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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Building a Better Wichita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific Trip Outcomes

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

Wichita Regional Chamber Supports WSU/WATC Affiliation

Today I testified in Topeka before legislators in support of S.B. 174 concerning higher education. The bill authorizes the affiliation of Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) with Wichita State University (WSU).

Gary Plummer is the President & CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce

Both of these institutions are vital assets for the economic growth of the south central economy. The Chamber supports the proposed affiliation since it will provide growth opportunities for students at both institutions and benefit the business community.

Others testifying today in Topeka include:
–Blake Flanders, President and CEO, Kansas Board of Regents
–Jeff Fluhr, President, Greater Wichita Partnership
–Sheree Utash, President, WATC
–John Bardo, President, WSU
–Lyndon Wells, Community Volunteer

Written testimony was provided by:
–Sam Sackett, Senior Manager of Government Relations and Corporate Communications, Spirit AeroSystems
–Shelley Hansel, Mayor of Wellington, KS

Chamber testimony
SB 174 WRCC