McConnell selects three new Golden Eagles

by Pat Gallagher, Military Affairs, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce

Pat Gallagher has been a Golden Eagle since 2009.

In the 1990s the Honorary Commander program was introduced on McConnell Air Force Base (AFB) and approximately twenty local business leaders were partnered with military members on base who, when it could be arranged, had a job on base that was somewhat similar to that of the civilian with whom he/she was matched. Some Honorary Commanders became frequent visitors on base participating in group or squadron activities and any other base opportunity that was open to them.

McConnell AFB later introduced the Golden Eagle award to recognize outstanding volunteer service and as a vehicle for base leadership to thank Honorary Commanders for their exceptional dedication. Only seven civilians have been named Golden Eagles since the program started.

First among those to earn the award were Robin Spurrier (Spurrier Chemical Companies), Keith Lesher (Lesher Investments) and Bob Dool (Mid-Continent Safety).  Jack Pulley with Davis-Moore Automotive Group was the fourth Eagle selected. Rael Hodgson with State Farm Insurance was named Eagle number five and I became a Golden Eagle in 2009. Wayne Roberts with Pioneer Balloon was selected for the award in 2011.

All of the Golden Eagles have been in leadership positions with the Friends of McConnell (FOM), the civilian support organization that has provided financial support to airmen and family related programs and events on McConnell for 60 years. The FOM is an affiliate of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Frank Suellentrop with Legacy Bank is one of three new Golden Eagles.

Three Golden Eagles have recently been selected to join the McConnell Eagle rank: Frank Suellentrop (Legacy Bank); James Havers-Strong (ABI Group); and Joel Rodell (Hutton Construction). All three business leaders have been exemplary supporters of their commanders, the airmen and their families. They are worthy recipients of this unique recognition.

Col. Josh M. Olson, 22nd ARW commander said, “We welcome these three outstanding community leaders to the prestigious Golden Eagles. The group is a direct reflection of the unsurpassed support our Airmen receive from this community. We look forward to work with them as we support combat air-refueling options downrange and bring on the next generation tanker in the upcoming months.”

Rodell said, “Becoming a Golden Eagle is a humbling experience and I look forward to contributing to the program. McConnell is a tremendous asset to Wichita and the surrounding communities. The opportunity to collaborate at a deeper level and help support their mission is something I’m very excited to be part of.”

Suellentrop agreed with Rodell and added that “It’s a great surprise and honor for me. Laura and I have really enjoyed our time as Honorary Commanders.”

We congratulate the newest Golden Eagles and thank all the Chamber members who strive to make McConnell AFB a great assignment for all those serving our country. Please contact the Chamber (316-268-1157) if you’d like to learn more about how you or your company can become more actively involved with the Friends of McConnell.

Dundas receives Lifetime Sales Achievement Award

One of our favorite things to do is celebrate milestones with our member businesses. Almost equally as exciting is celebrating milestones in the careers of our employees, and today we have that opportunity.

Kresta Dundas, Director of Membership Development for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, has been recognized with the ACCE’s (Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives) Lifetime Sales Achievement Award. Kresta was honored in the Silver Category, meaning she is responsible for 750 new members or $300,000+ in sales over the course of her Chamber career. The official announcement was made in July at the ACCE’s national conference in Nashville.

Kresta joined the Chamber in July 2012. Her responsibilities include overseeing the sales of Chamber memberships, the retention of current members, representing the Chamber at Member Milestone events, and helping businesses get the most value from their membership investment.

“Kresta is an amazing asset to any business, big or small,” said Heather Branson, CEO of Dynamic Sign Solutions. “Her desire to help others grow their organization, along with the Chamber resources she provides, are well worth our annual Wichita Chamber membership dues. The business relationships she can help spark, the wisdom she can share, and her caring demeanor make her a quality investment.”

“Kresta is a key member of our leadership team and is committed to ensuring businesses are successful in their Chamber membership,” said Gary Plummer, Chamber President/CEO.  “She is most deserving of this recognition, and we are proud of her contributions to the Wichita Chamber and our region.”

She has more than 15 years of marketing and sales experience, including nine years in media sales. She is a graduate of Wichita State University and a volunteer for various animal welfare causes.

Please join us in congratulating Kresta!

About ACCE
ACCE—the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives—serves more than 7,500 chamber of commerce professionals, 1,300 chambers of commerce and hundreds of other businesses and organizations, like convention and visitors bureaus and economic development organizations. Established in 1914, ACCE offers resources, industry information and data, professional development opportunities, peer connectivity and best practice sharing through the annual convention and topical conferences, their award-winning magazine, online education, peer networking and other activities.

Rachel Douglass promoted to Director of Engagement

Rachel Douglass

Gary Plummer, Chamber President & CEO, announced today that Rachel Douglass has been promoted from Manager of Engagement to Director of Engagement effective July 1. She joined the Chamber in September 2015, and her responsibilities include planning and implementation of events and programs which deliver visibility, education and peer connections for Chamber members. She has a comprehensive background in project management, marketing strategy and brand management. Douglass is a graduate of Wichita State University and a volunteer for several organizations including the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Barton International Group.

Plummer said that Douglass has proven herself to be a valuable part of the Chamber team. “Rachel has shown a great talent for assessing Chamber member needs and connecting them with the most valuable program. Her ability to develop meaningful relationships with our members, vendors and the community at large makes her an important part of the Chamber’s membership engagement efforts. I’m very pleased that Rachel is assuming greater responsibility for the direction of Chamber programming.”

Winning with Instagram

Chamber Communications Manager Courtney Sendall will share her social media expertise at a June 30 event.

When Alaska Airlines announced they were starting service in Wichita, we naturally began following their social media accounts. And their accounts are pretty dazzling. Like most airlines, @AlaskaAir fills their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts with breathtaking images of some of the #bucketlist destinations that we’d all like to visit.

But what really sets their accounts apart is the consistent stream of accolades from customers who appreciate the special touches the airline provides. The carrier’s social media team has done an exceptional job of capitalizing on the loyal brand ambassadors they’ve developed by providing stellar customer service.

So we’re eager to hear from Shannon Johnson (@shayboarder), a social media strategist for Alaska Airlines, when she shares her insights about Winning with Instagram in Wichita next week. Johnson is the keynote speaker for a June 30 luncheon event presented by Digital Wichita in celebration of global Social Media Day. The Chamber is one of several local event sponsors.

As an added bonus, six of the local experts who recently made the list of 2017 10 Rockstar Instagrammers in Wichita will also share their best practices. All five of the business accounts on the Rockstar Instagrammers list are Chamber members:  Events and Designs by Ashley, Local Legacy, Reverie Roasters, The Monarch Wichita, and Wichita Real Estate.

User-generated content like this image from Tillie’s Flower Shop make up most of the posts on the @WichitaFlag Instagram account.

We’re very pleased that the Wichita Flag Instagram account also made the top ten list and that Courtney Sendall will represent the Chamber on the panel of local experts. The Chamber secured the @WichitaFlag social media channels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook several years ago to initiate a grassroots pride-in-place campaign. Wichitans enthusiastically responded to all three accounts and most of the daily posts are user-generated content. Some of the posts are from former Wichitans expressing pride in their city, while others are from Wichitans who take the flag with them when they travel. The Instagram account has more than 4,600 followers and posts that have originated from 29 different states, 17 countries and 4 continents.

Whether you’re an Instagram novice or a seasoned social media expert, we hope you’ll join us next week for some practical takeaways that will strengthen your business and your social media reach. The event is at Abode from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 30, and the ticket price is $25.

Links:
Event registration
Video invitation from Shannon Johnson
#SMDayICT

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.

Chamber and Plummer recognized for diversity and inclusion

By Suzy Finn
Director of Community Advancement

Chamber President Gary Plummer accepted an award from the Heartland Wichita Black Chamber for efforts to promote the importance of inclusion and diversity in the Wichita business community.

The Heartland Wichita Black Chamber of Commerce held its second annual Black & White Ball on April 22. The Ball is the Chamber’s main fundraising event, as well as an opportunity to honor inductees into the Black Business Hall of Fame.

2017 Hall of Fame inductees included Juanita Hayes-Hill, Ed Givens Sr., and James Arbertha. Wichita Public Schools Superintendent Alicia Morris-Thompson received the new BIG Apple Award, and Cox Business and Walmart were inducted into the Presidents Circle.

At the end of the evening, Heartland Chamber President Bernard Knowles recognized two other individuals in attendance, one of which was Christal E. Watson, President and CEO of the Heartland Chamber, based in Kansas City.  Knowles also recognized Gary Plummer, President and CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, for the Chamber’s efforts to promote inclusion and diversity in the Wichita business community, such as inviting the presidents of the Heartland Wichita Black Chamber, Wichita Hispanic Chamber, and Wichita Black Chamber of Commerce to be part of The Chamber Board of Directors.

Chamber Board Members in attendance included Gene Bowen, Suzy Finn, Junetta Everett, Christina Long, Greg Cole, Gary Plummer and Bernard Knowles.

“We are truly honored by this recognition,” Gary said, “and I accept it on behalf of Junetta Everett, Suzy Finn and many others who are dedicated to this important initiative.”  Junetta, of Delta Dental of Kansas, is the Chamber’s Vice Chair of Inclusion, and Suzy is the Chamber’s Director of Community Advancement and Young Professionals of Wichita.

Inclusion is one of the Wichita Regional Chamber’s four strategic priorities in 2017, with a goal of convening business leaders and partners to enhance Wichita’s image as an inclusive community that values the many aspects of diversity.

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.

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

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.”