By Wayne Chambers
2014 Chamber Board Chairman
Earlier this month we shared the Chamber’s updated Mission and Vision with you. This week I’d like to expand a little more on how we are working to fulfill that Mission and Vision.
To drive economic growth and community advancement in the Wichita region.
The Wichita region is a premier place to grow companies, careers and communities.
Job growth is a vital component of our mission and has been a long-time priority of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. During the last twelve months we’ve been probing deeper into the issue of how to accelerate the number of primary jobs in our region and replace the 31,000 jobs that disappeared from our community during the recent recession. The Chamber and its partners have been gathering citizen input, studying this issue, and discussing potential solutions throughout the community.
- The City of Wichita partnered with the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University to conduct surveys and listening sessions with more than 2,000 people from mid-September through January 2014. Four of the top priorities identified by the community were: water supply, economic development, public transit, and pavement maintenance.
- The Chamber’s Leadership Council (a think tank made up of 100 top business, non-profit, and public-sector executives) chose growing primary jobs as its top priority. The group also determined that on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest level of economic development competitiveness, Wichita is currently operating at a 2.5. The council’s goal is to increase that competitiveness level to 4.5.
- At the Chamber’s 2013 Annual Meeting last November, Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton shared insights from his book, titled The Coming Jobs War, with 1,000 area business leaders. Clifton emphasized that all of his research on the subject pointed to local solutions. He emphasized that the community’s efforts must be aligned citywide and focused.
- The Chamber hosted 600 business leaders during the annual Chairman’s Lunch in February for a public discussion with Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Dave Unruh about the economic development tools we need to advance the region. Chamber members are still sharing their thoughts with me about the important points that were discussed during this event.
The City Council is now studying a comprehensive Sales Tax Initiative & Strategic Plan funded by a one-cent city sales tax that includes a jobs initiative. City Manager Bob Layton and his staff have presented information about this plan to over 450 people in 17 different settings. They’ve made subject matter experts available to answer questions about each of the four areas that will be supported by the tax: water supply, jobs initiative, public transit, and pavement maintenance. Citizens have also been able to contribute comments through a special website, Activate Wichita.
It’s very encouraging that so many of our partners are focused on the imperative issue of advancing Wichita. As our elected officials near a decision point on how to proceed with the sales tax initiative, I want to thank all the Chamber members who have taken time away from the important task of leading their businesses to attend these events, learn more about the issues, ask insightful questions, and share their ideas.
It is vital for the business community to be an active participant in solving our own community’s issues. It’s up to all of us to strengthen our region’s competitive edge.
Ultimately we must soon choose to either venture boldly with a confident step forward, or to remain standing still…waiting for a better moment and a better plan. I welcome your thoughts and input as the Chamber weighs in on the decision of our elected officials.