City-to-City Destination: Nashville, TN

By Stef Flores
Community Advancement Program Coordinator

Last month, Suzy Finn and I went to Nashville in preparation for this year’s City-to-City Leadership Visit, scheduled for September 19-21. Besides eating our way through the city’s restaurants and winding our way through the city’s streets, we met with some instrumental city leaders and reaffirmed why Nashville is the perfect destination for this year’s trip.

Nashville is an impressive city. It hosts one of 10 Google tech hubs in North America, the downtown area has seen over $4 billion in investment since 2000, and between 70-100 people move to Nashville every day. So, what are some parallels that exist between Nashville and our very own Wichita?

IMG_0705Nashville hasn’t always had a prized downtown district. “Twelve-fifteen years ago, people took pride in how long they could avoid our downtown area,” Tom Turner, with the Nashville Downtown Partnership, told us. “There’s finally a shift in that mentality.” And he’s right. With the development of The Gulch, which used to be warehouses and train tracks, and the immense effort put into keeping the downtown area both safe and clean, the area is drawing more visitors and more residents than ever before.

There’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit that shines in Nashville. With the sun posed high in the sky, we made our way out to Nashville’s Trolley Barns to tour the esteemed Nashville Entrepreneur Center. Founded in 2010, the EC (as locals call it) touts programs in four focus areas: technology, music tech, publishing, and healthcare and provides mentoring opportunities to strengthen the ties in the community.

Suzy Finn (pictured) & Stef Flores visited Nashville last month to prepare for our City-to-City visit this fall.

Suzy Finn (pictured) & Stef Flores visited Nashville last month to prepare for our City-to-City visit this fall.

Healthcare is one of Nashville’s top industries. According to Jamie Lee with the Nashville Health Care Council, more than 400 healthcare companies operate in Nashville, and more than 600,000 people are employed in the industry.

The Cumberland riverfront is getting a makeover. A pedestrian bridge offers those seeking modes of active transportation an impressive view of the city (we can attest!), while the new Riverfront Park boasts an amphitheater that can hold up to 6,500 people for outdoor concerts.

CmD3DkwWIAEHFhx_cropNashville’s found its identity. No one named them the “Music City;” they named themselves. Self-branded but nationally recognized as the center for all things music, they live and breathe this identity. As we stepped off the plane, we were greeted by live music from Tootsie’s airport location, rock music blasted us from boxes along their downtown streets, and it was difficult to miss the large music note printed on the floor at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Music City certainly has a lot going for it, and we’re excited to show this year’s leadership group some of the initiatives, programs, and partnerships that secured Nashville as our top selection this year.

For more information, please contact Stef Flores at

Tyler Heffron covers the Leadership Wichita selection process

Nominations for the Chamber’s 2016 Leadership Wichita class are underway. This is the third post in a three-part series with answers to questions about the program. See Monday’s blog post for answers to questions 1-3 by 1999 Leadership Wichita graduate Tammy Allen. Questions 4-6 were answered in yesterday’s post by 2003 Leadership Wichita graduate Denise Sherman. Leadership Wichita graduate Tyler Heffron answers questions 7-10 below.

Tyler E. Heffron, an  Attorney with  Triplett, Woolf & Garretson, LLC is a 2008  Leadership Wichita graduate and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Tyler E. Heffron is an
Attorney with
Triplett, Woolf & Garretson, LLC. He is a 2008
Leadership Wichita graduate and the 2016 Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

  1. How much time does the program require and what topics will be covered? The class meets nine times and the program runs between September 8 and November 17. Eight of those sessions are day-long events. The program is so engaging and fun that it’s over before you know it, and you’ll leave invigorated about the Wichita area. There are three additional outside class activities related to media, government, and caring community. The program topics include:
  • The Strategic Wichita Vision
  • Working Partnerships with Media
  • An Education Responsibility
  • The Business of Government
  • Making Development Happen
  • Simulated Society
  • Shaping a Caring Community
  1. Who selects the Leadership Wichita class and when will the 2016 class be announced? Members of the 2016 Board of Trustees are responsible for the class selection process, and they each dedicate a significant amount of time to ensure the class of participants is diverse and balanced. Applicants who aren’t accepted the first time they apply are encouraged to apply again the following year. The 2016 Leadership Wichita class will be announced August 5.
  1. Who oversees the program? Suzy Finn, Director of Community Advancement for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, works with the Leadership Wichita Board of Trustees to organize the program and to select timely and topical speakers and session materials.
  1. Who makes up the Board of Trustees? Every Leadership Wichita class selects one representative on the Board of Trustees. Other members of the Board are selected by the Chamber and Board Chair from the list of distinguished program alumni. The 13-member Board has a number of responsibilities, including assisting with the logistics of the program, identifying trending topics and issues for inclusion in the sessions, and securing speakers. Board members typically serve a three-year term. Our 2016 Board is listed below:

Tyler Heffron – 2016 Chair
Attorney – Partner
Triplett, Woolf & Garreston, LLC

Ryan Bond
Director, Brand and People Experience
Sasnak Management Corporation

Dennis Clary
Senior Manager, Public Affairs
Cox Communications

John DeCesaro
Vice President and Marketing Manager
Fidelity Bank

Claudio Ferraro
Sr. Administrator and Chief of Staff
Via Christi Health

Bobby Gandu
Director of Admissions
Wichita State University

Katie Grover
Senior Vice President and Marketing Director
Fidelity Bank

Christina House
Project Operations Lead & Risk Officer
Airbus Americas Engineering

Chris Howell
President, Western Kansas Region
UMB Bank, N.A.

Wendy Johnson
Division Director, Marketing and Communications
Wichita Public Schools

Mark Manning
Budget and Research Director
City of Wichita

Gabe Schlickau
State Farm Agency – Schlickau

Don Sherman
VP, Community Relations & Strategic Partnerships
Westar Energy

Leadership Wichita nominations are due June 10, and should be submitted electronically at Nominees will then be forwarded an application to complete and submit by June 22.

Denise Sherman on the value of investing and participating in Leadership Wichita

Denise Sherman- MSOD, PHR is the  Director of Organizational Partnerships with  Southwestern College and a 2003 Leadership Wichita graduate

Denise Sherman- MSOD, PHR is the
Director of Organizational Partnerships with
Southwestern College and a 2003 Leadership Wichita graduate

Nominations for the Chamber’s 2016 Leadership Wichita class are underway. This is the second post in a three-part series about the program. See yesterday’s blog for answers to questions 1-3 by 1999 Leadership Wichita graduate Tammy Allen. Questions 4-6 below are answered by 2003 Leadership Wichita graduate Denise Sherman.

  1. How can I make the Leadership Wichita experience happen for someone I know? Consider nominating someone from your business circle who has the potential for expanding current leadership roles. Or consider a leader within your area of influence who has demonstrated their commitment to our community through their awareness about issues facing Wichita and the surrounding area. What makes the Leadership Wichita program most impactful is the different perspectives represented by a diverse class of participants. Nominations are due June 10, and should be submitted electronically at Nominees will then be forwarded an application to complete and submit by June 22.
  1. How many are accepted into each class and what’s the cost to participate? Placement in this leadership program is highly coveted and I’m sure many past participants will agree that the experience exceeded their expectations! We receive 50 to 80 applications every year, with a maximum of 30 achievers selected for the class. I didn’t make the class with my first application, but was selected my second time around. It was well worth the effort of reapplying, as my experience provided many opportunities to connect and serve in leadership capacities. In my opinion, the $750 tuition is a small investment in your leadership development. Don’t let the fee hold you back. Limited financial assistance is available!
  1. Are there age or regional limitations for applicants? In order to engage in a meaningful experience and ensure a diverse class, there aren’t any age limits. In addition, Leadership Wichita is inclusive of our surrounding area, so applications outside of the immediate metro area are also welcomed. One must be a Kansas resident, but consideration is given to eliminate duplication of industries and/or companies within the each selected class.

Watch for the final blog post in our three-part series that publishes tomorrow.
May 18Tyler Heffron, a 2008 Leadership Wichita graduate, covers session topics and the selection process for the 2016 Leadership Wichita class.

Leadership Wichita nominations are due June 10, and should be submitted electronically. Nominees will then be forwarded an application to complete and submit by June 22.

Tammy Allen on what differentiates Leadership Wichita from other programs

Nominations for the Chamber’s 2016 Leadership Wichita class opened today. Three Leadership Wichita graduates are answering questions about the program this week on the Chamber’s blog. Tammy Allen, a 1999 Leadership Wichita graduate, is our first guest blogger.

  1. Tammy Allen V.P. of Marketing & Communications Allen, Gibbs & Houlik 1999 Leadership Wichita graduate

    Tammy Allen is the 
    V.P. of Marketing & Communications for 
    Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, LC
    and a 1999 Leadership Wichita graduate.

    Who is the ideal nominee for Leadership Wichita? Anyone who wants a broader AND deeper view of and role in our community would be a great fit for Leadership Wichita. It’s like getting the inside view of what makes our region work. Think about people you know who have a true passion for Wichita and who want to learn and get insight directly from business and government leaders about the community’s success. Think about people who have already stepped into community volunteer or leadership roles. Are they willing to focus their energy and talents to help push our community to grow and improve? If so, we need them in the next Leadership Wichita class. Nominate them by June 10 and urge them to complete the application form by June 22.

  1. Why should I nominate someone for the 2016 Leadership Wichita class? Two reasons: The community wins and the Leadership Wichita class members win. Leadership Wichita is one of the ways we grow future community leaders and help ensure our community’s success. Connecting energetic and committed leaders to others who share their passion and to more experienced regional leaders paves the way to helping people understand how economic growth and community advancement happens. We need to constantly grow the network of experienced leaders who understand how to collaborate to resolve issues and make change and growth possible. In return for their role in Leadership Wichita, class members grow their network, learn new skills, and deepen their understanding of Wichita’s challenges as well as the initiatives to solve them. They’ll graduate with a clearer focus on how and where their volunteer efforts can contribute to Wichita’s success.
  1. How does Leadership Wichita differ from other leadership programs?Interactivity – In Leadership Wichita, it’s not just a classroom lecture. Great speakers and interactive and engaging role-playing help class members learn skills ranging from how to handle a media interview to how to help resolve conflict. For me and for many graduates, the highlight and most eye-opening experience is riding an evening shift with a police officer, sheriff’s officer or firefighter to learn what it’s really like to be the first person on the scene in an urgent situation — both the rewards and the challenges of leading during an emergency.
    Involvement – Class members get an up close and personal perspective from leaders in enforcement agencies, government, not-for-profit organizations, educational institutions and businesses who are committed to exchanging ideas and information with our classes. These leaders are personally involved and dedicate time to this program because they enjoy the idea and information exchange.
    Network – More than 750 business, community, government, education and military leaders have graduated from the program. Leadership Wichita alumni form a large network of area leaders who are committed to improving their region and being a resource for each other. Many of them are now leading Wichita organizations and initiatives.
    Experience – Leadership Wichita was founded more than 30 years ago; the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce has been training key community and business leaders since 1983.

Watch for more Q&A with Leadership Wichita grads in two more blog posts this week.
May 17Denise Sherman, a 2003 Leadership Wichita graduate, provides information about the cost and value of the program.
May 18Tyler Heffron, a graduate of the 2008 Leadership Wichita class, covers session topics and the  selection process for the 2016 class.

Leadership Wichita nominations are due June 10, and should be submitted electronically. Nominees will then be forwarded an application to complete and submit by June 22.

2016 SBA Emerging Leaders program kicks off this Friday

By Lyndsey Edwards

Are you a small business owner looking to grow your company in Kansas? The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Emerging Leaders program can help you take your business to the next level.

Emerging LeadersThe Emerging Leaders Program is a class designed to specifically focus on the professional development of existing businesses ready for growth in Kansas – offered at no financial cost.

During the seven months, participants will learn to emerge a self-sustaining business with a three-year strategic growth action plan with benchmarks and performance targets that creates jobs and build communities. Participants will also have access to a network of peers and business leaders who continue to provide support and accountability as the growth plan is implemented.

2014 was the first year for the program to be offered in Wichita. In 2015, sixteen Wichita-area business professionals graduated from the program, including these seven chamber members:

Lynne Bird, Robi Lorik, Jeff Jones, Scott Wegerer  and Rob Whitmer

Lynne Bird, Robi Lorik, Jeff Jones, Scott Wegerer and Rob Whitmer

  • Lynne Bird of Wichita Stamp & Seal, Inc.
  • Jennifer Caughron of KeyCentrix, LLC
  • Robi Lorik of PWI, Inc.
  • Jorge Montoya of JMT Industries, Inc.
  • Scott Wegerer of Five Star Mechanical, Inc.
  • Rob Whitmer of Net-Ability, LLC
  • Jeff Jones of Tru-Building, Inc.

Jones said what he liked most about the class was that he was able to develop a clear, concise three to five year plan with great input from other business leaders, not only in class, but from the community as well. From the program, he gained great friends who are in similar business situations and also, a clearer understanding of what his strengths and weaknesses are. “Anyone serious about their business should commit the time to study with others about their business,” he said.

The program is offered for any businesses who meet the following criteria:

  • An established business (in existence for at least three years)
  • Annual gross revenues between $300,00 and $10 million
  • Have three or more employees (recommended)
  • Time commitment of the business owner, or executive “decision-maker”, to dedicate themselves to attend all thirteen classes and develop a strategic growth plan (a 100+ hour commitment).

The 2016 class will begin in April. Those interested in participating are invited to attend a free, one-hour information session this Friday, Feb. 19 from 3 – 4 p.m. at the Small Business Administration Office. Executives from the 2015 class will be available to answer questions and provide feedback.

Applications for the program are being accepted now until March 1. For more information, visit the SBA website or click here to apply.

Congratulations to the 2015 Leadership Wichita class

LW-Logo-06-no textThirty-one Wichita-area citizens have been selected to participate in our 2015 Leadership Wichita class. The leadership training program features eight sessions that cover issues such as economic development and the future vision for Wichita, workforce development and the impact of ensuring a highly educated workforce in our community, the importance of consensus within government, along with building leadership skills through real-life examples, group discussions and collaboration.

Leadership Wichita Chair Darcee Datteri said, “Past participants of Leadership Wichita have made significant changes in our community, and this year’s class will graduate equipped with the insight to build upon their professional successes to make Wichita an even better place to work, live and play.”

Please join us in congratulating this year’s class!

  • Jeff Barley, UCI
  • AJ Boleski, SMG / INTRUST Bank Arena
  • Frank Carson IV, Carson Bank
  • Marlo Dolezal, Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland
  • David Duncan, Sasnak Management Corp.
  • Jaime Dupy, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce
  • Moji Fanimokun, Realtors of South Central Kansas
  • Laura Fischer, Murfin, Inc.
  • Robert Garner, USD #259 Wichita Public Schools
  • Sherry Gegen, Wichita State University
  • Taylor Gill, Via Christi Hospitals Wichita, Inc.
  • Katie Grover, Fidelity Bank
  • Matt Hamm, Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture
  • Eric Hein, Spirit AeroSystems
  • Jenifer Hitschmann, BKD, LLP
  • Crystal Hough, Airbus Americas Engineering
  • Troy Livingston, Wichita Police Department
  • Tracy Lucas, High Touch Technologies
  • Marc Mason, iSi Environmental
  • Bill Matthews, Foulston Siefkin LLP
  • Sarah Patterson, Delta Dental of Kansas
  • Tammy Penland, City of Wichita/Wichita Public Library
  • Greg Pollock, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office
  • Krista Rapp, Bombardier Learjet
  • Joel Rodell, Hutton Construction
  • Sally Rose, Westar Energy
  • Jason Scheck, COMCARE of Sedgwick County
  • Maggie Topping, Textron Aviation
  • Becky Tuttle, Medical Society of Sedgwick County
  • Sheree Utash, Wichita Area Technical College
  • Lt. Col. Mike Venerdi, Kansas Air National Guard

The 2015 class will begin Thursday, September 3 and will conclude Thursday, November 19.

Now accepting nominations for the 2015 Leadership Wichita class

Leadership is a word that we hear a lot these days. But what does it really mean and how do we develop it? It takes leaders with significant skills working together to address the issues facing our community. And for more than 30 years, the Chamber’s Leadership Wichita program has been working to identify, cultivate and inspire those emerging leaders.

Members of the 2014 class participate in team building exercises.

Members of the 2014 class participate in team building exercises.

We are now accepting nominations for our 2015 Leadership Wichita class. The program’s eight sessions cover topics ranging from education and workforce development, working with the media and economic development. In addition, skills such as collaboration, consensus building, and visioning will be explored through real-life examples and group exercises. See the full list of topics in 2015 program brochure.

If you know someone who has a background of active community involvement and would be a good candidate for this year’s Leadership Wichita class, please nominate them at

Important Dates:Leadership Wichita-image only

  • Nominations due – June 19
  • Applications due – July 1
  • Selection announced – July 31
  • First session – September 3

Learn more at, and see conversation on Twitter from previous Leadership Wichita classes using #LeadICT.