Wichita

The 2014 City-to-City Leadership visit to Austin resulted in the creation of a local entrepreneurship accelerator and launching the e2e in 2016.

ICYMI – Chamber staffers Suzy Finn and Stefanie Flores just returned from a trip to Raleigh, N.C. as part of the planning process for the 2017 City-to-City Leadership visit to that community. This recap of the outcomes of previous Chamber visits was authored by Suzy Finn and appeared in the FORWARD WICHITA section of the Wichita Eagle on February 26.

What makes other cities great? How do we ensure Wichita is on the right path? How do we find best practices and customize them for Wichita and our region?

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has coordinated visits to other cities to stimulate trade and exchange ideas many times in the past 100 years. In the past 11 years, we’ve taken more than 240 area leaders on trips to learn from cities including Richmond, Va., Jacksonville, Fla., Oklahoma City, Ft. Worth, Texas, Chattanooga, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., Pittsburgh, Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa, Austin, Texas, Greenville, S.C., and Nashville, Tenn. The cities’ success stories revealed some themes that consistently stood out to our community leaders.

  1. Regional Economic Development – These communities approached economic development not as isolated cities but as whole regions. Having a coordinated plan to attract and retain businesses and talent was a recurring theme.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Groups like the Allegheny Conference and Greater Des Moines Partnership provided models for the Greater Wichita Partnership – our approach to regional economic development that focuses on coordinated strategies for intended outcomes.
  2. Riverfront Development – Successful cities had an active riverfront that included retail, commercial, residential, hotel and entertainment properties. They were developed with density and mixed use in mind, and developers adhered to a cohesive design vision.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Current progress includes the construction of River Vista and the Advanced Learning Library. Supporting initiatives like the STAR Bond district that was approved in December can help us continue to make progress.
  3. Entrepreneurship and Innovation – Many of the cities had, at one point, reached a crisis that led to reinventing their economic base. A key in each of those reinvention stories was a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Omaha, Des Moines and Austin provided models for an accelerator program, and last year the e2e Accelerator launched. We need to continue advancing our entrepreneurship ecosystem to support existing programs and generate new ways to support entrepreneurs at all stages.
  4. Vibrant Downtown In some cities, a vibrant downtown required infrastructure investment in sports stadiums or convention centers. In others, it was public and private investment in mixed-use development. And in some it was focusing on improvements like street scaping and urban place making. The bottom line was that having a vibrant downtown was vital to regional success.
    Wichita’s Implementation: After visiting Oklahoma City in 2008, area leaders committed to partnering with Wichita Downtown Development Corporation on developing and executing a Downtown Master Plan. We need to celebrate the success built over the past 10 years, and continue to encourage development that brings even more people downtown to live, work and play.
  5. Workforce Development All of the communities had at least one entity focused on workforce development, including advocating for successful K-12 systems, developing jobs programs for youth, and retraining technical talent, as just a few examples.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Our most recent trip to Nashville inspired Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell to set a lofty goal of working with the business community, spearheaded by the Workforce Alliance, to provide at least 1,000 summer jobs for youth to help develop their soft skills and create a stronger pipeline to retain our young talent.

Every community had a unique combination of factors that contributed to its success. In addition to the five themes above, we also continually learned about the importance of quality of life, the healthcare industry, public transportation, and attracting and retaining young professionals.

Perhaps most important, we learned a city’s residents need to be its best cheerleaders. Everyone has the opportunity to either help or hurt our image. Join the #ILoveWichita movement and support one of the forward-focused initiatives above, or look into joining us for the 2017 trip to Raleigh, N.C., on September 18-20.

Specific Trip Outcomes

  • 2008 | Oklahoma City:
    Focused on developing and implementing the Downtown Master Plan
  • 2009 | Chattanooga:
    Sent four local YPs to participate in Create Here – a community marketing plan development workshop
  • 2010 | Louisville:
    Created a local bank consortium to finance riskier development projects
  • 2011 | Pittsburgh:
    Initiated the Priority Project to identify top community priorities
  • 2012 | Omaha:
    Developed the Entrepreneurship Task Force, an initiative of the Leadership Council (now Greater Wichita Partnership)
  • 2013 | Des Moines:
    Refocused on regional approach to economic development with the eventual creation of the Greater Wichita Partnership
  • 2014 | Austin:
    Created a local entrepreneurship accelerator program, launching the e2e Accelerator in 2016
  • 2015 | Greenville, S.C.:
    Generated community buy-in for inclusion and diversity programming
  • 2016 | Nashville:
    Renewed emphasis on inclusion and diversity, quality of life, and summer jobs for youth as critical elements in a comprehensive talent strategy

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.”