Digital Wichita Elevates Local Social Media Practices

MEMBER MINUTE WITH DIGITAL WICHITA

Digital Wichita joined the Chamber on Monday, April 2. We’ve interviewed their co-chair, Phil Mershon, for a profile of the organization and to introduce the group to our membership.

Some of the current Digital Wichita Leadership Team members are pictured above. They’re currently working on several 2018 social media events for the Wichita area.

What’s the mission of Digital Wichita?
Our nonprofit group elevates social media practices through access to educational events with nationally-known speakers and authors.

How long has the group been bringing experts to Wichita?
A group of four digital entrepreneurs (Naomi Shapiro, J.D. Patton, Eba Hamid and Cindy Kelly) formed Digital Wichita in 2010 to exchange best practices and improve their own social media skills. The group also wanted to learn from the best practitioners and began producing educational events in 2015. Our first event attracted 225 attendees.

Over the years we’ve brought a number of experts to Wichita, including:  Marcus Sheridan (The Sales Lion), Mark Schaefer (Schaefer Marketing Solutions), Shannon Johnson (Alaska Air) and Jeff Sieh (Social Media Examiner). It’s very beneficial to Wichita when the nation’s leading social media experts make connections with area business leaders. They become national ambassadors for our business community.

Digital Wichita secured author Marcus Sheridan for a learning experience event that was held in Wichita last October.

To what do you owe your success?
We have a very focused, passionate and well-connected group of about ten people on our planning team. They all volunteer their time to plan these events and they have a history of working well together. They have access to numerous local resources, but they’ve also developed valuable national connections so that we can secure some of the most sought-after speakers for our events.

The partnerships we’ve developed with other area organizations have really expanded our outreach the last three years. Organizations like the Chamber, Applied Technology Acceleration Institute, Douglas Design District and WIBA share our passion for elevating their social media game. They help us reach more businesses and organizations who are interested in keeping on top of the latest social media tools, measurements and practices.

What’s your most recent success story?
Convincing former Disney executive Duncan Wardle to offer an all-day innovation workshop focused on design thinking in Wichita on April 19 has been very rewarding. We’re using a new model that makes it possible to offer the interactive and hands-on learning experience for $200 per person, a fraction of the usual price. His goal is to help people break through their creative blocks and push past ‘group think.’

Wichita’s entrepreneurial community has been re-energized during the last few years and so the timing is perfect for this workshop. Transforming a great idea into a real working business model requires unleashing and capitalizing on creativity. And sharing those breakthroughs through social media channels is a powerful way to expand on them.

We’re offering Chamber members a reduced cost through the Chamber member-to-member discount program so we hope to meet many of them when they attend. Use the code Chamber50 for $50 off.

Digital Wichita celebrated Social Media Day in 2017 with an event that featured a panel of the digital experts behind Wichita’s top Instagram accounts, including several local entrepreneurs.

How does your organization differ from other area marketing organizations?
We focus solely on social media and we’ve cultivated professional and personal relationships with well-known experts who speak all over the country. We aren’t trying to replace or compete with other marketing organizations. We really enjoy partnering with them and we’re very open to new and innovative ways to work together. We don’t have a monthly meeting or offer annual memberships. We stay laser-focused on one or two events per year.

Why do you like doing business in Wichita?
We really love the entrepreneurial spirit here. People are willing to keep trying until they succeed. This is a large community with a very tight-knit feel. People are very connected. You can generally get to anyone you need to reach with just a few conversations.

Why did you join the Chamber?
We went through the process of becoming a legal nonprofit entity last year. Joining the Chamber was the next logical step.

Becoming more adept at social media helps businesses of all sizes thrive locally and expand their global reach. We want them to succeed in marketing their goods and services internationally. So our mission definitely aligns with the Chamber’s efforts to improve the overall business environment in the region. We believe membership will increase our visibility and provide us with more opportunities to partner with other organizations and businesses.

What’s your favorite Chamber event?
I attended the Chamber’s Annual Meeting last year and I’ve always been impressed with the caliber of speakers who headline that event.

Do you have a charity component to your work?
We want our events to be affordable to companies and organizations of all sizes, so we just try to cover our basic expenses with a low registration fee. In the event that we do raise a little extra money, we’d definitely like to give back to the city that has helped shape us. We’re interested in donating to local nonprofits, especially those that use and understand the power of social media.

Please welcome Digital Wichita to the Chamber by following them on these social media channels:  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 Contact Kresta Dundas at 316-268-1115 if you are interested in joining the Chamber or know a company/organization that would benefit from Chamber membership.

Wichita Public Schools Show Community Pride

In case you missed it, yesterday’s monthly Wichita Eagle Chamber Update contained photos and information about how the Wichita Public Schools have been working with the business community on the #ILoveWichita campaign. Three initiatives are underway.

Wichita Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson points to the new decal that will be used at Wichita learning centers.

#ILoveWichita Decals
Nearly 80 businesses and organizations have applied a Chamber-sponsored #ILoveWichita decal to their doors to demonstrate their community commitment. The Wichita Public Schools have developed their own #ILoveWichita decal that also includes #WPSProud, a popular hashtag the school system has been using to demonstrate all the positive things being accomplished throughout the District.

The new decal has been permanently installed on the main doors at the system’s Administrative Center. Watch for nearly one hundred more decals going up early next year when they are distributed to learning centers across Wichita.

Wichita Flags
During the last ten months, new School Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson and her team have incorporated their own stylized version of the Wichita flag in t-shirts and other school materials. Last month, at the suggestion of students from Wichita State University’s Elliott School of Communication, the Together Wichita campaign donated ninety-three 3’x5’ Wichita flags to the school system so that every learning center could show their community pride.

Ben Jennings from The Wichita Eagle manages the Together Wichita initiative and made the presentation at the District meeting. Jennings is a long-time flag enthusiast and said it was an easy decision for the Board to approve the donation, “We don’t believe this has ever been done before and we loved the idea of making it happen.”

Dr. Thompson, who has been a student, teacher and administrator for the Wichita Public Schools, said, “It’s fantastic to see Wichita flags proudly flying at schools across our district. We matter to this community, and Wichita matters to us. Together Wichita’s donation of Wichita flags to every Wichita building allows us to remind the community how important that relationship is.”

The Wichita Regional Chamber is one of twenty-one organizations working year-round on community improvement projects under the banner of Together Wichita. (See the complete listing of participants on togetherwichita.com.) Organized, staffed and managed by The Wichita Eagle, past Together Wichita projects include bicycle and walking path signage, a Memories Park, community chalkboards, the Keepers on Parade and a large Together Wichita sign to display at area events.

Jack Lynch, a Southeast High School senior, will utilize this design for the Keeper sculpture donated by Ben Hutton.

Student Art
Ben Hutton, CEO of Hutton Construction, has also generously donated a Together Wichita Keeper of the Plains sculpture to USD 259. Hutton leads the Chamber’s Quality of Place Strategic Initiative and his company participates in the Together Wichita initiative.

Jack Lynch, a Southeast High School senior, will paint the Keeper, during his final semester. The finished sculpture will be unveiled in the spring of 2018. It will then be included on the Keepers on Parade map located on the Together Wichita website.

Visit TogetherWichita.com to learn more about how your organization or company can become involved and follow the organization on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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.”

Chamber Doubles Down on Education Policy

A new policy group at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce will give business a stronger voice on future education issues, particularly at the state level.

Barry Schwan 2016 Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

Barry Schwan
2016 Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

Barry Schwan, 2016 Chamber Chairman, announced the creation of the Chamber’s Education Policy Task Force consisting of representatives from the Wichita Metro Chamber’s Government Relations Committee (GRC) and from the Business & Education Alliance (BEA) at the Greater Wichita Partnership. Co-chairing the task force are Walter Berry and Lyndon Wells, who chair the GRC and BEA, respectively.

Schwan said the task force will start by focusing on two areas:  1) understanding changes to Kansas funding formula for K-12 education and the potential impact on Wichita Public Schools; and 2) working to expand the region’s workforce development capacity through both public and private resources.

The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce has been engaging members of the BEA in developing the Chamber’s education agenda since forming the BEA in 2012. The BEA is comprised of leaders from the business community, educational institutions and nonprofits interested in supporting a strong education system, from K-12 to higher education. “Through the BEA, the dialogue between business and education has resumed and significant improvement in cooperative advocacy has occurred which will continue to help our region grow an educated workforce that will meet the needs of our industries,” stated co-chair Lyndon Wells. Some of the issues on prior Wichita Metro Chamber state legislative agendas have included funding for the National Center for Aviation Training, more spending flexibility for local districts, technical training programs and increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In 2016, the Wichita Metro Chamber added language to its agenda that opposed cuts to K-12 public education. Schwan credits that position to the input of both business and education members. “It’s important for business leaders to carry on a dialogue with education leadership on matters of mutual interest,” said Schwan. “An educated workforce is clearly an important economic driver for the region.”

During his Chamber tenure, Schwan helped start the BEA and recruited its current co-chairs:  Wells, of INTRUST Bank, and Dr. Noreen Carrocci, president of Newman University.

Berry and Wells have assembled a small and focused working group that will engage additional stakeholders and experts throughout the process. “We know the education funding formula is critical to our future and business should be at the table as the funding formula discussions progress. We certainly appreciate the challenging job of our policymakers and look forward to our conversations with them,” said co-chair Walter Berry.

The co-chairs have begun their task force deliberations with a basic understanding of how the Kansas school formula has evolved in the past and the importance of a fully integrated education system linking resources and outcomes from pre-school through post-secondary training. Other task force members include Schwan (House of Schwan), Mark Nichols (Koch Industries), John Allison (Wichita Public Schools), Richard Taylor (Plumbers & Pipefitters), Brian Black (Spirit AeroSystems), Steve Cox (Cox Machine) and Sam Williams (retired).

Follow this link for KMUW coverage of this story.

The mission of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce is to drive economic growth and community advancement in the Wichita region. 

Friends University making positive strides

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 good fortune of attending a “State of the Organization” breakfast this week at Friends University in Wichita. Friends President Amy Bragg Carey updated a gathering of community leaders, faculty and boosters on major milestones hit by the University in the past year. It was an informative look at the pressures facing higher education today, including competition for students,  quality job placement for graduates, concerns about costs and rising student debt. It was these pressures, along with declining enrollment and a challenging financial outlook, that faced President Carey when she took over the helm in 2015.

The entire University community has responded well to this challenge, evidenced by the two-year Revitalization & Growth Plan adopted on campus. The plan focuses on Friends’ mission, focuses on the University’s strengths and proactively addresses the organization’s bottom line. Dr. Carey was quick to point out that the past year included some tough financial decisions, but has laid the groundwork for a turnaround at Friends University.

Of course, the success of any educational institution depends greatly on its ability to meet marketplace demands. Friends has a history of that and is nationally recognized for programs like zoology and spiritual formation. In the last year, they have also launched the first cyber security program in Wichita to meet the need to defend information infrastructure of business, government and the military. Friends also launched an innovative special education program that allows teaching licensure within a year, helping Kansas meet the increasing demand for special education teachers. Quality programs and affordability landed Friends at No. 44 on LendEDU’s 2016 College Risk-Reward Indicator. The indicator ranks institutions in terms of average student loan debt (risk) and average early career salary (reward). Friends was the highest ranking college in Kansas on the list.

At the conclusion of the presentation, one member of the audience summed up what everyone in the room was thinking: President Carey’s leadership in her first year has been the key to this turnaround at Friends. Dr. Carey deflects that credit to a supportive board and engaged team, but she certainly has built a tremendous culture on campus and is having an impact through her involvement in the Wichita Metro Chamber and other organizations. We are delighted to have Amy and Bryan as new members of the Wichita community!

 

 

 

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.

Chamber benefits from Kara’s classroom break

Kara Belew shared her considerable talents with the Chamber this summer and returns to USD#259 classrooms this month.

Kara Belew shared her considerable talents with the Chamber this summer and returns to USD#259 classrooms this month.

Some people fill every molecule in the air with electric energy as soon as they breeze through the door. Kara Belew is one of those unique dynamos.

Kara has been temporarily working at the Chamber this summer to help fill in the administrative gaps left from recent staff retirements. She accepted the position as a way to flex some of those business muscles and professional skills she doesn’t use on a daily basis when she’s teaching in USD #259 classrooms at John Marshall Middle School.

No task has been too complex or too large for her to tackle and she’s spent the summer sharing her organizational talents with us while brightening our days with her 700-watt smile. She’s increased her Wichita fan base by adding 24 Chamber employees to her roster of admirers. We’ve all benefited from the questions she’s asked staff about current procedures, the way she’s reorganized our resources and the new ideas she’s contributed.

We’ll miss Kara’s energy and enthusiasm as she winds down her duties this week to begin preparing her classrooms for a fresh group of new scholars. But we’re pleased that Wichita students will continue to benefit from her knowledge, expertise and positive disposition.

Our thanks to Kara and all of the other teachers and instructors who immerse themselves in the business world during their summer break from teaching. We know our future workforce will be better prepared when these teachers take their summer job experiences back to the classroom to share with their students. It’s a business and education alliance that pays dividends for all.

Recap of the 2014 Education Issue Forum

School superintendents from the Andover, Derby, Goddard, Maize, and Wichita public schools took part in a moderated discussion on education in front of 200 attendees at a luncheon hosted by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce on March 13. You can see photos from the event here.

Education Forum_crop

If you were unable to attend the event, click here to see the story by George Lawson with KFDI, or click here to watch the discussion on the Wichita Public School YouTube channel.

The superintendents discussed their daily challenges as well as the innovative ways they are now partnering with the Wichita Area Technical College and other institutions to provide students with technical skills. We’re very fortunate to have superintendents who demonstrate this level of leadership and who work closely with the business community. The superintendents invited  the audience to visit their schools and stressed the importance of purposeful dialogue and partnerships with the business community as they help develop the future workforce.

Special thanks to the superintendents for making the time to participate in this important discussion and to our Government Relations staff for arranging the event. Thank you also to our Business & Education Alliance who co-hosted the session. We also appreciate the leadership of Jon Rosell who chairs the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee and moderated the session.