Top 3 Moments from Honors Night 2017

By Courtney Sendall
Marketing & Communications Manager

Each year when Honors Night concludes, I think, “This year was the best yet.” And while I have only attended 5 of the 54 Honors Night celebrations, this one was no exception because the Honors Night Committee once again selected highly deserving individuals and organizations to recognize in front of 665 members of the business community.

This year’s honorees included Dawson Grimsley, Chris Callen, Foley Equipment Company, Conco Construction, Howard+Helmer, and the Wichita Art Museum Art Garden. (Click the links to view the videos played at the event <<< you want to watch the videos.)

                                                                2017 Honorees

In no particular order, here are my favorite moments from Honors Night 2017, all of which left me feeling energized and excited about the future of Wichita.

  1. Howard+Helmer unveiling their new brand: Alloy Architecture
    At the conclusion of the video highlighting Over the Years award recipient Howard+Helmer, Principal Dave White announced he had some exciting news to share with the Honors Night attendees. After beginning with a restroom remodel project in 1981, their company has significantly contributed to the landscape of Wichita (think MarkArts, WSU’s Rhatigan Student Center & Shocker Hall, and Church of the Magdalen to name a few), and the Chamber was honored that they chose that moment to unveil their new brand: Alloy Architecture. We can’t wait to see what the next 36 years will bring.
  1. Chris Callen accepting the {FIRST} Exceptional Young Leader award
    In his humorous and sincere acceptance speech, Builders Plus CEO Chris Callen credited several people, ranging from his drum line instructor to his parents, for his success. In responding to people who question his motivation for launching GroundWork, a startup hub in his Builders Plus office, he says this: “I want to live in, I want to do business in, and I want to prosper in a great city. Period. That’s my dream.” Chris’ “doing something” attitude is something we should all emulate to make Wichita better than it was yesterday. Watch Chris’ Honors Night video here and view a live stream of his touching acceptance speech on the Young Professionals of Wichita Facebook page.
  1. Dawson Grimsley on giving back, texting and driving, and Fords
    I briefly introduced myself to Dawson at the Honors Night rehearsal on Monday afternoon, and when I saw him on Tuesday evening, he shook my hand and said, “Nice to see you again. It’s Courtney, right?” Working at the Chamber, I have the wonderful opportunity to meet a lot people, but it’s rare that they remember my name upon second meeting (and I’m guilty as well). So I was a Dawson fan even before seeing his Honors Night video and hearing his acceptance speech.

    In his video, he spoke about the responsibility that business owners have to support charitable organizations and pointed out that the more money you make, the more money you can give away (love that theory!). The video was also sprinkled with clips from the Davis-Moore PSAs that he became known for, and he delivered a live PSA during his acceptance speech when he urged audience members not to text and drive. From the stage, Dawson told Chris Callen that he seemed like a great guy, aside from the Ford truck he drives, but promised to make him a great deal when he visits Davis-Moore to trade it in.

Again, I encourage you to check out all of the honoree videos at the links above, and you can view photos from the event on the Chamber Facebook page.

I’d love to hear what your favorite moments from the night were, so tweet your comments to @ChamberWichita.

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.

Local Awards to Celebrate Local Honorees

By Rachel Douglass
Manager of Membership & Engagement

The Chamber’s annual Honors Night celebrates an outstanding individual, exemplary corporate citizens, exceptional commitments to the community, and striking architectural achievements. Each honor is bestowed in recognition of a unique contribution to the enhancement of our community.

The event is a tradition started more than 50 years ago in 1963. New this year, though, will be the honorees’ awards. For the 2017 Honors Night, three local glassblowers were commissioned to create awards for our six honorees (listed below). Bob Adams, Chad Droegemeier and Robin Lies are glass blowing instructors at Chamber Member CityArts. They not only agreed to assist in the creation of the awards, but they plan to use the award proceeds to purchase new blow pipes and wooden blocks for CityArts.

Chad Droegemeier works to create one of the awards that will presented at Honors Night on April 11.

“This was a great opportunity for us to partner with the Chamber on a long-standing Wichita program, while also giving back to a studio that offers so much to Wichita’s art scene,” said Robin Lies, General Manager of Burnell’s Fine Jewelry and Design (also a Chamber member).

“As a Chamber that strives to celebrate Wichita pride, it felt like a natural decision to recognize our Wichita honorees with locally-made awards,” said Angie Elliott, Vice President of Membership & Engagement. Glass blown awards will also be presented to the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Small Business Awards recipients this May.

Honors Night 2017 will be held Tuesday, April 11, at Textron Aviation Activity Center, 9710 E. Central. Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling 265-7771.

The 2017 Honors Night recipients are as follows:

  • Uncommon Citizen: Dawson Grimsley of Davis-Moore Auto Group
  • Exceptional Young Leader: Chris Callen of Builders Plus Construction
  • Spirit of Wichita: Foley Equipment Company
  • Over the Years: Conco Construction and Howard + Helmer Architecture
  • Keeper of the Plains: Wichita Art Museum Art Garden

    Robin Lies is the general manager of Burnell’s Fine Jewelry and Design and a glass blowing instructor at CityArts.

Chamber’s Inclusion Strategy Featured in Wichita Eagle Insert

2017 Chamber Chairman Scott Schwindaman provides an update on this year’s strategic priorities in our six-page quarterly insert that published today in The Wichita Eagle.

Our six-page newsletter is published quarterly in The Wichita Eagle to update the entire community about how we are fulfilling our mission and vision. The two front-page stories in today’s edition of the newspaper insert share information about our Diversity and Inclusion priority and how the Chamber is leveraging our regional strength to advocate for business in Topeka.

Be sure to pick up a copy of today’s insert so you’ll know–

  • Which 15 Chamber members to congratulate on their important milestones
  • Who will begin leading our Government Relations team on May 1
  • Which 31 new organizations we’ve welcomed to the Chamber since December
  • How your generous Centennial Campaign contributions are being used
  • Which Chamber Board members are leading each of our four strategic priorities
  • Who to congratulate on graduating from this year’s YPW Leadership Academy
  • How to register for April and May networking events

You may also read and share the insert by following this link to our website.

Contact us if you need additional printed copies of the insert for you team or for your recruitment materials. Our next insert publishes on Thursday, June 29.

Eight-time World Cup Medalist Will Inspire YPs

Eight-time World Cup Medalist and Paralympic Snowboarder Nicole Roundy is the keynote speaker for the Kansas YP Summit.

The inspirational theme of the 2017 Kansas Young Professionals (YP) Summit is Ad Astra – a Latin phrase meaning “to the stars.” And keynote speaker Nicole Roundy will provide attendees with plenty of motivation to reach upward as she shares her personal story of overcoming adversity to achieve her goals.

Roundy rocketed to fame as a World Cup Medalist and member of the U.S. Paralympic Snowboard Team after losing her right leg to cancer. She’ll share her thoughts on how to set and attain personal and professional goals at the day-long event that is scheduled for Friday, May 5 from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Chamber’s affiliate, the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW), is hosting the event at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. This is the eighth statewide Summit and the second time it has been held in Wichita.

The event is aimed at young professionals who want to develop their professional skills, connect with others and learn new ways to channel their passion for revitalizing their communities.

Look for images from last year’s event and registration information in the Thursday, March 16, edition of The Wichita Eagle. Or follow this link and register before April 16 to receive discounted pricing.

Follow the 2017 Kansas YP Summit on Twitter – @ypkansas or Facebook – @KSYPSummit.
Follow Nicole Roundry on Twitter – @NicoleRoundy, Instagram – @nroundy and Facebook – Nicole Roundy.

Wichita Regional Chamber Opposes Two PEAK Senate Bills

The Chamber’s lobbyist, Jason Watkins, testified today in Topeka.

Jason Watkins, a lobbyist representing the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, testified in opposition of S.B. 222 and S.B. 223 in Topeka, today. Watkins submitted written remarks and also provided verbal testimony in front of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee. He was joined by other representatives in the region who are concerned about the need to have economic tools in place to grow the economy.

In his remarks, Watkins indicated that the Chamber supports Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) as a valuable economic development tool. S.B. 222 places a moratorium on the program and S.B. 223 restricts it. Watkins pointed to a report from Legislative Post Audit that shows a positive return on investment for the program.

Watkins said that “a moratorium or restrictions on PEAK would stifle growth and likely lead to jobs originally destined for south-central Kansas to land in Oklahoma instead. Kansas needs more economic development tools – not less. PEAK provides a conduit for critical investment in our state’s economy. And it pays immediate dividends with job growth and capital investment.”

Links to the written testimony from Watkins are shown below.

SB 222 WRCC 2017 PEAK

SB 223 WRCC 2017 PEAK

Government Relations Staff Changes Announced

Toni Porter will begin leading the Chamber’s Government Relations team on May 1 .

Gary Plummer, President & CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, announced today that Toni Porter has been promoted to Director of Government Relations for the organization. In her new position, Porter will lead the Chamber’s Government Relations efforts. She  originally joined the Chamber in 2015, in a part-time position as the Government Relations Project Manager. Prior to her role at the Chamber, Porter served as the District Director for U.S. Congressman Mike Pompeo.

The Chamber’s Government Relations team oversees two of the organization’s four focus areas, advocating and influencing. Plummer said that Porter’s experience made her a natural choice for the position. “Our members will continue to benefit from Toni’s extensive experience. She is well connected in the business community and is respected by government officials and leaders at the local, state and federal level.” Porter will assume her new full-time role on May 1.

Barby Jobe is relocating to Oklahoma. Her last day as the Chamber’s V. P. of Government Relations is April 28.

Plummer also announced the departure of Barby Jobe Myers from the Chamber. Myers joined the organization in 2008, and has most recently served as the Vice President of Government Relations. Her last day at the Chamber is April 28. Myers is relocating to Oklahoma to join her family.

Plummer said, “We’ll miss Barby’s dedication to impacting the local election process and advocating for the best possible business environment. We’ll continue to follow her career with great interest and look forward to hearing how she’ll be utilizing her unique talents and skills when she returns to her home state of Oklahoma.”

Building a Better Wichita

The 2014 City-to-City Leadership visit to Austin resulted in the creation of a local entrepreneurship accelerator and launching the e2e in 2016.

ICYMI – Chamber staffers Suzy Finn and Stefanie Flores just returned from a trip to Raleigh, N.C. as part of the planning process for the 2017 City-to-City Leadership visit to that community. This recap of the outcomes of previous Chamber visits was authored by Suzy Finn and appeared in the FORWARD WICHITA section of the Wichita Eagle on February 26.

What makes other cities great? How do we ensure Wichita is on the right path? How do we find best practices and customize them for Wichita and our region?

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce has coordinated visits to other cities to stimulate trade and exchange ideas many times in the past 100 years. In the past 11 years, we’ve taken more than 240 area leaders on trips to learn from cities including Richmond, Va., Jacksonville, Fla., Oklahoma City, Ft. Worth, Texas, Chattanooga, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., Pittsburgh, Omaha, Neb., Des Moines, Iowa, Austin, Texas, Greenville, S.C., and Nashville, Tenn. The cities’ success stories revealed some themes that consistently stood out to our community leaders.

  1. Regional Economic Development – These communities approached economic development not as isolated cities but as whole regions. Having a coordinated plan to attract and retain businesses and talent was a recurring theme.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Groups like the Allegheny Conference and Greater Des Moines Partnership provided models for the Greater Wichita Partnership – our approach to regional economic development that focuses on coordinated strategies for intended outcomes.
  2. Riverfront Development – Successful cities had an active riverfront that included retail, commercial, residential, hotel and entertainment properties. They were developed with density and mixed use in mind, and developers adhered to a cohesive design vision.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Current progress includes the construction of River Vista and the Advanced Learning Library. Supporting initiatives like the STAR Bond district that was approved in December can help us continue to make progress.
  3. Entrepreneurship and Innovation – Many of the cities had, at one point, reached a crisis that led to reinventing their economic base. A key in each of those reinvention stories was a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Omaha, Des Moines and Austin provided models for an accelerator program, and last year the e2e Accelerator launched. We need to continue advancing our entrepreneurship ecosystem to support existing programs and generate new ways to support entrepreneurs at all stages.
  4. Vibrant Downtown In some cities, a vibrant downtown required infrastructure investment in sports stadiums or convention centers. In others, it was public and private investment in mixed-use development. And in some it was focusing on improvements like street scaping and urban place making. The bottom line was that having a vibrant downtown was vital to regional success.
    Wichita’s Implementation: After visiting Oklahoma City in 2008, area leaders committed to partnering with Wichita Downtown Development Corporation on developing and executing a Downtown Master Plan. We need to celebrate the success built over the past 10 years, and continue to encourage development that brings even more people downtown to live, work and play.
  5. Workforce Development All of the communities had at least one entity focused on workforce development, including advocating for successful K-12 systems, developing jobs programs for youth, and retraining technical talent, as just a few examples.
    Wichita’s Implementation: Our most recent trip to Nashville inspired Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell to set a lofty goal of working with the business community, spearheaded by the Workforce Alliance, to provide at least 1,000 summer jobs for youth to help develop their soft skills and create a stronger pipeline to retain our young talent.

Every community had a unique combination of factors that contributed to its success. In addition to the five themes above, we also continually learned about the importance of quality of life, the healthcare industry, public transportation, and attracting and retaining young professionals.

Perhaps most important, we learned a city’s residents need to be its best cheerleaders. Everyone has the opportunity to either help or hurt our image. Join the #ILoveWichita movement and support one of the forward-focused initiatives above, or look into joining us for the 2017 trip to Raleigh, N.C., on September 18-20.

Specific Trip Outcomes

  • 2008 | Oklahoma City:
    Focused on developing and implementing the Downtown Master Plan
  • 2009 | Chattanooga:
    Sent four local YPs to participate in Create Here – a community marketing plan development workshop
  • 2010 | Louisville:
    Created a local bank consortium to finance riskier development projects
  • 2011 | Pittsburgh:
    Initiated the Priority Project to identify top community priorities
  • 2012 | Omaha:
    Developed the Entrepreneurship Task Force, an initiative of the Leadership Council (now Greater Wichita Partnership)
  • 2013 | Des Moines:
    Refocused on regional approach to economic development with the eventual creation of the Greater Wichita Partnership
  • 2014 | Austin:
    Created a local entrepreneurship accelerator program, launching the e2e Accelerator in 2016
  • 2015 | Greenville, S.C.:
    Generated community buy-in for inclusion and diversity programming
  • 2016 | Nashville:
    Renewed emphasis on inclusion and diversity, quality of life, and summer jobs for youth as critical elements in a comprehensive talent strategy

Wichita Regional Chamber Supports WSU/WATC Affiliation

Today I testified in Topeka before legislators in support of S.B. 174 concerning higher education. The bill authorizes the affiliation of Wichita Area Technical College (WATC) with Wichita State University (WSU).

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

Both of these institutions are vital assets for the economic growth of the south central economy. The Chamber supports the proposed affiliation since it will provide growth opportunities for students at both institutions and benefit the business community.

Others testifying today in Topeka include:
–Blake Flanders, President and CEO, Kansas Board of Regents
–Jeff Fluhr, President, Greater Wichita Partnership
–Sheree Utash, President, WATC
–John Bardo, President, WSU
–Lyndon Wells, Community Volunteer

Written testimony was provided by:
–Sam Sackett, Senior Manager of Government Relations and Corporate Communications, Spirit AeroSystems
–Shelley Hansel, Mayor of Wellington, KS

Chamber testimony
SB 174 WRCC

Inclusion: Experience Rather than Appearance

Dan Powers addressing the crowd of 500+ at Chairman’s Lunch on Feb. 7.

Following the Chairman’s Lunch centered on diversity and inclusion, Dan Powers (Managing Partner at Grant Thornton LLP) recapped his thoughts on the topic. The original published content can be seen on page 3B of today’s Wichita Eagle.

Now, more than ever, it’s critical that employers and communities recognize that inclusion has and will continue to be a benchmark for perception and success.

The Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Chairman’s Lunch on February 7 brought together public and private-sector leadership to discuss how Wichita can utilize four specific tactics to build an inclusive community: utilize a new talent app and website that will launch later this year, expand diversity and inclusion training, support a youth employment project and partner with minority business organizations. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, Wichita is striving to cultivate and sustain an open environment that nurtures both growth and development.

For us to be as inclusive as possible, it’s important to recognize that diversity is defined by much more than just appearance. Rather, diversity includes attributes that aren’t as readily seen, such as religion, educational background, socioeconomic status and work experience. Inclusion is accepting and understanding that varied perspectives and past experiences foster innovation and create a competitive advantage for Wichita in today’s global environment. It’s capitalizing on the strengths of each person to build a more empowered and efficient workforce.

Addressing diversity and inclusion is a priority, and the consequences of failing to acknowledge them are profound. However, I’m confident our city has the power to enhance Wichita’s image at the regional and national level as a leader in diversity – but to do so, it will take everyone’s support. Intention doesn’t always translate into action. We must all play an important role in advocating for and celebrating diversity and practicing inclusion in our businesses and throughout our community.

Grant Thornton LLP was the presenting sponsor of the 2017 Chairman’s Lunch. The event took place on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at INTRUST Bank Arena and featured a panel discussion titled “Creating a Workforce for the Future Through Diversity and Inclusion.” To see photos and video from the event, please visit our Facebook page.

To learn more about the Chamber’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, please contact Suzy Finn.