Active political engagement encouraged at Board of Advisors meeting

Damon Young is the 2016 Chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber PAC

Damon Young, the 2016 Chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber PAC, reminded attendees that their input and involvement are critical to the political process.

Involvement is imperative for creating and maintaining a business friendly environment. Today’s meeting of the Chamber’s Board of Advisors focused on activities undertaken in the last eight months to represent business interests to elected and government officials at the local, state and federal level. A recap video was shared with participants and Jason Watkins, the Chamber’s legislative consultant, reported on the 2016 Win/Loss report from the Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Agenda.

Walter Berry, the 2016 Vice Chairman of Government Affairs, encouraged the Board to participate in one of six Government Relations Public Policy Sub-Committees. The committees meet no more than once a quarter and are chaired by volunteers who are subject matter experts.

A Chamber Political Action Committee (PAC) update was provided by Damon Young (PAC Chairman), who reminded the group that the PAC is limited to state and local races/issues. Voters will be choosing elected officials for all 165 seats in the Kansas legislature and two on the Sedgwick County Commission this year. Young said the PAC will continue to be dedicated to honest dialogue among business owners, managers and community leaders about business issues and political candidates. He said, “We’re focused on free enterprise, finding the facts, and vetting good candidates.”

Participants offered their perspectives on a range of topics, including the Chamber’s position on nine Education and Workforce Development 2016 legislative agenda items. The Chamber was successful in advocating for exemption of K–12 from budget cuts during this year’s session. This was the only budget line item that received such protection and was considered an important Chamber WIN.

The need for Medicaid expansion, the importance of the state’s transportation budget, and the impact of air service on economic development efforts were also discussed during the meeting. Chamber President & CEO Gary Plummer closed the meeting by reminding attendees that the Chamber’s PAC provides important access and influence over issues that directly affect Chamber members and their companies/organizations.

Our thanks to today’s meeting sponsor, Wichita State University’s Office of Workforce, Professional and Community Education. Contact Jaime Dupy for more information about how to join the Board of Advisors.

IMPORTANT LINKS
Government Relations Public Policy Sub-Committees
(Sub-committees are open to all Chamber members. Those interested in serving should contact Barby Jobe at 268-1152 or Toni Porter at 268-1135.)
2016 Legislative Agenda Win/Loss Report
Video recap of recent Government Relations activities

NOTE
Damon Young will be the featured speaker at tomorrow’s Sunrise Scrambler, where his topic is Political Engagement – Why Being Left or Right are Both Wrong if You Don’t Engage.

Advocating for Wichita Business

A recap of the Chamber’s recent Government Relations activities

One of the Chamber’s four focus areas is advocating for responsible regulations and policies. Providing opportunities for the Wichita business community to connect and form relationships with our elected and government officials is an important part of that advocacy effort. You’ll find highlights below from four events the Chamber hosted over the last several weeks.

Washington D.C. Fly-In
Each year, the Chamber coordinates a Washington D.C. Fly-In, where members of the Wichita business community meet with the lawmakers who represent our state. This year’s three-day Washington Fly-In (May 17-19) included sixteen representatives from a diverse group of industries and interests providing input to elected officials and government staff about the challenges facing the region’s businesses.

The schedule included meetings at the Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and tours of the White House. Visits with each member of the Kansas Delegation included discussions about the importance of exporting Kansas wheat, cattle, aircraft and other products and services, as well trade issues, reauthorization of the FAA bill, healthcare legislation and the status of the Ozone Standards Implementation Act. The Department of Labor Overtime Rule changes were announced on the second day of the group’s visit to the nation’s capital and the implications to local businesses were part of every conversation with the Kansas delegation.

See a short video recap of the trip below.


Secretary Soave Visits Wichita
The Chamber co-hosted an after-work reception with the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Kansas Commerce Secretary Antonio J. Soave on May 25. Soave was appointed to the position by Governor Sam Brownback late last year, and more than one hundred business leaders and elected officials turned out to hear his remarks about the business climate in Kansas. Find a more detailed recap of the event here.

Federal Forum with Senator Jerry Moran
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran made a stop in Wichita on June 1 to address 115 attendees at a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. The Senator spoke favorably about the people of Wichita and about his passion “to make things better for Kansas.” See a recap of the Senator’s main talking points here.

Legislative Dinner
The Chamber hosted an event in Wichita this week that provided Government Relations sponsors an opportunity to meet with elected officials over dinner to discuss the 2016 legislative session. More than 125 people attended the event and interacted with their representatives.

A more detailed recap of the Washington Fly-In trip and a wrap up of the 2016 legislative session appeared in the June 3 issue of The Advocate, a members-only digital newsletter focused on government relations issues. Please contact Cindy Todd at ctodd@wichitachamber.org if you are interested in subscribing to The Advocate.

Chamber welcomes Senator Moran to Wichita

042U.S. Senator Jerry Moran made a in stop in Wichita yesterday to address 115 Chamber members and Wichita business leaders at a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. After warming up the crowd with a few jokes (“For those of you who I have offended by being a Jayhawk, I can assure you that all of my money has gone to K-State after both of my daughter chose to be Wildcats”), the Senator spoke favorably about the people of Wichita and about his passion “to make things better for Kansas. I want to ensure that our kids will call Kansas ‘home’ in the future.”

DSC_0088Following the Senator’s presentation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Director of Congressional and Public Affairs Scott Eckart presented him with the Spirit of Enterprise Award, citing the Senator’s record of voting in alignment with the Chamber’s scorecard in the large majority of situations.

Below is a short recap of the topics Senator Moran touched on.

Economy & National Debt
The Senator expressed his concern about a stagnant economy, both nationally and in Kansas. He indicated that reducing the national debt is why he ran for office. “Unfortunately a lot of what goes on in Washington is detrimental to the economy, and that’s what we are about wanting to change.”

Wichita’s Aviation Industry
The Senator referenced his reputation in D.C. as an aviation advocate. “I want you to know that I take this industry seriously and I have been working to put myself in a position of influence in regards to the decisions made that impact the aeronautics industry.” He now co-chairs the Aerospace Caucus and is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

McConnell Air Force Base
In regards to the arrival of the KC-46A Tanker mission to McConnell, the Senator said, “There are many projects that are occurring in preparation for the tanker. Our Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee recommended another $19.8M in new construction on the base, which will result in a boost in the surrounding economy.” What is good for McConnell is good for Wichita.

Department of Labor (DOL) Ruling
In regards to the recent DOL ruling about overtime pay, Senator Moran indicated he and others are working to find  a compromise that is not as harmful to business, adding, “The Department of Labor is in our crosshairs.”

Veteran Affairs
The Senator assured the audience that as a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he will continue to work until all veterans have access to needed assistance through the local VAs.

Photos from the event can be found on our Facebook page. Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, Cox Communications, for making the event possible. Other sponsors included Koch Industries, Meritrust Credit Union and GLMV Architecture.

Chambers cohost Kansas Commerce Secretary

Kansas Secretary of Commerce Antonio Soavo met Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams during the Chamber reception.

Kansas Secretary of Commerce Antonio Soavo met Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams during the Chamber reception held yesterday.

Yesterday the Chamber cohosted an after-work reception with the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Kansas Commerce Secretary Antonio J. Soave. Soave was appointed to the position by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback late last year. More than one hundred business leaders and elected officials turned out to hear his remarks about the business climate in Kansas.

Soave, who earned a law degree from Michigan State and a master’s in international law from the University of San Diego, spoke eloquently and passionately about the partnerships he’s been establishing with Kansas businesses so that his department can add more value to their export plans. Addressing the group in both English and Spanish, he also talked about his efforts to aggressively recruit new companies to the state and build on current efforts to retain those businesses that are already established here.

Soave said that the Greater Wichita Partnership, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and other area chambers are important partners in trade development plans and that he will continue working with them on retention and expansion efforts. He indicated that he is “doubling down” to help Kansas businesses attract new jobs to the state.

While Kansas companies are leaders in a variety of industries, Soave recognized that a competitive environment makes it important to utilize economic development tools to retain companies like Cargill. “Our companies here are resilient,” said Soave and they are known for their “integrity, drive and commitment.”

Photos from yesterday’s event are posted on Facebook. Our thanks to Pioneer Balloon for providing the reception location. Other sponsors included Greater Wichita Partnership, Kansas Global Trade Services, Molino’s Mexican Cuisine and the Kansas Beer Wholesalers Association.

The next Government Relations event is Wednesday, June 1, when U.S. Senator Jerry Moran will speak at a Federal Issue Forum luncheon. Register here.

 

Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Agenda shared this week

The Chamber's 2016 Legislative Agenda is available as a palm card and on the Chamber's website.

The Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Agenda is available as a palm card and on the Chamber’s website.

Legislators have returned to Topeka for the 2016 session this week. All 165 legislators will receive a palm card familiarizing them with the Wichita Metro Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Agenda. The agenda was developed by the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee last fall after input from Chamber members and then approved by the Chamber’s Board of Directors last month. For more information about the steps involved in the agenda development and approval process, refer to the Government Relations brochure link on our website.

The Chamber’s primary government relations goal is to create a better business environment for your company or organization by promoting investment, innovation and job creation. Our 2015 legislative agenda and the wins/losses for last year’s session are available for your review on our website as well as a bill tracking scorecard for the 2015 session.

Building a better business environment in 2016

Jon Rosell (pictured left) received a plaque commemorating his tenure as the 2015 Chamber Chairman from 2016 Chairman Barry Scwan.

Jon Rosell (pictured left) received a plaque commemorating his tenure as the 2015 Chamber Chairman from 2016 Chairman Barry Schwan.

by Barry Schwan
2016 Chamber Chairman

Jon Rosell, the Chamber’s 2015 Chairman, is a well-respected leader throughout our community who guided us through a landmark year in 2015. During his tenure, Jon worked in conjunction with others on the transformation of the Chamber’s Leadership Council into a new and separate entity, the Greater Wichita Partnership.

The Chamber had a significant role in establishing this new economic vision for our region. Jon and Gary Plummer, the Chamber’s President & CEO, were fully engaged in moving the work of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) to this new partnership.

Jon also oversaw other major Chamber accomplishments last year:

  • Increased membership for the fourth year in a row, adding nearly 400 new members with 226 resulting from a 3-day membership drive
  • Lobbied for 18 pro-business legislative wins, including major reform for the unemployment insurance system and funding for NIAR
  • Completed the Chamber’s tenth city-to-city visit to learn from peers across the country
  • Celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Young Professionals of Wichita, a Chamber affiliate, as they experienced a record number of members and record event attendance
  • Secured an experienced and talented CFO to oversee the financials for the Chamber, Greater Wichita Partnership and the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation

I’d like to thank Jon for the role he played in building a better business environment for all of us in 2015, and his continued commitment to our community. His collaboration with other Chamber partners last year set the stage for further advancement in 2016.

The global competition for talent and innovative ideas makes it imperative for Wichita’s stakeholders to align and integrate our efforts. We need to maximize every opportunity to drive economic growth and community advancement in the Wichita region. I look forward to continuing that positive momentum in 2016 as the Chamber accelerates our collaborative efforts with partners and stakeholders.

 

Termination notice changed for three County contracts

Discussion about County funding for the Greater Wichita Economic Development sglogoCoalition (GWEDC), Exploration Place and the Sedgwick County Zoo took place at yesterday’s May 13 Commission meeting. Each of these three organizations currently has a five-year funding agreement in place with Sedgwick County. The agreements run through 2018 and require the County to notify each entity by June 1 about funding changes in the following calendar year. County funding for GWEDC is $300,000 per year during the five-year agreement or about 0.07 percent of the total County budget.

Citing concerns about the deficit in the proposed 2016 County budget, the Sedgwick County Commission voted in favor of moving the agreement termination notice for the five-year agreements for all three entities from June 1 to September 1. The 2016 budget is expected to be adopted August 12.

Wichita Metro Chamber Chairman Jon Rosell and GWEDC Chairman Gary Schmitt were among more than twenty-five local business leaders and citizens who spoke during the meeting in support of maintaining the five-year agreements. Most of the speakers voiced their approval for reviewing budgetary commitments made with taxpayer dollars, but also cited compelling reasons for the County to continue their multi-year funding agreements. Representatives of ten Chamber member organizations and businesses voiced their support of multi-year arrangements, including:  Visit Wichita, Wichita Public Schools, The Independent School, Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, Boy Scouts of America/Quivira Council, Cox Machine, Inc., Friends University, Star Lumber & Supply Co., Exploration Place and the Sedgwick County Zoo.

An article in yesterday’s Wichita Eagle cites 14 additional agencies that have been notified about the possibility of changes in their funding from Sedgwick County. Some of those agencies are Chamber members, including:  Wichita Area Technical College, Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, Wichita Festivals, Child Advocacy Center, Nonprofit Chamber of Service of Sedgwick County, Kansas African-American Museum, and South Central Kansas Economic Development District. Hearings on the budgeting for these organizations are scheduled for July 29 at 9 a.m. and August 6 at 6 p.m.

During the proceedings, Commissioners mentioned they had heard from a number of constituents prior to yesterday’s discussions. The Commissioners continue to welcome your questions and thoughts on these budget items and other important issues. Follow this link to our website for contact information for your elected officials.

You can learn more about yesterday’s decision here:
Sedgwick County pushes back termination option for zoo funding – Wichita Eagle
Sedgwick County Commission punts funding decision to September – KMUW
Sedgwick County delays decision on funds for zoo, eco-devo – Wichita Business Journal
County gives notice to 17 agencies about possible funding changes – KWCH-TV

 

Welcome Toni Porter!

Toni Porter is already well-known to many of our Chamber members who will be pleased to learn that she has joined our organization as a part-time Project Manager on the Government Relations staff. Toni recently left her full-time position as District Director for

Toni Porter brings a wealth of experience to her Government Relations position with the Chamber.

Toni Porter brings a wealth of experience to her Government Relations position with the Chamber.

Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo’s organization to explore new career opportunities. She is temporarily filling a Chamber vacancy left on the team with Jaime Dupy’s promotion earlier this month to Manager of Investor Relations.

Toni has enjoyed the smooth transition to her new position. She said, “I couldn’t have felt more welcomed on my first day at the Chamber. Since the Chamber works so closely with elected officials, I was already familiar with many of the staff and had visited the offices on many occasions. It’s a great opportunity to utilize my business background and my government experience.” Earlier in her career Toni worked in corporate communications and in the real estate market.

Barby Jobe, Vice President of Government Relations for the Chamber, is pleased to be working with someone who has so much expertise to share with Chamber members and staff.  “Because of her extensive network, Toni was able to begin contributing to our advocacy work on her first day at the Chamber. I’ve always been impressed with her professionalism and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to work with her.”

Chamber adopts 2015 Legislative Agenda

The Chamber board of directors recently adopted the 2015 Chamber Legislative Agenda based on issues identified by Chamber members and staff that could impact business in the upcoming year. The agenda is designed to support the Chamber’s strategic priority of creating a better business environment that promotes investment, innovation, and job creation. The Chamber will be advocating for these business principles in Topeka during the 2015 session.

State Budget – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes the State should practice fiscal discipline.

  • Reduce or maintain state spending at FY15 (July 2014-June 2015) level
  • Seek out efficiencies and implement priority- or performance-based budgeting throughout all levels of state government
  • Establish a “BRAC-like” process for closure or realignment of government functions and agencies
  • Move the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System from a defined benefit system to a defined contribution system
  • Funding decisions should be at the sole discretion of the legislature and not the court system
  • Establish Rainy Day Fund by placing State General Fund ending balance into fund
  • Support outsourcing state government functions to the private sector while main- taining needed services

Taxation – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes in a fair and equitable system of taxation that promotes private sector growth and makes Kansas more competitive.

  • Support continued business tax reform including reduction of the Kansas corporate income and Kansas privilege tax
  • Continued support of long-term state tax structure reform including further reduc- tion/elimination of personal income tax including future tax cuts in existing statute
  • Oppose increases in business taxes/fees that would negatively impact Kansas’ competitive environment
  • Oppose repeal of any existing sales tax exemptions on business inputs and services

Economic Development – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes the State should invest in economic development and develop programs that result in jobs and investment.

  • Support continued funding for the National Institute for Aviation Research
  • Create competitive economic development incentives and making Kansas a leader in innovative research, manufacturing, and technology
  • Retain and enhance tax incentives to include more flexible investment and job development tax credits with options for cash incentives

Investment-friendly Business Environment – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a low-cost business environment is critical in order to be a competitive and attractive business destination.

  • Support legislation to allow admission of evidence that shows plaintiff’s losses have been compensated from other sources such as insurance or workers compensation, known as “collateral source”
  • Support legislation allowing parties to collect attorney fees as a prevailing party
  • Support policies which maintain the integrity of the Employment Security Trust Fund, and accurately reflect the employer experience rating when determining contribution rates
  • Encourage federal resolution to immigration reform and oppose state legislation increasing penalties or threatening the business licenses of employers
  • Maintain fair labor practices by opposing unfair advantages for union organizations

Regulatory Environment – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes there must be certainty in the regulatory environment in order for business to grow and relocate in Kansas.

  • Support legislation that creates a state OSHA plan
  • Support legislation that eliminates/reduces the requirements of Kansas Renewable Energy Portfolio
  • Support reforms in the unemployment insurance program that create a more pre- dictable employer assessment
  • Prohibit State and Federal Agencies from misusing rule and regulation authority in place/lieu of policy decisions made by the legislature

Transportation – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a strong transportation infrastructure is critical in developing and expanding commerce.

  • Urge continued state financial participation in efforts to continue low-cost air service from Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport
  • Ensure dedicated transportation funding streams only be used for the transportation program
  • Support the current comprehensive state transportation program

Environmental Resources – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes environmental management must take a balanced and reasonable approach that protects the environment without putting unnecessary burdens on business.

  • Support on-going funding for existing Equus Beds Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project

Education and Workforce Development – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a strong education system is vital in workforce and talent development.

  • Support continued funding for the National Center for Aviation Training as part of on-going workforce development critical to the aviation manufacturing cluster
  • Support a funding formula for K-12 schools that protects the high urban poverty weighting and the current at-risk formula
  • Encourage the Legislature to allow local school districts to have more flexibility in how state dollars are spent within their school district
  • Support growing the Kansas economy through applied research and private-public partnerships, like university/business innovation programs, at all higher education institutions
  • Support career and technical education programs, including the Governor’s Career and Technical Education Initiative, to ensure an abundant and skilled workforce
  • Oppose any language or budget proviso that interferes with the Postsecondary Tiered Technical State Aid Cost Model
  • Support an increased focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning initiatives

Please contact the government relations team if you have any questions or comments.

Recap of the 2014 Education Issue Forum

School superintendents from the Andover, Derby, Goddard, Maize, and Wichita public schools took part in a moderated discussion on education in front of 200 attendees at a luncheon hosted by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce on March 13. You can see photos from the event here.

Education Forum_crop

If you were unable to attend the event, click here to see the story by George Lawson with KFDI, or click here to watch the discussion on the Wichita Public School YouTube channel.

The superintendents discussed their daily challenges as well as the innovative ways they are now partnering with the Wichita Area Technical College and other institutions to provide students with technical skills. We’re very fortunate to have superintendents who demonstrate this level of leadership and who work closely with the business community. The superintendents invited  the audience to visit their schools and stressed the importance of purposeful dialogue and partnerships with the business community as they help develop the future workforce.

Special thanks to the superintendents for making the time to participate in this important discussion and to our Government Relations staff for arranging the event. Thank you also to our Business & Education Alliance who co-hosted the session. We also appreciate the leadership of Jon Rosell who chairs the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee and moderated the session.