Arts and Culture Grow Wichita’s Economy

Gary Plummer is the President and CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The numbers tell an impressive story. The non-profit arts and culture sector in Wichita is a significant contributor to the local economy, generating $94.7 million in total industry expenditures in 2015 (according to an updated study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology). Wichita’s arts and cultural offerings not only inspire joy and creativity, they also translate to 2,841 full-time equivalent jobs. The study confirms that “investing in this industry supports jobs, generates government revenue and is the cornerstone of tourism.”

There’s no doubt that the arts impact the perception we have of our own community, which is why one of the Chamber’s four 2017 Strategic Priorities revolves around continuing to improve our Quality of Life. Identifying transformational community projects that helps us grow our community and economy is of vital importance to our members.

The Wichita Art Museum won the Chamber’s Keeper of the Plains award this year for the popular new Art Garden.

Please take a moment to review the video prepared by Americans for the Arts and the area of the study that focuses on the economic impact of the arts on Wichita. Both are found on the Americans for the Arts web site.

VideoArts and Economic Prosperity 5
Economic impact of the artsWichita, Kansas 

Better yet, make it a point to support our many cultural offerings in the area. We are enriched by the museums, theaters, film festivals and dance companies we are fortunate to enjoy in Wichita. They are a key factor in transforming our lives and helping us retain and grow our workforce and businesses.

It’s a Great Day to be a Shocker!

Gary Plummer is the President and CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

I was fortunate to attend the American Athletic Conference (AAC) announcement today at Wichita State University (WSU). The University’s move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the AAC is a BIG WIN for the entire community, not just the athletic department and Shocker sports fans.

The cheerleaders, WuShock, pep band and entire crowd made the announcement a high-energy event. Speakers included WSU President John Bardo, Athletic Director Daron Boatright, Coach Gregg Marshall, Student Body President-Elect Paige Hungate, Mayor Jeff Longwell and Commissioner David Unruh.

A move to AAC means much more for Wichita than better basketball. Alignment with respected research institutions and other innovative cities enhances the perception of our entire region as well as the University’s image. The business community recognizes that WSU is an important economic engine for the region. When WSU succeeds, the entire Wichita region succeeds. We lift each other up and this is a great example of why it’s so important for us to continue to work together.

The new conference puts Wichita in the same league as some of the major cities represented by AAC schools:  Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Dallas, Tulsa, Tampa, Orlando, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and more.

I must add that one of the classiest parts of today’s announcement were the positive comments about the Missouri Valley Conference that were shared by Dr. Bardo, Boatright and Coach Marshall.

That honestly made me just as proud of our great University.

It’s a great day to be a Shocker!

Check @WichitaState on Twitter or the WSU Facebook page to see the “live” posts from today’s news conference.

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

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

Leadership is Key to a Strong Education System

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

We applaud the Board of Education of Wichita Public Schools for inviting public input as they begin their search for a new superintendent. Replacing an administrator as strong as John Allison won’t be an easy task, so it makes sense to seek the advice of business and community leaders as part of the process.

Chamber members are invited to take the five-minute survey, titled Wichita USD 259 Superintendent Characteristics. The survey is open until Thursday, January 19.

The Chamber recently created a special Education Policy Task Force that also speaks to the need for strong leadership when it comes to education in Kansas. Co-chairs Walter Berry (Berry Companies) and Lyndy Wells (INTRUST Bank, retired) are making the business community’s voice heard on issues like the new K-12 funding formula and the special needs of urban districts like Wichita and our surrounding area. The Task Force has given Kansas Governor Sam Brownback their input and is reaching out to legislative leaders who are working on the funding plan which will replace the block grant system that Kansas schools have been living with in recent years.

Our recent survey of the Chamber membership indicated that school funding is a primary concern of the business community. Chamber members are encouraged to continue sharing their thoughts with us about this issue. Please forward your comments to Toni Porter at tporter@wichitachamber.org.

We thank you for your continued input and support and hope you’ll join us as we highlight the important role of education and diversity in building our future workforce at our annual Chairman’s Lunch on Tuesday, February 7 at 11:30 a.m. A panel of public and private leaders will discuss their 2017 priorities and the importance of “Creating a Workforce for the Future through Diversity and Inclusion.”

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.

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!

 

 

 

Chief Ramsay’s leadership noticed nationally

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 don’t know anyone who hasn’t been impacted by the recent coverage around the country about racial justice, violence in our streets and the risks taken each day by our law enforcement community. Certainly, Wichita isn’t immune to those sort of issues.

But we credit Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay for his leadership in taking a different approach in our community. Coverage of the community picnic in McAdams Park on July 17 has been trending across America (see the links below). Just a few days after hundreds of citizens took to the streets to protest police shootings around the country, Chief Ramsay invited organizers to come back together for a barbecue and meaningful dialogue aimed at real understanding and healing.

It’s worth noting that it also certainly took the willingness of Black Lives Matter organizers  and other community leaders to make this approach successful. The Chamber commends all the partners involved in the July 17 barbecue for demonstrating real leadership and love for our entire community. Chief Ramsay and other leaders will tell you the community barbecue was just the beginning on a long journey toward inclusiveness and understanding. Even the name of the event was First Steps Community Cookout.

However, we can’t imagine a better way to start.  Everyone involved has given us another great reason to be proud of Wichita!

Video posted on Facebook
Wichita Eagle story
KWCH story
CNN story 
NPR story

Employers should be aware of GOALS

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 opportunity recently to meet an individual who is working diligently to break down barriers and change lives. He’s also helping employers find valuable new workers to help them grow their organizations.

Dan Sanchez, of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, met with me about “GOALS,” a new 3-year pilot project designed to set Kansans on a path to successful careers that pay living wages, offer advancement opportunities, and restore their sense of value to themselves, their families and communities.  Dan was introduced to me by my friend Ray Frederick, of WIBA.

Kansas is one of 10 states to operate GOALS through a grant from the USDA. This pilot project will enroll 4,000 food assistance recipients in 36 counties across the state over three years. Half the participants will receive GOALS services, and the other half regular Employment & Training services (where available) in order to compare outcomes through a comprehensive evaluation process.  Services will be individualized to each participant’s needs, with a Career Navigator providing guidance over a six-month period.

In addition to career counseling, GOALS participants receive assistance on job barriers, ie. transportation and childcare. As part of the GOALS program, participants receive training in job-seeking skills including preparing applications and resumes, effective interviewing, life-skill development, and job retention skills. Training may also be tailored to meet labor market demands.

GOALS will partner with local organizations and employers to match participants with labor market opportunities and provide ongoing skill development for career advancement. Employers are also eligible for Work Opportunity Tax Credits for hiring graduates from the GOALS program.  The commitment of Dan Sanchez and the entire GOALS team is to recruit and retain the type of skilled, reliable employees businesses need. In addition to finding valuable new talent, business people are invited to support the program by participating in job fairs, mock interviews and even mentorships with GOALS participants.

If you are an employer interested in finding out how GOALS can work for you, please contact Dan Sanchez, Employer Liaison, at daniel.sanchez@dcf.ks.gov or by calling 316-337-6421 or 316-285-8395(cell).  You can also find out more at http://goals.ks.gov/bright-spots/

Real dialogue. Real leadership.

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 letter below was published in today’s Wichita Eagle.

A constitutional crisis is upon us. The Kansas Supreme Court has threatened to close schools on July 1 if the legislature fails to equalize funding disparities between school districts.

This is just yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of school finance battles between the Court and Legislature. However, the stakes are much higher this time around and the uncertainty is impacting more than parents, teachers and school children. Business leaders are reporting difficulty in recruiting employees and top-level managers due to the negative news coverage.

This must stop now. It’s time for real dialogue and real leadership.

A good number of legislative leaders are working hard towards a resolution that will keep schools open. However, some seem almost singularly focused on criticizing the Court.  Schools, understandably, are working to protect their own self-interests. The Court has a difficult job, but a job to do nonetheless. Like it or not, they are the final authority on the constitutionality of school finance law. However, threatening to close schools is unwise and counterproductive.

Wealthier school districts and their communities are calling for funding plans with “hold harmless” provisions. Translated this means they don’t want any money taken from their districts and shared with the state’s poorer districts. Unfortunately, this flies directly counter to the definition of equalization.

In Wichita, U.S.D. 259 (the state’s largest school district) educates 2,000 homeless school children per year. Nearly 78% of the student body is considered at risk and qualifies for free or reduced lunches. A sizable number of students consider English as their second language with students speaking over 100 different languages as their primary language. Countless studies have proven that educating students from poorer urban settings costs more than educating students from affluent areas. It is critical that these students are given the same opportunities for success as children in wealthy school districts. Kansas cannot and should not be known as a state where a child’s educational success is decided by their zip code.

There is plenty of blame to go around. We all need to shoulder our fair share, including the Wichita Chamber. We’ve had three years to address this issue, provide leadership and avoid the crisis we now face. Pointing fingers and playing the blame game doesn’t move us forward. At best, it paralyzes us in the current dilemma. At worst, it actually moves us backwards. Let’s at least develop a short-term solution and pledge to continue to work together on a sustainable resolution.

It’s time to separate from our silos, depart from our protected turf and come together in the best interests of our children, our communities and the future of our great state.