Samia Joins Chamber Team

Gabri Samia joined the Chamber’s Community Advancement team this month.

Gabri Samia recently joined the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce as the Manager of Community Advancement. In her new position Samia will plan and execute several of the Chamber’s unique leadership development programs, including:  Leadership Wichita, City-to-City Leadership visits and Wichita Insight.

Samia’s role involves interacting with numerous community leaders and assisting with the Chamber’s inclusion and diversity programming. “Gabri really enjoys working with people and building community,” said Suzy Finn, Community Advancement Director for the Chamber. “She’s enthusiastic about working with others who want to continually improve Wichita and the region.”

A graduate of Wichita State University, Samia earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minored in English. One of her past experiences includes teaching in South Korea. Her first day with the Chamber was May 9. She replaces Stef Flores who recently relocated to the Denver area.

Please help us welcome Gabri to your Chamber team.

Leadership Wichita Graduates are Community Game Changers

Clark Bastian is the Chairman and CEO of Fidelity Bank.

Nominations for the Chamber’s 2017 Leadership Wichita program are underway. We’ve asked some area decision makers to weigh in on the benefits of the Leadership Wichita program. This blog post is by Clark Bastian, Fidelity Bank Chairman and CEO.

There are a number of ways you can increase your organization’s visibility and viability. One proven method is to provide your best and brightest employees with new learning experiences and opportunities to connect with their peers. Investing in their growth provides your organization with knowledgeable and respected ambassadors. And retaining the most engaged members of our workforce can change the course of a community.

Leadership Wichita is a highly successful Chamber program designed to inform, connect and inspire active community leaders. It’s an immersive experience that identifies 30 local achievers and then provides them with the tools they need to take increasingly significant roles in the community.

Top area leaders present and interact with the class over the course of nine intensive sessions. They willingly invest their time in the program every year because they see the results. Leadership Wichita graduates can be found leading game-changing initiatives for their companies and their communities.

The nomination process is easy.

  • Look for potential nominees in your own company, professional organizations, and places where you volunteer. Target those who want to make more meaningful contributions to the success of their employers, the business community and the region.
  • Spend two minutes on the Chamber’s website nominating them for Leadership Wichita.

We owe it to the future champions of our region, companies and organizations to equip them with the best possible understanding of the progress being made in our community as well as the challenging areas where we need their talent and energy. Mentoring the next generation of leaders is critical. It clearly demonstrates our confidence in their future contributions and our desire to make them an integral part of our community’s advancement.

Leadership Wichita is a program of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and Wichita Educational Foundation. Nominations are due Friday, June 2.

Leadership Wichita – A Powerful Community Investment

Claudio J. Ferraro is the President of Via Christi Hospital Wichita St. Teresa, Inc.

Nominations for the Chamber’s 2017 Leadership Wichita program are underway. We’ve asked some area decision makers to weigh in on the benefits of the Leadership Wichita program. This blog post is by Claudio Ferraro, President, Via Christi Hospital Wichita St. Teresa, Inc.

Every day we assess the return on investment (ROI) for many aspects of our business, from equipment purchases to employee training. Most employees already have the technical training needed to do their jobs. And many companies offer internal leadership training for those who have demonstrated an aptitude for taking on more responsibility. So why should a local company or organization nominate candidates for Leadership Wichita and invest in that program?

The true value of Leadership Wichita goes beyond refining skills. It’s an opportunity to forge relationships with people across other industries and understand their perspectives. It’s the formation of long-lasting partnerships that strengthen and advance our businesses and organizations. Ultimately, it’s laying an important foundation for the future of our business community and the economic health of our region.

I think it’s quite possible that my own career might have taken a different trajectory if I hadn’t participated in the Leadership Wichita program in 2000. So many of my classmates from that program are now playing important senior leadership roles throughout the community. Michael Grier is the President and CEO at Martin Eby Construction. Debbie Gann is the Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at Spirit AeroSystems and was part of the leadership team that led them through their transition from a Boeing facility to Spirit AeroSystems. She was also the 2013 Chair of the Chamber. Richard McCafferty is an owner/officer at Key Construction. The list goes on and on. We share a common bond from our Leadership Wichita experience and I still interact with them in my role at Via Christi.

So when I nominate someone for this program, I’m looking for a candidate who is perceptive enough to understand that they will be doing much more than honing their own leadership skills. They will be learning about the dynamics of the region and building interpersonal connections with people who will eventually become key community leaders and contributors.

The nomination process is easy.

  •  Look for potential nominees in your own company, professional organizations, and places where you volunteer. Target those who want to make more meaningful contributions to the success of their employers, the business community and the region.
  • Spend two minutes on the Chamber’s website nominating them for Leadership Wichita.

The earlier we can identify our future decision makers and help them build relationships with each other, the more quickly we can achieve the maximum return on our investment with better results for our organizations, businesses and community.

Leadership Wichita is a program of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and Wichita Educational Foundation. Nominations are due Friday, June 2.

Chamber’s Inclusion Strategy Featured in Wichita Eagle Insert

2017 Chamber Chairman Scott Schwindaman provides an update on this year’s strategic priorities in our six-page quarterly insert that published today in The Wichita Eagle.

Our six-page newsletter is published quarterly in The Wichita Eagle to update the entire community about how we are fulfilling our mission and vision. The two front-page stories in today’s edition of the newspaper insert share information about our Diversity and Inclusion priority and how the Chamber is leveraging our regional strength to advocate for business in Topeka.

Be sure to pick up a copy of today’s insert so you’ll know–

  • Which 15 Chamber members to congratulate on their important milestones
  • Who will begin leading our Government Relations team on May 1
  • Which 31 new organizations we’ve welcomed to the Chamber since December
  • How your generous Centennial Campaign contributions are being used
  • Which Chamber Board members are leading each of our four strategic priorities
  • Who to congratulate on graduating from this year’s YPW Leadership Academy
  • How to register for April and May networking events

You may also read and share the insert by following this link to our website.

Contact us if you need additional printed copies of the insert for you team or for your recruitment materials. Our next insert publishes on Thursday, June 29.

Eight-time World Cup Medalist Will Inspire YPs

Eight-time World Cup Medalist and Paralympic Snowboarder Nicole Roundy is the keynote speaker for the Kansas YP Summit.

The inspirational theme of the 2017 Kansas Young Professionals (YP) Summit is Ad Astra – a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars.” And keynote speaker Nicole Roundy will provide attendees with plenty of motivation to reach upward as she shares her personal story of overcoming adversity to achieve her goals.

Roundy rocketed to fame as a World Cup Medalist and member of the U.S. Paralympic Snowboard Team after losing her right leg to cancer. She’ll share her thoughts on how to set and attain personal and professional goals at the day-long event that is scheduled for Friday, May 5 from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Chamber’s affiliate, the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW), is hosting the event at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. This is the eighth statewide Summit and the second time it has been held in Wichita.

The event is aimed at young professionals who want to develop their professional skills, connect with others and learn new ways to channel their passion for revitalizing their communities.

Look for images from last year’s event and registration information in the Thursday, March 16, edition of The Wichita Eagle. Or follow this link and register before April 16 to receive discounted pricing.

Follow the 2017 Kansas YP Summit on Twitter – @ypkansas or Facebook – @KSYPSummit.
Follow Nicole Roundry on Twitter – @NicoleRoundy, Instagram – @nroundy and Facebook – Nicole Roundy.

Wichita Regional Chamber Opposes Two PEAK Senate Bills

The Chamber’s lobbyist, Jason Watkins, testified today in Topeka.

Jason Watkins, a lobbyist representing the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, testified in opposition of S.B. 222 and S.B. 223 in Topeka, today. Watkins submitted written remarks and also provided verbal testimony in front of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee. He was joined by other representatives in the region who are concerned about the need to have economic tools in place to grow the economy.

In his remarks, Watkins indicated that the Chamber supports Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) as a valuable economic development tool. S.B. 222 places a moratorium on the program and S.B. 223 restricts it. Watkins pointed to a report from Legislative Post Audit that shows a positive return on investment for the program.

Watkins said that “a moratorium or restrictions on PEAK would stifle growth and likely lead to jobs originally destined for south-central Kansas to land in Oklahoma instead. Kansas needs more economic development tools – not less. PEAK provides a conduit for critical investment in our state’s economy. And it pays immediate dividends with job growth and capital investment.”

Links to the written testimony from Watkins are shown below.

SB 222 WRCC 2017 PEAK

SB 223 WRCC 2017 PEAK

Government Relations Staff Changes Announced

Toni Porter will begin leading the Chamber’s Government Relations team on May 1 .

Gary Plummer, President & CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, announced today that Toni Porter has been promoted to Director of Government Relations for the organization. In her new position, Porter will lead the Chamber’s Government Relations efforts. She  originally joined the Chamber in 2015, in a part-time position as the Government Relations Project Manager. Prior to her role at the Chamber, Porter served as the District Director for U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo.

The Chamber’s Government Relations team oversees two of the organization’s four focus areas, advocating and influencing. Plummer said that Porter’s experience made her a natural choice for the position. “Our members will continue to benefit from Toni’s extensive experience. She is well connected in the business community and is respected by government officials and leaders at the local, state and federal level.” Porter will assume her new full-time role on May 1.

Barby Jobe is relocating to Oklahoma. Her last day as the Chamber’s V. P. of Government Relations is April 28.

Plummer also announced the departure of Barby Jobe Myers from the Chamber. Myers joined the organization in 2008, and has most recently served as the Vice President of Government Relations. Her last day at the Chamber is April 28. Myers is relocating to Oklahoma to join her family.

Plummer said, “We’ll miss Barby’s dedication to impacting the local election process and advocating for the best possible business environment. We’ll continue to follow her career with great interest and look forward to hearing how she’ll be utilizing her unique talents and skills when she returns to her home state of Oklahoma.”

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

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)