Why Boise is the “IT” Place to Be: A Recap of the 2018 City-to-City Visit

By Jonathan Long
Director of Community Advancement

Earlier this month, 59 Wichita leaders and influencers ventured to Boise, Idaho to find out what has made the City of the Trees the country’s new “IT” place to live, work and play. In the last two years, Boise has appeared in articles from Thrillist to Forbes, highlighting its dynamic community. And from what we learned during the trip, all the praise is well-deserved.

Firstly, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, Boise has mountains – foothills, actually – and Wichita will never have those. However, while that landmark provides a wonderfully aesthetic background to the city, the mountains are not the leading cause of Boise’s growth and excitement. That credit goes to the leaders and influencers in the area.

The citizens of Boise, in partnership with those who hold positions of authority, really seem to consider the perspective that they deserve greatness, which is defined differently by the various people who spoke to our group. However, that greatness was summed up with a common vision that their mayor, Dave Bieter, spelled out for us on our first day – the vision of making Boise the most livable city in America.

In presentations, whether the topic ranged from how the Boise State Computer Science Department has moved downtown to create partnerships with businesses, how the expansion of the city’s convention center led to increased tourism revenues and the construction of multiple hotels downtown, to descriptions of how the police and arts departments worked together, everyone felt Boise’s unified call to bring them closer to the city’s vision of livability.

As Project Wichita enters its final stages, I hope that we as citizens, influencers, and those in positions of authority rally together behind a shared vision and create progress to advance our community in order for Wichita to become a place where everyone lives their best life.

View the daily, one-minute video recaps here: Day 1, Day 2, & Day 3.

The City-to-City delegation toured the Boise State campus, including “The Blue” football field.

Chamber receives award for Diversity & Inclusion work

In 2017, Diversity and Inclusion became one of the Chamber’s Strategic Priorities. Since then, the organization’s volunteer and staff leadership has led the way in championing the competitive advantage of having a diverse and inclusive business climate.

This work was recently recognized by the Wichita Business Journal, when Chamber President & CEO Gary Plummer was named a 2018 Leader in Diversity. He was presented with the award at a luncheon event on Sept. 17.

When asked what advice he would give an individual or an organization that seeks to be more supportive of diversity, he said, “Be intentional about discussing inclusion and working to make sure your organization reflects your community.”

“Failing to embrace diversity and inclusion limits the breadth of perspectives that are considered and ultimately limits the organization’s impact,” Gary said.

Read more of Gary’s thoughts on the importance of diversity and inclusion in this profile by the Wichita Business Journal.

Chamber President and CEO Gary Plummer (center) was named a 2018 Leader in Diversity by the Wichita Business Journal. He accepted the award with others who have been instrumental in the Chamber’s Diversity and Inclusion work. From left to right: Junetta Everett, Delta Dental of Kansas; Gary Plummer; Suzy Finn, USD 259; and Jonathan Long, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Member Minute with the Rudd Foundation

Peter Najera is the President of the Rudd Foundation.

If you’re on social media in the Wichita area, you immediately noticed when Peter Najera, President of the Rudd Foundation, came to town late last year to lead the organization. He’s been actively promoting the Foundation and its mission while interacting with other area organizations on social media (@PeterNajera1). Give him and the @RuddFoundation a follow and then learn more about why the Foundation considers social media interaction with students and their parents a vital tool for fulfilling their mission.

Please tell us a little bit about the mission of the Rudd Foundation.
Leslie Rudd established the Rudd Foundation in 1998 as a way to honor the Midwestern values that strengthen character and lead to a lifetime of success in business, community, and family. The Foundation gives back in meaningful ways to help both people and organizations who possess the initiative, determination, and capacity to achieve their goals and thereby make a positive impact for those around them. While we give in many ways, our cornerstone initiative is our college scholarship program for Kansas residents to attend Kansas universities.

Why did you join the Chamber and what do you find most valuable about Chamber membership?
As a private foundation, we wanted to get involved with the civic life of the community.  Networking with other organizations and their leadership is instrumental in learning where the most need is, and how we might be able to help improve our community.

Rudd Scholarship winners who will attend Wichita State University were among the twenty 2018 announced this month.

Describe your organization’s most recent success.
We recently announced our $1.1 million commitment to fund our first class of 20 Rudd Scholars who will receive full-ride college scholarships to attend either Wichita State, Emporia State or Fort Hays State. By removing the financial burden of a college education, we hope to enable high-potential Kansas residents to go to school and upon graduation, start new businesses here in Wichita, teach in our schools and lead in our communities. We think it’s critical to invest up front through a college education to strengthen the talent pipeline of our city and our state so that our economy, and its citizens, can grow and prosper.

To what do you attribute your success?
We are thankful for the advice, support and collaboration from so many in the community to get our scholarship program off the ground and running. From working with our 3 partner universities to all the civic leaders who helped promote and recruit high-potential talent to apply for our scholarship, we’ve been able to convert our vision into a reality in just a few short months and begin making an impact now.

What differentiates your organization from your others in similar spaces?
We will be offering program support to our Rudd Scholarship winners, and not just paying the tuition bills. We intend to foster camaraderie and networking within each annual cohort of scholars, and internships and job placement wherever possible as graduation approaches. Our mission is to enable this young talent to achieve their career goals beyond the classroom.

Vince Tran from Wichita South High School is pictured here receiving his Rudd Scholarship.

What value do you expect Chamber membership to bring to you and your organization?
Through our membership, we believe we will be able to keep up with the latest initiatives in our city and better understand our role in helping when the right opportunity presents itself. We also will be counting on the membership to continue supporting our Rudd Scholars, and possibly helping through mentorship, internships, and maybe even a job or career one day!

Where do you see your organization in five years?
Our strategic plans call for us to grow and scale our staff as we grow our scholarship program year on year. In five years, we will be supporting 100 of the brightest, young Kansans in college while we will have our first 20 Alumni working in the community and providing mentorship to those still in school.

What about your organization are you most passionate?
The opportunity to give back to the community is very rewarding, but I think we are all most passionate about helping Kansas youth gain a college education and become productive members of society after graduation.

Favorite app?
We enjoy all the social media apps. We connect with most high school kids and administrators through Twitter and Instagram, but we find that most parents still hang out on Facebook and many times they are more interested in our scholarship than their kids (for obvious reasons!)

Favorite business book?
“Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek. We feel that the best businesses, profit or nonprofit, are led by selfless leaders who take care of their employees first.

Follow the Rudd Foundation @RuddFoundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can find their LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/company/rudd-foundation/

More on the Rudd Foundation:
KWCH – New Kansas Scholarship Program Announced
The Wichita Eagle – Rudd Foundation Annual Scholars Dinner photos

Last Day to Nominate Innovators, Challenge Seekers and Continual Learners

Still mulling over who to nominate for our 2018 Leadership Wichita class? Three program graduates offer some insight into the qualities they look for when submitting nominations. Submit your nomination today on the Chamber’s website.

Coleen Tabor

CONTINUAL LEARNERS
Coleen Tabor,
Talent and Diversity Director
at Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.

“I consider these qualifications when making my nominations: people who have demonstrated leadership capabilities by leading cross-functional teams both inside
the company and in the community; people who show a strong commitment to continuous learning in both personal and professional realms and whose commitment is based in a humble understanding of their strengths and opportunities for growth; and people who have a desire to impact the region by building economic and cultural value for all community members.”

Matt Cortez

CHALLENGE SEEKERS
Matt Cortez,
VP & Opportunities Studio Lead
at GLMV Architecture

“When submitting my nomination for the program, I look for the intangible qualities in a person that allow them to see opportunities in every difficulty (along with qualifications that show up on a resume). These individuals must have integrity, they must be
visionaries and they also must have a substantial amount of grit to overcome challenges.”

INNOVATORS
Sheelu Surender,
Director of 
Financial Aid and Scholarships
at Wichita State University

Sheelu Surender

“The individuals I nominate have a passion and commitment for innovation and growth, both in their organizations and in our community. They are leaders who give of their time, talent and resources to advance the greater good. As they participate in the program and gain a greater understanding of the local environment, the perspective gained will be transformative.”

Today is the last day to nominate our next group of 30 community changers who will participate in the 2018 Leadership Wichita class. This annual immersive experience is managed by the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and the program runs between August 23 and November 14. Visit wichitachamber.org/leadershipwichita for more information about the program or contact the Chamber’s Director of Community Advancement, Jonathan Long, at 316-268-1170.

Internships Make an Impact

By Emma Meyer, Chamber Intern

Emma Meyer is a senior at Valley Center High School and plans to attend KSU in the fall to pursue a marketing degree. Follow @vchsinterns on Twitter to see posts about Emma’s experience and the work of other Valley Center High students.

Many people probably do not expect to see a high school intern in a professional business setting, but here I am at the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. I began my internship with the Marketing & Communications Department in January and will complete it this week.

I’m a senior at Valley Center High School and am involved in activities ranging from volleyball and softball to National Honors Society and Student Council. Additionally, I am in the Internship Program that is coordinated by Mrs. Cody Lee. The program is for seniors, and this year there are 25 participants. Each student is released from class to go to their internship every day, and our internship experiences help us determine what we would like to pursue as a career. It helped me tremendously because I had no idea what I wanted to do until recently.

My first semester, I interned at Wesley Medical Center and Newton Medical Center. I saw some really cool things like a hysterectomy and open heart surgery… and no I did not pass out in the operating room. I found these things to be fascinating but ultimately decided the medical field is not for me. I wondered if I would enjoy something in the business field, so here I am.

I have loved every second that I have spent at the Chamber. Everyone is so nice and welcoming, and I am able to contribute to the team every day. Some of my projects  included posting ribbon-cutting photos on social media and writing captions for Chamber event pictures that are published in the Wichita Eagle. My biggest assignment dealt with the #ILoveWichita Campaign. I found pictures on Instagram that have used #ILoveWichita and selected a few each week that were later displayed on billboards throughout Wichita.

This fall, I plan to attend Kansas State University with a major in Marketing. My time at the Chamber has helped make this decision easier. I am very thankful for the things my internship has taught me and how it has allowed me to meet many amazing people and businesses in the Wichita area.


Experiences like the one Emma described above are key to retaining talent for Wichita. The Youth Employment Project (YEP), led by the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, 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’s goal is to combat the exodus of our talent is by forging a deeper and earlier connection with our local talent pool.

How can you get involved?

  • HIRE
    interns (age 14-21) for a six- to 10-week paid work experience opportunity.
  • SPONSOR
    a paid intern 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.

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.

Scholarship Applications Due March 30

The Wichita Manufacturer’s Association (WMA) is a Chamber affiliate that encourages students to pursue manufacturing careers. The organization offers scholarships for those planning to study manufacturing at any technical college, community college or state college/university in Kansas.

The scholarship program was created in 1993 to support the educational and training opportunities that develop better manufacturing interest, methods and employees. The organization distributed a record number of 24 scholarships last year. Complete and return this year’s application before March 30 to be eligible for one of their $1,000 scholarships towards tuition or related education expenses.

All applicants will be notified of results in April. Scholarships are awarded for the academic year starting in the fall.

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.

Wichita Public Schools Show Community Pride

In case you missed it, yesterday’s monthly Wichita Eagle Chamber Update contained photos and information about how the Wichita Public Schools have been working with the business community on the #ILoveWichita campaign. Three initiatives are underway.

Wichita Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson points to the new decal that will be used at Wichita learning centers.

#ILoveWichita Decals
Nearly 80 businesses and organizations have applied a Chamber-sponsored #ILoveWichita decal to their doors to demonstrate their community commitment. The Wichita Public Schools have developed their own #ILoveWichita decal that also includes #WPSProud, a popular hashtag the school system has been using to demonstrate all the positive things being accomplished throughout the District.

The new decal has been permanently installed on the main doors at the system’s Administrative Center. Watch for nearly one hundred more decals going up early next year when they are distributed to learning centers across Wichita.

Wichita Flags
During the last ten months, new School Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson and her team have incorporated their own stylized version of the Wichita flag in t-shirts and other school materials. Last month, at the suggestion of students from Wichita State University’s Elliott School of Communication, the Together Wichita campaign donated ninety-three 3’x5’ Wichita flags to the school system so that every learning center could show their community pride.

Ben Jennings from The Wichita Eagle manages the Together Wichita initiative and made the presentation at the District meeting. Jennings is a long-time flag enthusiast and said it was an easy decision for the Board to approve the donation, “We don’t believe this has ever been done before and we loved the idea of making it happen.”

Dr. Thompson, who has been a student, teacher and administrator for the Wichita Public Schools, said, “It’s fantastic to see Wichita flags proudly flying at schools across our district. We matter to this community, and Wichita matters to us. Together Wichita’s donation of Wichita flags to every Wichita building allows us to remind the community how important that relationship is.”

The Wichita Regional Chamber is one of twenty-one organizations working year-round on community improvement projects under the banner of Together Wichita. (See the complete listing of participants on togetherwichita.com.) Organized, staffed and managed by The Wichita Eagle, past Together Wichita projects include bicycle and walking path signage, a Memories Park, community chalkboards, the Keepers on Parade and a large Together Wichita sign to display at area events.

Jack Lynch, a Southeast High School senior, will utilize this design for the Keeper sculpture donated by Ben Hutton.

Student Art
Ben Hutton, CEO of Hutton Construction, has also generously donated a Together Wichita Keeper of the Plains sculpture to USD 259. Hutton leads the Chamber’s Quality of Place Strategic Initiative and his company participates in the Together Wichita initiative.

Jack Lynch, a Southeast High School senior, will paint the Keeper, during his final semester. The finished sculpture will be unveiled in the spring of 2018. It will then be included on the Keepers on Parade map located on the Together Wichita website.

Visit TogetherWichita.com to learn more about how your organization or company can become involved and follow the organization on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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.