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.

Leadership is Key to a Strong Education System

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

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

We applaud the Board of Education of Wichita Public Schools for inviting public input as they begin their search for a new superintendent. Replacing an administrator as strong as John Allison won’t be an easy task, so it makes sense to seek the advice of business and community leaders as part of the process.

Chamber members are invited to take the five-minute survey, titled Wichita USD 259 Superintendent Characteristics. The survey is open until Thursday, January 19.

The Chamber recently created a special Education Policy Task Force that also speaks to the need for strong leadership when it comes to education in Kansas. Co-chairs Walter Berry (Berry Companies) and Lyndy Wells (INTRUST Bank, retired) are making the business community’s voice heard on issues like the new K-12 funding formula and the special needs of urban districts like Wichita and our surrounding area. The Task Force has given Kansas Governor Sam Brownback their input and is reaching out to legislative leaders who are working on the funding plan which will replace the block grant system that Kansas schools have been living with in recent years.

Our recent survey of the Chamber membership indicated that school funding is a primary concern of the business community. Chamber members are encouraged to continue sharing their thoughts with us about this issue. Please forward your comments to Toni Porter at tporter@wichitachamber.org.

We thank you for your continued input and support and hope you’ll join us as we highlight the important role of education and diversity in building our future workforce at our annual Chairman’s Lunch on Tuesday, February 7 at 11:30 a.m. A panel of public and private leaders will discuss their 2017 priorities and the importance of “Creating a Workforce for the Future through Diversity and Inclusion.”

Wichita is UnpredICTably Amazing

Chamber Board members Dr. Norreen Carrocci from Newman University and Dr. Cindy Claycomb from Wichita State University stopped to take a closer look at the infographic local young creatives developed. The Chamber turned the infographic into a banner that was displayed at the November meeting of the Board of Directors.

Chamber Board members Dr. Noreen Carrocci from Newman University and Dr. Cindy Claycomb from Wichita State University stopped to take a closer look at the infographic local young creatives developed to promote Wichita. The infographic was turned into a banner that was displayed at the November meeting of the Board of Directors.

We’ve had a great response to the infographic that was published in the Wichita Eagle last week as part of our monthly update. Mary Eves of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices contacted us to let us know that she thought it was a valuable tool for realtors. Eves said, “I loved the concept and the proactive way it reaches millennials, and even those of us who aren’t millennials.”

We’re sharing that monthly update again on our blog just in case you missed it. You’ll also find instructions for downloading the UnpredICTably Amazing infographic to incorporate in your own recruitment packages.

At the Chamber we’ve turned the infographic into a banner that we’ve been displaying in our Board Room and we’ve added a digital version of it to our website.

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11 reasons why millennials are proud to call Wichita home

Wichitans have been sharing all the unique things they love about their city through a Chamber-led #ILoveWichita social media campaign since early 2015. With nearly 5,000 posts on Instagram and almost 2,000 posts on Twitter, people from across the community have created an authentic and constantly-updated digital brochure with images showing the best places to eat, drink, shop, work and experience cultural events in Wichita.

A group of young professionals took that campaign a step further last month by creating an infographic titled UnpredICTably Amazing. Five creative teammates at Sullivan Higdon & Sink (SHS) turned their favorite aspects about living and working in the community into a visually appealing format that can be shared with their peers around the nation.

One of the creatives on the SHS team, Jamil Malone is also a member of the Chamber’s Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW). Malone said, “We decided that Wichita deserves to be highlighted as the unpredictably amazing community that we experience every day. We wanted to help promote our community and accelerate the #ILoveWichita conversation.”

Our thanks to Jason Comerford, Austin Hillard, Jamil Malone, Mike McCoy and Meg Stessman for clearly demonstrating that the single best thing about Wichita is the passion, generosity and creativity of the people who live and work here.

Visit ilovewichita.org
Love this infographic? Want to post it on your own website? Turn it into a recruitment poster for your company? Use it to launch a conversation in your organization about what makes Wichita so special? Share it on social media? Visit ilovewichita.org for several different formats that you can download and use for free. And be sure to give those incredible creatives on the SHS team a shout out for giving us all another great way to promote Wichita.

Update on the new Department of Labor Overtime Rule

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

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

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has joined a broad coalition of more than 50 other national and Texas business groups that have filed a lawsuit challenging the new Department of Labor overtime rule. A second suit was filed by a coalition of 21 states in their role as employers.

The state of Kansas has joined the lawsuit. Your Chamber is also supportive of this lawsuit.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6094, a regulatory relief bill that would delay the effective date of the new overtime rule for six months until June 1, 2017. All members of the Kansas delegation voted in favor of the bill.

We understand that many of you may have questions about the lawsuit, its implications, and how it may impact your to plan for the coming change in employee compensation. To help address your questions on the legal challenge, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has prepared answers to some frequently asked questions below.

Legal Challenge to the new Overtime Rule – U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Q:        Who are the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit?
A:         The plaintiffs in the business groups’ diverse coalition include the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, the Texas Association of Business, more than 40 local chambers of commerce throughout the state of Texas and other business groups in Texas, and more than a dozen other sector-specific business groups. 

Q:        Why did the business groups file the lawsuit?
A:        The Department’s unprecedented doubling of the minimum salary threshold for executive, administrative, or professional employees to be considered exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act will have significant adverse effects on businesses, nonprofit groups and associations, and employees. The Department of Labor’s new overtime rule will impose significant new economic costs and limit workplace flexibility, impede career and promotion opportunities, and make it harder for businesses and nonprofits to expand to meet the needs of their customers and constituents. The new overtime rule will be particularly damaging to nonprofit organizations, including trade associations and chambers of commerce, that will be subject to the rule.

Q:        What are the main legal arguments against the overtime rule?
A:        The business groups’ lawsuit advances three legal arguments against the Department of Labor’s overtime rule: (1) the excessively high salary threshold contradicts the intent of Congress to have executive, administrative, and professional employees exempt from overtime; (2) the new automatic update provision, which would impose new salary thresholds every three years without going through rulemakings, is not authorized by the FLSA, and in fact the FLSA directs the secretary to make changes to these exemptions through the notice and comment regulatory process; and (3) the Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously in promulgating its new overtime rule, in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

Q:        What other steps has your organization taken regarding the DOL’s new overtime regulation?
A:        The U.S. Chamber and its federation of state and local partners have been highly active in this rulemaking from the outset. We met with the Secretary of Labor before the regulation was proposed, submitted extensive and comprehensive comments describing in detail the problems this regulation will cause, and have explained at every step how the Department has gone too far. The Chamber and its federation partners also sent a letter to Congress urging action to provide relief from this regulation. The letter had almost 370 groups signed on.

Q:         Will this lawsuit impact the December 1st date that the DOL rule is scheduled to go into effect?
A:         While the Chamber’s suit seeks to invalidate the regulation, when or how the court will rule on this suit is impossible to predict at this point, therefore we recommend that businesses continue to prepare to be in compliance by December 1st. We will continue to provide updates as the suit moves forward.

Please contact me or the Chamber’s Government Relations Department if you have additional questions or concerns.

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 sflores@wichitachamber.org.

Employers should be aware of GOALS

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

Gary Plummer is the President & CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.

I had the opportunity recently to meet an individual who is working diligently to break down barriers and change lives. He’s also helping employers find valuable new workers to help them grow their organizations.

Dan Sanchez, of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, met with me about “GOALS,” a new 3-year pilot project designed to set Kansans on a path to successful careers that pay living wages, offer advancement opportunities, and restore their sense of value to themselves, their families and communities.  Dan was introduced to me by my friend Ray Frederick, of WIBA.

Kansas is one of 10 states to operate GOALS through a grant from the USDA. This pilot project will enroll 4,000 food assistance recipients in 36 counties across the state over three years. Half the participants will receive GOALS services, and the other half regular Employment & Training services (where available) in order to compare outcomes through a comprehensive evaluation process.  Services will be individualized to each participant’s needs, with a Career Navigator providing guidance over a six-month period.

In addition to career counseling, GOALS participants receive assistance on job barriers, ie. transportation and childcare. As part of the GOALS program, participants receive training in job-seeking skills including preparing applications and resumes, effective interviewing, life-skill development, and job retention skills. Training may also be tailored to meet labor market demands.

GOALS will partner with local organizations and employers to match participants with labor market opportunities and provide ongoing skill development for career advancement. Employers are also eligible for Work Opportunity Tax Credits for hiring graduates from the GOALS program.  The commitment of Dan Sanchez and the entire GOALS team is to recruit and retain the type of skilled, reliable employees businesses need. In addition to finding valuable new talent, business people are invited to support the program by participating in job fairs, mock interviews and even mentorships with GOALS participants.

If you are an employer interested in finding out how GOALS can work for you, please contact Dan Sanchez, Employer Liaison, at daniel.sanchez@dcf.ks.gov or by calling 316-337-6421 or 316-285-8395(cell).  You can also find out more at http://goals.ks.gov/bright-spots/

Real dialogue. Real leadership.

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

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

The letter below was published in today’s Wichita Eagle.

A constitutional crisis is upon us. The Kansas Supreme Court has threatened to close schools on July 1 if the legislature fails to equalize funding disparities between school districts.

This is just yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of school finance battles between the Court and Legislature. However, the stakes are much higher this time around and the uncertainty is impacting more than parents, teachers and school children. Business leaders are reporting difficulty in recruiting employees and top-level managers due to the negative news coverage.

This must stop now. It’s time for real dialogue and real leadership.

A good number of legislative leaders are working hard towards a resolution that will keep schools open. However, some seem almost singularly focused on criticizing the Court.  Schools, understandably, are working to protect their own self-interests. The Court has a difficult job, but a job to do nonetheless. Like it or not, they are the final authority on the constitutionality of school finance law. However, threatening to close schools is unwise and counterproductive.

Wealthier school districts and their communities are calling for funding plans with “hold harmless” provisions. Translated this means they don’t want any money taken from their districts and shared with the state’s poorer districts. Unfortunately, this flies directly counter to the definition of equalization.

In Wichita, U.S.D. 259 (the state’s largest school district) educates 2,000 homeless school children per year. Nearly 78% of the student body is considered at risk and qualifies for free or reduced lunches. A sizable number of students consider English as their second language with students speaking over 100 different languages as their primary language. Countless studies have proven that educating students from poorer urban settings costs more than educating students from affluent areas. It is critical that these students are given the same opportunities for success as children in wealthy school districts. Kansas cannot and should not be known as a state where a child’s educational success is decided by their zip code.

There is plenty of blame to go around. We all need to shoulder our fair share, including the Wichita Chamber. We’ve had three years to address this issue, provide leadership and avoid the crisis we now face. Pointing fingers and playing the blame game doesn’t move us forward. At best, it paralyzes us in the current dilemma. At worst, it actually moves us backwards. Let’s at least develop a short-term solution and pledge to continue to work together on a sustainable resolution.

It’s time to separate from our silos, depart from our protected turf and come together in the best interests of our children, our communities and the future of our great state.

Finding a ‘forever home’ in Wichita

Madison Harris interned in our Communications Department during the spring 2016 semester. She graduated from Valley Center High School last month and plans to attend Butler Community College for Mass Communications in the fall. She will then attend Wichita State University to study Business Communications. The blog entry below demonstrates the value of providing valuable internship experiences for young professionals to build stronger connections to the business community and a deeper affection for Wichita.

Madison HarrisBy Madison Harris

Senior year, for most, is a time when involvement in school clubs, extracurricular activities and sports comes to an end. It is a time to say your final “good-byes” to what you have been accustomed to for the past 12 years. For me, my senior year ended my dancing and competitive public speaking career. While the high school door is closing, a new one is opening: college. As senior year started, I had no idea what career field to venture off into. Would it be education or business? However, during the course of my senior year and internship experiences I realized what I am truly passionate about: serving the community, people and networking, and Wichita. It is through my time interning at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce I found my true calling.

Valley Center High School, where I attended classes, provides an internship program. At the start of my senior year, I interned with the local middle school in English Education. The students offered an array of experiences – teaching, helping, planning, and mentoring students, but I felt disconnected. While I loved getting to leave an impact on the students and the way they thought, I wasn’t happy. I knew that even though I come from a family who values the importance of the school system, this career path wasn’t meant for me. So I reevaluated and at the start of the second semester I found myself with an internship at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce for business marking and communications.

Growing up I always thought I would become a doctor or a lawyer but I never saw myself in business. My teacher once told me, “Find a career not a job,” and after joining the Chamber staff, I can’t see myself inside any other career field. My time at the Chamber has been an experience that I won’t ever forget. The staff welcomed me and always motivated and pushed me to become a better communicator. The skills I have learned will not only carry me through college or my future career but they will help carry me through life. I have learned how to effectively write news releases, hone my skills in Photoshop, InDesign, and Adobe, how to utilize social media for business, and gained exposure to Chamber-led events.

After joining the Chamber team, I discovered how great of a city Wichita is. Before starting my internship, I was a Wichitan because I was born here. But now, I am one because I choose to be. I have been impacted by the way this city functions – the events, the small town vibe that radiates through downtown, the hole-in-the- wall restaurants you can’t find anywhere else, and the Wichita flag have all left an impression on me that is unchangeable.  Wichita is a place of simplicity and I know that it is a “forever home.”