Introducing our newest members from the Membership Event

We recently completed a successful Membership Event, during which 200 volunteers invited their contacts to become members of the Chamber. In less than 72 hours, 226 new members were added to the Chamber! You can now see a list of those new members here on our website*.

Thank you again to all those who gave of their time to help build a stronger Chamber. Please keep these new members, and all Chamber members, in mind next time you are ready to do business. You can always find a complete listing of members via our Membership Directory.

*The list will remain on the website for 30 days.

The Wednesday morning group of callers

The Wednesday morning group of callers

Gearhart appointed to Chamber Board of Directors

Pat Gearhart

Pat Gearhart

Pat Gearhart, President of Bank SNB, has been appointed to the Chamber’s Board of Directors by Chairman Jon Rosell. Classified as a Chairman’s Appointment, Gearhart will serve on the Board for one year.

“We’re delighted to add Pat to the Chamber Board of Directors,” Rosell said. “Pat is active in the community and will be a strong supporter of the mission and vision of the Chamber. I personally look forward to learning from and working with Pat to help further the work of the Chamber in our community and region.”

A complete listed of the Chamber Board of Directors is always available at wichitachamber.org.

Latest Wichita magazine, annual summary in your mailbox

2015 CoverChamber members should have recently received a copy of our 2014 annual summary in the mail. The annual summary highlights our 2014 activities and the results of our membership survey. An electronic version can be seen here.

Also included in the mailing was our 2015 Metro Wichita Kansas magazine (pictured). The magazine showcases the best of Wichita and surrounding communities – our skilled workforce, progressive business climate, amenities and cultural attractions. Original articles feature Wichita’s emerging startups, airport improvements and medical advancements.

We use this publication year-round to familiarize potential businesses, employees and residents with the community and our quality of life. It’s also distributed to local companies and young professionals to increase their awareness about the advantages the area has to offer.

A digital version of the magazine is free and available online and can be shared through email and social media. An optimized tablet version is also available. Printed copies of the magazine can be obtained by calling 265-7771.

Todd accepts permanent position with Chamber

Cindy Todd

Cindy Todd

Cindy Todd, who has temporarily staffed the Chamber’s reception desk since last August, recently accepted a full-time position at our organization as the Director of First Impressions. She’s enjoyed using her knowledge about Wichita’s business community to connect visitors with their information requests.

Chamber President Gary Plummer said, “We appreciate her professional representation of the Chamber and our community, so we’re very pleased that she’s accepted the permanent position. She’s resourceful and always puts people at ease with her helpful disposition.”

Todd was originally born in California, but has no plans to head back west any time soon. She enjoys living and working in Wichita where she likes to spend time outdoors enjoying nature with her family and pets. Todd said, “I enjoy connecting people with everything Wichita has to offer. The Chamber works with such a variety of companies that it’s always interesting and rewarding to assist them.”

2015 Honors Night recipients announced

Each year, we recognize individual, corporate, and architectural achievement at our Honors Night celebration. The 2015 event will be held on Tuesday, April 21.

“Honors Night celebrates an outstanding individual, exemplary corporate citizens, exceptional commitments to the community, and striking architectural achievements,” said Gary Plummer, President and CEO of the Wichita Metro Chamber. “Each honor is bestowed in recognition of a unique contribution to the enhancement of our community.”

The 2015 recipient of the Spirit of Wichita award is Wichita State University. Established in 2002, The Spirit of Wichita Award recognizes businesses or not-for-profit organizations that have previously been given the Over the Years award. The organization’s culture must be basically the same as when it received the Over the Years Award a minimum of 20 years ago with employment, leadership, innovation and community involvement continuing to be strong.

The three 2015 recipients of the Over the Years award are: Meritrust Credit Union; The LDF Companies; and Youth Entrepreneurs. The Over the Years Award recognizes businesses and institutions with long-standing performances as good corporate citizens and major contributors to the community’s economic well-being; displaying leadership, innovation and community involvement.

The 2015 recipient of the Keeper of the Plains award is Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception. The Keeper of the Plains Award recognizes an outstanding architectural achievement completed by a firm, organization or individual, which has contributed to the beauty of our community.

The 2015 recipient of the Uncommon Citizen award will be announced later this month. Established in 1974, the Uncommon Citizen is the Chamber’s most prestigious individual award. It recognizes those who, by their individual efforts year after year, have made uncommon contributions to the people and institutions of Wichita and the surrounding area. These uncommon citizens are honored not only for their role in business but for their participation in cultural, civic, social and philanthropic activities.

Honors Night 2015 will be held Tuesday, April 21, at Beech Activity Center, 9710 E. Central. Tickets are now available for purchase at wichitachamber.org/HonorsNight or by calling 265-7771. Formal invitations will be sent to Chamber members, but the general public is also invited to attend.

Wayne Chambers: Champion of collaboration and alignment

By Jon Rosell, 2015 Chamber Chair

Jon Rosell and Wayne Chambers at the 2014 Annual Meeting

Jon Rosell and Wayne Chambers at the 2014 Annual Meeting

2014 Chamber Chair Wayne Chambers closed our December Board meeting with some eloquent remarks. He defined his 12-month term as a “privilege to serve” and “a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud.”

At the outset of his tenure, Wayne stated that his primary goal was to encourage increased collaboration and alignment among community organizations. That happened in a myriad of new ways in 2014, including these successful efforts:

  • The Chamber’s Leadership Council collaborated with the Wichita Community Foundation and the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation to initiate a Fuel the Fire speaker series.
  • The Chamber partnered with other business groups (Wichita Independent Business Association, the Society for Human Resource Management and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce) to reduce the cost of unemployment insurance and to make the state’s unemployment insurance (U.I.) program more flexible for employers.
  • The Chamber collaborated with 18 other “Yea-sayer” organizations interested in shaping the community’s future by endorsing a proposed sales tax initiative. A “yes” vote was also endorsed by both The Wichita Eagle and The Wichita Business Journal as a way to advance the community. The effort aligned some of these groups on a single community issue for the very first time.
  • The Chamber worked with Go Wichita and other local organizations on a community branding initiative.

Wayne also worked with Chamber CEO Gary Plummer and other Chamber members to secure sponsorships for an internationally-known speaker for the Chamber’s Annual Meeting. Our December 4 event featuring Dr. Condoleezza Rice attracted 3,000 people who gathered to hear her insightful remarks about the power of education to ensure social equality and democracy.

All of these efforts drew people together and elevated the conversation about charting Wichita’s future. As we build on these activities in 2015, I want to thank Wayne for his leadership and devotion to this community. He’s brought many organizations together to take ownership in defining the future of Wichita and I look forward to working with each of you in new ways to advance our community in meaningful and measurable ways this coming year.

Suzie Ahlstrand departs Chamber after 27 years

Ahlstrand_SuzieSuzie Ahlstrand, Executive Vice President of Community Advancement, is leaving the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce at the end of this calendar year. The information about her scheduled departure was shared with the Chamber’s Board of Directors at today’s monthly board meeting.

Ahlstrand said, “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Chamber members, board and staff to advance important community issues like downtown development and education. The Chamber plays a vital role in working with business leaders, community partners and elected officials to ensure that Wichita has the best possible environment for businesses and families to grow. I’ve developed some lifelong friendships with a very diverse group of people who are devoted to doing what’s best for Wichita. It’s been a special honor to be part of that important process. I’ve enjoyed mentoring and being mentored by Wichitans with different backgrounds who represent different generations, industries and interests.”

2014 Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors Wayne Chambers said, “Her expertise will be missed. She led our Visioneering Wichita process where thousands of local people set a 20-year vision for the community and has led numerous City-to-City visits that have resulted in important initiatives. One of those initiatives involved working with the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation to develop the downtown master plan.”

Through her 27 years with the Chamber, she has had numerous jobs, including some she performed simultaneously. “Through her entire Chamber career, Suzie has been one of those people that Chamber and community leaders have turned to when we needed someone to work with a group to solve a big challenge or advance an important issue,” Chambers said, “She has taken on a number of different responsibilities and at some point has touched every aspect of the Chamber. As Visioneering Wichita Chairman and then Chamber Chairman, I have enjoyed getting to know and work with Suzie on a variety of community issues and treasure that time and her counsel.”

Ahlstrand began her career as Manager of Membership Services and was quickly promoted to Vice President of Membership Development when she helped recruit and provide services to members and supervised a staff of four with fundraising and volunteer responsibilities. After that, she served as Director of Marketing for the economic development organization the Wichita/Sedgwick County Partnership for Growth (WI/SE) with responsibilities including air service and marketing for business development and recruitment. Starting in 1995, she was Executive Director of the Business Education Success Team (BEST) working to bring various educational entities and businesses together to sustain high expectations in the region’s education and training systems. For three of those years, she was asked to simultaneously serve again as Vice President of Membership.

In 2004, she was named Vice President of Community Advancement where she launched and managed the community’s Visioneering Wichita effort that eventually touched more than 16,000 people. Ahlstrand simultaneously served as Interim President of the Chamber and GWEDC in 2011. She continued serving as Interim President of GWEDC until 2012, until the search for a new GWEDC president was completed.

In 2012, she was named Executive Vice President of Community Advancement and has been instrumental in working with Jeff Fluhr and other partners to develop Project Downtown, the master plan for Wichita’s downtown. She also led nine City-to-City visits, helped launch the Chamber’s Leadership Council and worked with the Business and Education Alliance. In addition, she serves as the resident agent for the Wichita Educational Foundation, an affiliate organization housed at the Chamber.

Chamber President Gary Plummer said, “I’ve always appreciated her resourcefulness and willingness to lead in so many important areas of the Chamber, including membership, fundraising, economic development and community advancement. The Chamber will continue to benefit immensely from the relationships she’s developed and fostered with our members, elected officials and community partners.”

Rather than retiring, Ahlstrand plans to re-charge during a short sabbatical and then redirect her talents and experience in the next phase of her career. Ahlstrand said, “I have a passion for Wichita and its people, and I look forward to spending time with family over the holidays before determining what’s next in this journey, working to advance our community,” Ahlstrand said.

That commitment can be seen in Ahlstrand’s service to the community before her Chamber career. She was a founding member of Botanica – the Wichita Gardens, Ronald McDonald Houses, the inaugural Zoobilee and the parent support organization for Wichita Collegiate School. She was also president of the Junior League of Wichita and the Sedgwick County Medical Auxiliary boards of directors. In addition she has served and continues to serve on multiple community boards.

A reception honoring Ahlstrand is planned for early next year.

Fire Back – A recap of the Sunrise Scrambler with Jared Estes

Sunrise Scrambler 072_cropIn 2005, Jared Estes, his wife Paige, and two friends were hit by a drunk driver on Kellogg. Jared sustained burns to more than 50% of his body, and Paige sadly did not survive the crash.

Jared shared his story with a sold-out Sunrise Scrambler crowd Wednesday morning at our annual non-profit showcase, where 34 area non-profits talked to attendees about their programs and services. Jared spoke about forgiveness and the power of positivity, two things he knows a lot about. He said that through the whole experience, he learned (and wants others to know) that no one has to be a victim to anything. Jared encourages people to be masters of their circumstances and fire back when life gets you down. He has decided to be happy, because that is what he knows Paige would want and what he would want for her if the roles were reversed.

Below are a few of Jared’s points and words of wisdom.

  • Grace – Grace is equal parts kindness, patience and forgiveness. Be someone who affords grace to those around you.
  • Goals – Setting long term goals helps you to keep going. Accomplishing short term goals add up to reaching the long term ones.
  • Teamwork – It is okay to ask for help. Everyone is going through trials in their own lives but people want to help one another.
  • Perspective – Perspective is both a burden and a gift, because it typically comes out of trying circumstances.
  • Letting Go – Jared had to let go of both Paige and the self he was before the accident and try to be the best version of the self he is today.

KWCH 12 did a four-part series about Jared’s story. You can see it here.

A huge thank you to Jared for sharing his story with us, and thank you to Emprise Bank and Hyatt Regency Wichita for sponsoring the event.

See photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Chamber adopts 2015 Legislative Agenda

The Chamber board of directors recently adopted the 2015 Chamber Legislative Agenda based on issues identified by Chamber members and staff that could impact business in the upcoming year. The agenda is designed to support the Chamber’s strategic priority of creating a better business environment that promotes investment, innovation, and job creation. The Chamber will be advocating for these business principles in Topeka during the 2015 session.

State Budget – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes the State should practice fiscal discipline.

  • Reduce or maintain state spending at FY15 (July 2014-June 2015) level
  • Seek out efficiencies and implement priority- or performance-based budgeting throughout all levels of state government
  • Establish a “BRAC-like” process for closure or realignment of government functions and agencies
  • Move the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System from a defined benefit system to a defined contribution system
  • Funding decisions should be at the sole discretion of the legislature and not the court system
  • Establish Rainy Day Fund by placing State General Fund ending balance into fund
  • Support outsourcing state government functions to the private sector while main- taining needed services

Taxation – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes in a fair and equitable system of taxation that promotes private sector growth and makes Kansas more competitive.

  • Support continued business tax reform including reduction of the Kansas corporate income and Kansas privilege tax
  • Continued support of long-term state tax structure reform including further reduc- tion/elimination of personal income tax including future tax cuts in existing statute
  • Oppose increases in business taxes/fees that would negatively impact Kansas’ competitive environment
  • Oppose repeal of any existing sales tax exemptions on business inputs and services

Economic Development – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes the State should invest in economic development and develop programs that result in jobs and investment.

  • Support continued funding for the National Institute for Aviation Research
  • Create competitive economic development incentives and making Kansas a leader in innovative research, manufacturing, and technology
  • Retain and enhance tax incentives to include more flexible investment and job development tax credits with options for cash incentives

Investment-friendly Business Environment – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a low-cost business environment is critical in order to be a competitive and attractive business destination.

  • Support legislation to allow admission of evidence that shows plaintiff’s losses have been compensated from other sources such as insurance or workers compensation, known as “collateral source”
  • Support legislation allowing parties to collect attorney fees as a prevailing party
  • Support policies which maintain the integrity of the Employment Security Trust Fund, and accurately reflect the employer experience rating when determining contribution rates
  • Encourage federal resolution to immigration reform and oppose state legislation increasing penalties or threatening the business licenses of employers
  • Maintain fair labor practices by opposing unfair advantages for union organizations

Regulatory Environment – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes there must be certainty in the regulatory environment in order for business to grow and relocate in Kansas.

  • Support legislation that creates a state OSHA plan
  • Support legislation that eliminates/reduces the requirements of Kansas Renewable Energy Portfolio
  • Support reforms in the unemployment insurance program that create a more pre- dictable employer assessment
  • Prohibit State and Federal Agencies from misusing rule and regulation authority in place/lieu of policy decisions made by the legislature

Transportation – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a strong transportation infrastructure is critical in developing and expanding commerce.

  • Urge continued state financial participation in efforts to continue low-cost air service from Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport
  • Ensure dedicated transportation funding streams only be used for the transportation program
  • Support the current comprehensive state transportation program

Environmental Resources – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes environmental management must take a balanced and reasonable approach that protects the environment without putting unnecessary burdens on business.

  • Support on-going funding for existing Equus Beds Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project

Education and Workforce Development – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a strong education system is vital in workforce and talent development.

  • Support continued funding for the National Center for Aviation Training as part of on-going workforce development critical to the aviation manufacturing cluster
  • Support a funding formula for K-12 schools that protects the high urban poverty weighting and the current at-risk formula
  • Encourage the Legislature to allow local school districts to have more flexibility in how state dollars are spent within their school district
  • Support growing the Kansas economy through applied research and private-public partnerships, like university/business innovation programs, at all higher education institutions
  • Support career and technical education programs, including the Governor’s Career and Technical Education Initiative, to ensure an abundant and skilled workforce
  • Oppose any language or budget proviso that interferes with the Postsecondary Tiered Technical State Aid Cost Model
  • Support an increased focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning initiatives

Please contact the government relations team if you have any questions or comments.

Chamber President, Chairman be to featured on Lite Is Local broadcast

Lite is Local 001_smallChamber President Gary Plummer and 2015 Board Chairman Jon Rosell will be the featured guests on Sunday morning’s Lite Is Local broadcast on 99.7 LITE FM. During the interview with host Gayla Crouse, the two share their favorite takeaways from our recent Annual Meeting with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, as well as what the new 2015 Chamber board members bring to the table.

In regards to the Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Agenda, Gary states the goal as establishing “predictability for business.” Jon also lets us in on his vision for the upcoming year, and you may be surprised by his answer. Tune to 99.7 LITE FM this Sunday at 8 a.m. to hear his response.

Lite is Local airs every Sunday at 8 a.m. on 99.7 LITE FM. Hear podcasts of past interviews on their website.