2018 Small Business Award Winners Announced Today

Watermark Books & Café and Allmetal Recycling, LLC are the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Businesses of the Year. The Chamber made the announcement at today’s award luncheon held at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.

Award finalists were divided into two tiers based upon number of full-time employees. Watermark Books & Cafe represents Tier One (businesses with 1 – 25 full-time employees), and Allmetal Recycling represents Tier Two (businesses with 26-100 full-time employees). Judges evaluated the finalists based on five key areas: leadership and performance, employee relations, entrepreneurship, diversity and community involvement.

Watermark Books & Cafe is our Tier One 2018 Small Business Award Winner.

Watermark Books & Café opened its doors in 1 977 and is located at 4701 E. Douglas. Twenty-five employees at the independent bookstore keep the minds and bodies of their customers fed by hosting interesting reading events involving nationally-known authors and selling made-from-scratch café items. Owner Sarah Bagby credits her success to a passionate staff and a complex marketing infrastructure as well as her partnerships with authors, area businesses, schools, publishers, and literary houses. A champion of local authors, Bagby said, “We love to bolster stories being written in Wichita.”

Allmetal Recycling is our Tier Two 2018 Small Business Award Winner.

Founded in 2009, Allmetal Recycling, LLC currently employs a team of seventy-seven and is located at 800 E. 21st St. N. The company has been growing its footprint and changing the culture as well as attitudes about the scrap metal and recycling industry with the tagline, Not your typical scrap yard. Owner and general manager Clint Cornejo said, “We set out to change the image of the industry. Safety is our top priority and we’ve created a friendly environment for our customers.”

The Presenting Sponsors of the 2018 Awards program were Mahaney Roofing Company and The Monarch. Joe Ontjes of Luminous Neon, Inc. gave the keynote address.

Small businesses are responsible for creating 2 of every 3 new jobs in the U.S. and make up almost 90 percent of the Wichita Regional Chamber membership. The Small Business Awards program, now in its 14th year, is designed not only to provide small businesses the recognition they deserve but to also give other small businesses a chance to learn from the best.

2018 Small Business Awards Finalists

Tier One (1 – 25 full-time employees)

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

Tier Two (26 – 100 full-time employees)

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

Visit the Chamber’s Facebook page to see photos of the event. Videos highlighting each of the finalists will be posted to the Chamber’s YouTube channel.

Frontier Airlines Announces Nonstop Wichita/Denver Service

As Wichita carries on its Air Capital legacy into the next generation, local leaders in both the public and private sectors are strategically focusing resources to grow businesses and attract talent to our region. Ease of travel and low-cost airfare to high-demand destinations is a component vital to our success. For years, business and leisure travelers alike have made it known that improved service between Wichita and Denver is desperately needed. The Wichita Airport Authority has worked hard to make these needs known to the airlines. Yesterday, Frontier Airlines answered the call to action.

Beginning August 30, Frontier will return to Wichita with nonstop service to and from Denver for as low as $59 each way. With current round-trip fares to Denver often exceeding $1,000, this is fantastic news. If businesses and leisure travelers want the competition to remain in Wichita to keep fares low, they should fly this new, low-cost option to Denver as often as possible.

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically welcomed the news. Our public and private partners have been hard at work to support the Wichita Airport Authority in communicating current demand. “I am extremely excited for this addition to the Wichita market!” said Peggy Deiter, Manager of Governance, Internal Communications & Community Affairs for Bombardier Learjet and Chair of the Chamber’s Air Services Task Force. “Enhancing air services in South Central Kansas is vital to our competitive growth and improved quality of place. Frontier Airlines service to Denver helps advance these goals.  This is great news for the entire Wichita region.”

This truly is great news. To celebrate this service, Frontier is offering special introductory one-way fares as low as $29 which are available now at flyfrontier.com. To get this introductory fare, flights must be purchased by 10:59 p.m. Central time on May 9, 2018.

Media Links
Wichita Eagle – Frontier Airlines launches service to Denver with $58 fares
Wichita Business Journal – Frontier Airlines ready to bust the high fares from Wichita to Denver
KMUW – Frontier Announces Nonstop Flights Between Wichita And Denver

Growing the Youth Employment Project

By Jonathan Long, Director of Community Advancement for the Chamber

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

How many of you remember your first job? For many of us that experience – great or otherwise – helped set a foundation that we’ve continued to build upon professionally. However, many of today’s youth are waiting later and later to establish this foundation and thus aren’t developing the soft skills and work habits needed to excel in the full-time work world.

The Youth Employment Project (YEP) is helping young adults make progress on this issue. YEP teaches Wichitans, as young as age 16, the skills necessary to become great employees and then connects them with an employer to provide a work experience to practice those skills. The program is a partnership between several community organizations and employers.

In 2017, the project placed 463 individuals with 91 employers. This year we want to increase that number. Spirit AeroSystems provided 20 work experiences in 2017 and they’ve doubled their commitment for 2018. We’d love to see more companies increase their placements as well.

Enhancing our human capital has been a growing issue for Wichita and the South Central Kansas region for quite some time. A way to combat the exodus of our talent is by forging a deeper and earlier connection with our local talent pool. There is no better way to do that than with a youth employment experience.

How can you get involved?

  • HIRE
    interns (age 14-21) for a six- to 10-week paid work experience opportunity.
  • SPONSOR
    an intern’s paid work experience opportunity at another business or organization.
  • SPREAD THE WORD
    about this important program through your own professional and social networks.

For more information contact the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas:
Employers  call 316-771-6622
Intern Applicants – call 316-771-6620

Follow this link to see a 2017 video produced by the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas regarding the Youth Employment Project from the perspective of employers.

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.

SHOW US YOUR MOVES!
– 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.

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.

Weller Named CFO

Sheryl Weller begins her new role on Monday, December 4.

Sheryl Weller has been named the Chief Financial Officer for both the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Wichita Partnership. Weller begins her new position on December 4 and said, “As I join the Wichita community, I’m very excited to share my expertise with these organizations for the advancement of economic development and quality of life for the entire region.”

Weller majored in Accounting at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. A graduate of the 2013 Class of Leadership Greater Topeka, she has held professional accounting and leadership positions in that community with the State of Kansas, Kansas Highway Patrol and most recently the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Jeff Fluhr, President of the Greater Wichita Partnership, and Chamber President and CEO Gary Plummer said that Weller was selected based on her extensive experience and her desire to provide support for a community-focused organization and mission.

Please help us welcome Sheryl to the community.

The mission of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce is to drive economic growth and community advancement in the Wichita region.

The mission of the Greater Wichita Partnership is to align resources and focus the business community on common strategies that fast-forward economic growth in the greater Wichita region.

New Angles from the Triangle

by Scott Schwindaman
2017 Chairman of the Board for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce
CEO and President of Lubrication Engineers, Inc.

Note:  this post was originally published as an editorial in the Wichita Eagle.

Scott Schwindaman is the 2017 Chairman of the Board for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Recently, more than 50 business and community leaders returned from the Triangle with new ideas and thoughts about how to further advance the Wichita region in many areas.

The Triangle refers to the area including Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina and was the site of our yearly City to City visit. Famous for its Research Triangle Park, one of the nation’s oldest most notable planned commercial developments for research and innovation, it has attracted thousands of jobs to the area since the 1960’s. Although the Research Triangle development is nearly built out, it’s obvious that the Triangle area is not resting on its laurels to further advance the area.

The Wichita group toured a variety of sites and learned from a number of speakers who shared the secret of the area’s sustained success through the 60 plus years of existence. Among the most popular spots with the group was the baseball stadium which is the relatively new home of the Durham Bulls, one of America’s most successful minor league franchises. We also saw firsthand the Centennial Campus at North Carolina State in the heart of Raleigh. This university is the inspiration for Wichita State’s Innovation Campus, and we were delighted to have WSU President John Bardo join us to explain how this campus was the vision for Wichita State in attracting and engaging business in a campus setting.

Many other areas are visited during these trips that are relevant to our community included entrepreneurship, education, economic development and quality of life. One of our more timely stops was at the Raleigh Convention Center, which stimulated a lot of conversation among the Wichitans who made the trip due to the current conversation in our community surrounding the direction forward with the Century II convention/performing arts area.

One of the great side effects of these city leadership visits is the opportunity to get to know other Wichita leaders on a more personal level. Our group this year was very diverse, including young professionals and leaders from throughout the Wichita regional area. That diversity made the Raleigh trip even more rewarding and should build a more cohesive regional leadership connection going forward.

The real test comes in what our “take-aways” are and what we’re able to execute at home from these annual trips. You can certainly point to a number of recent Wichita projects that resulted from these trips over the past 10 years, including the Downtown Master Plan (Oklahoma City, 2008 trip), our entrepreneurial resurgence (Omaha, 2012 and Austin, 2014), diversity/inclusion efforts (Greenville, SC 2015) and more.

I’m excited about what will come out of the Raleigh/Durham experience and encourage everyone who has participated in the past or this year to remain engaged to move our great city forward. If you have not had the opportunity to participate in one of these visits I encourage you to contact the Chamber as these visits will open your mind as to what can be done here at home.

#ILoveWichita Campaign Strengthened by Partners

Chamber Board member Ben Hutton leads the 2017 Quality of Place Initiative.

By Ben Hutton
Chamber Board Lead for the Quality of Place Initiative
Chairman and CEO of Hutton Construction

In early 2015, the Chamber initiated a very informal grassroots “pride in place” campaign centered around a hashtag proposed by the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW), #ILoveWichita, and the city’s official flag. Collaborations with area businesses, media outlets, and other partners resulted in the creation of a positive platform and a microphone for those who believe in collaborating to create the best possible future for our region.

Shelly Prichard with the Wichita Community Foundation said, “Whether highlighting a person, place or activity, we use #ILoveWichita to promote all the unique happenings in our community. We’re proud to amplify the stories to both visitors and locals to encourage them to explore Wichita.”

The Quality of Place committee that I chair for the Chamber recently recommended leveraging this ongoing social media campaign in telling Wichita’s success stories and improving perceptions of the region’s quality of place. Implementing this recommendation included challenging our members to apply an #ILoveWichita decal to their front door to show community support and using the same hashtag in their company and personal social media postings.

Our Chamber Chairman and CEO Gary Plummer recently met with three of our partner organizations to invite them to participate and further strengthen the campaign. They’ve enthusiastically agreed to encourage their board members and investors to actively support the campaign.

My thanks to Shelly Prichard of the Wichita Community Foundation, Jeff Fluhr of the Greater Wichita Partnership, and Susie Santo of Visit Wichita who have committed to adopting and promoting this effort. All three are current members of the Chamber’s Board who already work diligently to ensure that Wichita is the best place to visit as well as grow a business, family and career.

Jeff Fluhr with the Greater Wichita Partnership recently applied the #ILoveWichita decal and said, “We are excited to be a partner with the Chamber in the Pride in Place Campaign. This is a dynamic time for Wichita and there is a noticeable increase in the community’s pride; we are a City of tremendous opportunities!”

We’ve also met with the current co-chairs of the Greater Wichita Partnership Perceptions Task Force (Jerry Jones, Moji Rosson and Laura Bernstorf) to brief them on our plans. We appreciate the dedication and spirit of collaboration of these three area leaders who are also supporting these efforts.

Since its inception, this campaign has been fueled by pride, passion and partnerships. The inclusion of these important organizations in our ongoing efforts will further energize and amplify the reach of the campaign and add new enthusiasm for highlighting what’s best about Wichita.

Join the effort! It’s easy for your business or organization to get involved, too. Simply contact Courtney Sendall at the Chamber (316-268-1153) to schedule a time to apply the #ILoveWichita decal to your door and begin implementing the hashtag in your social media postings. Together we can create a constantly updated digital brochure to share our passion for the region with each other, visitors to the area and other communities around the world.

See the Chamber Update page in today’s Wichita Eagle for a listing of some of the organizations and companies who have already applied the #ILoveWichita decal.

Five Chamber Members Named Among Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies

Our congratulations to the nine companies from Wichita that were recently named to the 2017 Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list. Five of them are Chamber members.

Two of the companies have won the Chamber’s Small Business of the Year award in the past – Profit Builders & Occidental Management. Another Wichita company on the list, Elite Staffing Solutions, was a finalist for the award this year. Two other Chamber members, Freddy’s & Syndeo Outsourcing, also made the 2017 list.

In a recent news release, Chris Rickerson with Elite Staffing said, “We were the fastest growing company in the Wichita market in 2016 and among the top three in 2017. We just want to thank all of our clients for helping us reach this great accomplishment.”

You’ll find more information about the success of Elite Staffing in the September issue of Inc. magazine where the company is mentioned in a column by Editor in Chief Eric Schurenberg and a feature story by Sheila Marikar.