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.

Youth Employment Project in action

Xavier Crawford worked at the Chamber during the summer as part of the Youth Employment Program.

My name is Xavier Crawford and I am from Wichita. I have eleven brothers and sisters and recently graduated from Chester Lewis Virtual High School. I was connected with the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce through my experience with the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas’ Summer Youth Employment Program. Through the program I created a resume, searched and interviewed for jobs and was provided education in soft skills and customer service. The program provided me the opportunity to experience a real-life work environment.

My duties at the Chamber included a variety of tasks. I was able to work on everything from mailing out invoices and creating aging reports to putting together orientation packets for new member meetings. It was fun to attend meetings that highlighted changes in our community and how we can continue to improve our city as a whole. In many ways, I feel like Wichita is stepping in the right direction and should keep up the good work.

My favorite part about my internship at the Chamber would be the staff. The accepted me as one of their own. They were warmhearted and caring and were always there for me. Working at the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has helped show me what every work environment should look and feel like. They’ve taught me how I can not only better myself, but create value for those around me.

While working at the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some important individuals in Wichita that could potentially help point me achieve the career I desire. I’ve recently applied to Wichita Area Technical College and look forward to studying aviation.

Our thanks to Xavier for his contributions to our team this summer and to the Workforce Alliance for leading the Youth Employment Project. 

Xavier reported that some of his favorite assignments involved working with Accounting Clerk Peter Gaulding (pictured right).

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 surpasses Centennial capital campaign goal

At today’s Chairman’s Lunch event, Chamber President & CEO Gary Plummer announced the completion of our Centennial Celebration capital campaign. Originally launched with a goal of $650,000 on Dec. 1 of last year, it concluded today with a total of $706,306.

The funds will be used to make updates to the public areas of our headquarters, originally constructed in 1972 at 350 W. Douglas and frequently used by our 1,600 Chamber members, 25 committees and five affiliates.

But the changes will be more than just cosmetic our organization prepares for the next 100 years of leading the community. Funds will also be used to initiate new programs focused on inclusion and education policy.

“Two of the Chamber’s four strategic priorities in 2017 are centered on these new initiatives that we believe will help establish the foundation for our future legacy,” said Scott Schwindaman, 2017 Chamber Chairman and President of Lubrication Engineers. “Our Education Policy priority will focus on the important issue of funding for K-12, and our Diversity and Inclusion priority will focus on specific tactics that will further position our region’s image as a leader in this area.”

“All of these improvements, both physical and in our programming, have been made possible through generous donations made from our members to our Centennial fundraising campaign,” said Plummer. “A special thank you to INTRUST Bank who committed $100,000 to kick off our campaign.”

A complete list of Centennial Celebration supporters can be found on our website here.