Chamber Invests Resources in Project Wichita

by Bill Wood, 2018 Chamber Chairman and Partner at Foulston Siefkin LLP

The formation of a new community vision process, Project Wichita, was announced at the Chamber’s Chairman’s Luncheon on February 1. Since that time the organizers have received financial commitments from more than 60 area organizations and businesses interested in ensuring the success of this new initiative.

Bill Wood leads the Chamber Board as Chairman in 2018.

The Chamber’s participation in Project Wichita includes a financial pledge as well as a commitment to set up focus groups and encourage participation in the process. I’m pleased to be one of three official representatives of the Chamber who are members of the Project Wichita Visioning Team. Jonathan Long, the Chamber’s Director of Community Advancement, joins me on the leadership team as does Hutton Construction CEO and Chamber Board member Ben Hutton. Long is also undertaking facilitator training for Project Wichita focus groups.

Debbie Gann, Vice President Communications & Public Affairs for Spirit AeroSystems, and Scott Schwindaman, President and CEO of Lubrication Engineers, are two of the four Project Wichita co-chairs. Both have recently led our Board of Directors and both continue to be involved in advancing the community. The other two co-chairs also represent Chamber members. Juston White is the Executive Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas, and Aaron Bastian is President at Fidelity Bank.

Listening sessions and surveys will take place through the middle of the year and I have a very specific call to action for each of you. Please participate in a Project Wichita focus group, community event or a survey to identify the issues that are most critical for community success, and please fully engage in the process and ensure that others do the same.
I’m pleased to share with you that the Chamber is diligently working to host several Project Wichita focus groups using the digital toolkit developed by Project Wichita.

Investor Engagement – We’re hosting a focus group on April 19 for input from a joint meeting of our Board of Directors and Board of Advisors. Representatives from the Boards of YPW, Wichita Hispanic Chamber, Heartland Black Chamber and our Small Business Committee will also participate.

Small Business Committee – In addition to participating in the April 19 event, our Small Business Committee will meet on April 25th to develop a plan to solicit more input specifically from small businesses in the region.

Past Chairs – Past Chairmen and Chairwomen of the Chamber will gather on May 1 for a focus group so that we can solicit their unique perspective on Project Wichita discussion questions.

Diversity & Inclusion – Participants from last year’s Diversity & Inclusion listening tour will be invited to a focus group on May 14 and then encouraged to host focus groups with those within their own networks.

Regional Partners – The Chamber is leading a focus group on May 16 in Newton for input from  representatives of area Chambers and Economic Development groups.

Leadership Wichita Alumni – A date for an alumni focus group is being targeted and Leadership Wichita is also working with USD 259 to train high school students as facilitators for classroom focus group sessions.

YPW – Our affiliate, the Young Professionals of Wichita, will host three focus group sessions. Two will be scheduled on area college campuses to ensure participation at the collegiate level.

I look forward to sharing more information with you about this important visioning process as the year progresses.

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.

Leadership Wichita Nominations Increase 68% in 2017

Claudio J. Ferraro is the President of Via Christi Hospital Wichita St. Teresa, Inc. His guest blog post appeared on May 16.

The nominations and completed applications for our 2017 Leadership Wichita class are in. And for the second year in a row we’ve experienced an increase in applicants. From 2011-2015, the Chamber averaged 90 nominations per year. In 2016 we received 120 nominations. This year the number increased to 202.

Nearly 1,000 local business, government and military leaders have completed the immersive leadership experience since it was initiated in 1983. During the last two years the Chamber’s Marketing and Communications team has worked closely with the Community Advancement group to increase the program’s visibility, differentiate it from other local training initiatives and increase the number of qualified nominees.

Suzy Finn, the Director of Community Advancement, attributes increased engagement from the program’s Board of Trustees and the development of a new integrated marketing plan for the recent successes. “During the last two years our Marketing and Communication staff has worked with some of our high profile graduates to develop blog posts about their Leadership Wichita experiences. We shared their posts on the Chamber’s communication channels, including LinkedIn and other social media platforms. The Chamber’s printed monthly Update in the Wichita Eagle was also a great spot to share testimonials from our guest bloggers. Those testimonials were a big differentiator last year. We repeated that proven approach this year and also adjusted the nomination process so that each nominator could submit two names rather than being limited to one.”

Clark Bastian is the Chairman and CEO of Fidelity Bank. He shared a Leadership Wichita blog post on May 17.

The Chamber recently won an Integrated Ad Campaign award for last year’s successful Leadership Wichita nomination marketing and communication plan.

Invested volunteers and trustees make the difference in so many of the Chamber’s programs and initiatives, including Leadership Wichita. Our thanks to our three 2016 guest bloggers, Tammy Allen, Denise Sherman and Tyler Heffron, who helped the Chamber earn a 2017 Silver Award for an Integrated Ad Campaign from the Wichita American Marketing Association for last year’s successful nomination campaign. And to our 2017 guest bloggers, Clark Bastian and Claudio Ferraro, who helped us exceed the 200 nomination mark.

Watch for an announcement about the 2017 class participants in August. The first session in the program takes place on August 24. You can follow this link to learn more about the program on the Chamber’s website. To search for past participants, follow this link to the Leadership Wichita Directory.

Samia Joins Chamber Team

Gabri Samia joined the Chamber’s Community Advancement team this month.

Gabri Samia recently joined the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce as the Manager of Community Advancement. In her new position Samia will plan and execute several of the Chamber’s unique leadership development programs, including:  Leadership Wichita, City-to-City Leadership visits and Wichita Insight.

Samia’s role involves interacting with numerous community leaders and assisting with the Chamber’s inclusion and diversity programming. “Gabri really enjoys working with people and building community,” said Suzy Finn, Community Advancement Director for the Chamber. “She’s enthusiastic about working with others who want to continually improve Wichita and the region.”

A graduate of Wichita State University, Samia earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and minored in English. One of her past experiences includes teaching in South Korea. Her first day with the Chamber was May 9. She replaces Stef Flores who recently relocated to the Denver area.

Please help us welcome Gabri to your Chamber team.

Finn adds Community Advancement to her Chamber work

Suzy Finn is the Executive Director of the Young Professionals of Wichita.

Suzy Finn is expanding her Chamber work to include Community Advancement.

Suzy Finn thrives on connecting people, ideas, and resources. She’s been focusing that passion on the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) since she returned to Wichita to earn her MBA in 2010. As a YPW member and volunteer, and then later as the organization’s Executive Director, she’s been fully engaged in YPW’s mission to attract, engage and retain the diverse young talent mix that Wichita needs to drive economic growth and community advancement.

Finn understands the allure of leaving Wichita to establish a career in a larger metropolitan area. She’s been there and done that. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Studio Art at Marquette, she worked in the Washington, DC area for several years.

She also understands the many benefits of returning to your hometown to advance your career and how critical it is to widen and deepen Wichita’s talent pool. Her experience makes her a great choice to add Community Advancement to her Chamber resume.

Effective September 1, Finn will begin splitting her time between her current YPW work and her new endeavors in the Chamber’s Community Advancement area. A Program Coordinator will be hired to assist her in both areas. A news release was issued earlier today detailing her new Chamber responsibilities.

We’re confident that the Chamber programs in these two areas will be strengthened as a result of Finn’s commitment to the Chamber and we invite you to congratulate and support her in her newest endeavor.

Your 24-year old employees: What skills, abilities and qualities does your business need from them?

The Chamber and the Business and Education Alliance (BEA) are encouraging local business leaders to participate in a communication session about the future of education on Tuesday, June 2 at the Wichita Art Museum (1400 W. Museum Blvd) from 9 to 11 a.m. The session is being led by representatives of the Kansas State Department of Education and participants will be asked to weigh in on the following three questions:

Business leaders are urged to provide input to the Kansas Education Commissioner during a special session on June 2.

Business leaders are urged to provide input to the Kansas Education Commissioner during a special session on June 2.

  • What are the characteristics, qualities, abilities and skills of a successful 24-year old Kansan?
  • What are the needs of business and industry and what skills and abilities are lacking in today’s 24-year old?
  • How can business and industry partner with K-12 and higher education in creating the 24-year old that has those skills and abilities?

BEA member Ray Frederick is the President/Owner of Frederick Plumbing & Heating in Wichita. Frederick plans to participate because, “I believe it’s critical to integrate the 3 R’s of business (respect, responsibility and relationships) with the 3 R’s of education (reading, writing, and arithmetic).”

Information collected during the session will be used to help guide the state’s strategic plan for education. Additional events are being scheduled throughout the state as part of a state-wide initiative to involve the business community in shaping the future of the education of their workforce.

To RSVP for the event, please contact the Chamber’s Manager of Community Advancement, Renee Anderson at 316-268-1141 or randerson@wichitachamber.org. To learn more about the initiative, titled Kansas Children Kansas’s Future, please contact Penny Rice at Kansas State Department of Education, 785-296-3202 or price@ksde.org.