Chairman’s Lunch panelists announced

Our 2015 Chairman’s Lunch will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 5 at INTRUST Bank Arena. A panel of community leaders and elected officials will answer questions raised during the Fuel the Fire Speaker Series and what those answers mean for Wichita.

“Last fall, three national speakers spent some time in Wichita offering their ideas on national trends that are affecting Wichita – our quality of life, our workforce, and how we can retain and attract jobs,” Chamber President and CEO Gary Plummer said. “They posed some great questions for the community to consider, and we thought we would benefit from hearing what some of our local leaders have to say about these same topics.”

The program will emphasize the importance of continued collaboration between our business community, governing bodies, and educational institutions in promoting Wichita’s best economic development differentiators—our educated and experienced workforce.

2015 Chamber Chair Jon Rosell

2015 Chamber Chair Jon Rosell

The discussion, moderated by Chamber Chair Jon Rosell, will include the following panelists:

  • Dr. John Bardo, President, Wichita State University
  • Laura Bernstorf, Chair, Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW)
  • Carl Brewer, Mayor, City of Wichita
  • Richard Ranzau, Chair, Sedgwick County Commission
  • Gary Schmitt, Chair, Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC)

This community event is open to the public. Tickets are $50 for chamber members, $60 for general admission, and $650 for a corporate table sponsorship (includes eight tickets and sponsorship benefits). Call 268-1123 or visit wichitachamber.org to purchase tickets.

Your RSVP needed for next sales tax information session

Our thanks to City Manager, Bob Layton, and senior members of his team for spending time with Chamber members on Tuesday afternoon providing background information and answering questions about each of the four components of the proposed sales tax:  water supply, jobs initiative, public transit, and pavement maintenance. Gary Schmitt, Chairman of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, was also on hand to answer questions about the jobs initiative.

The audience posed a series of questions to the subject matter experts:

  • Is our jobs recovery just going to happen or is this jobs initiative necessary to get different results?
  • Will the funds generated by this sales tax be primarily used for capital investment rather than funding operations?
  • Will the city use local companies for the capital investment projects?
  • How sure are we that the Aquifer Storage and Recovery solution will really work?
  • The background information that’s been provided shows that the City is projecting an increase in water usage (7 billion gallons annually) by 2060. Is this increased demand primarily residential or commercial? Do your projections take into account increased revenues from increased usage?

Do you have similar questions? If so, we encourage you to participate in the last information session that will be held on Friday, July 18 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. This session is being offered exclusively to Chamber members, so please RSVP by noon on Thursday to Tracy Iles at tiles@wichitachamber.org or 268-1114.

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Is Wichita Satisfied?

Gary Schmitt

Gary Schmitt

(reprint of guest editorial published in the Wichita Eagle May 18, 2014 by Gary Schmitt, chairman of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition.)

Wichita’s economic recovery has been painfully slow. We’ve worked hard at finding ways to replace the 31,000 jobs that were lost during the recession, but the competition has been fierce among neighboring states and even other countries. And the valuable jobs that we’ve lost in the aviation industry aren’t easy ones to replace.

Are we satisfied with the pace of our current recovery? Or are we ready to consider some bolder game-changing moves that will vault us to the top of the list among communities known for being business-friendly? These are challenging questions, and we need your voice to be heard.

Wichita is blessed with a rich heritage of hardworking entrepreneurs who have changed the world with their innovative products and services. The best way to grow our economy is to make sure we take good care of the companies we have here today, and we need to be doing more to help all of our small businesses that sell products and services outside of our community experience accelerated growth.

Growing “our own” also helps make our region even more attractive to companies outside of our state that may be thinking about relocating. It sends a strong message that this is exactly the kind of place where both your company and family can thrive.

Realizing we need to work a lot harder, community leaders have been asking the question: “How competitive do we want to be?” This simple question has initiated a cascade of passionate discussion.

We think the timing is right for the community to provide more input into the conversation, too. We need to talk about how many more jobs could be created if we have more competitive financial incentive packages for businesses that sell goods and services outside the community bringing in new dollars. Perhaps more important, it’s also time to discuss what happens if we don’t develop new tools to help our businesses grow new jobs.

Private-sector volunteer leaders believe our community needs to have all the right tools to be competitive. Financial incentives are one of the many tools our national and international competitors use to grow their local economies, and if we are to be competitive, we need to follow suit. There’s no indication the competition is going to reduce or eliminate their use of incentives in the future, which is forcing us to increase our efforts.

Financial incentives are used by companies to reduce operating costs at one location versus another. They can be used in a variety of ways to aid business growth, including workforce training and building permanent taxable assets that, in turn, keep everyone’s taxes lower.

So let the discussions begin, and as a community we can come to the right decision. It’s a complex issue and there aren’t any simple answers. That’s why we need the open conversation about all the ways to help our businesses expand and employ more people.

Are we satisfied with our status quo? Help us identify our community’s solutions to this issue by reviewing the plan and offering your suggestions at communications@wichitachamber.org.

Will Wichita Accelerate Competition for Primary Jobs?

Gary Schmitt

Gary Schmitt

Gary Schmitt, Chairman of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC), will present a Jobs Fund Plan to members of the Wichita City Council during a workshop held later this morning. The workshop takes place following the Council’s regular meeting.

You can follow this link to the May 2 edition of the Jobs Fund Plan that will be presented. The Plan, titled, Will Wichita Accelerate Competition for Primary Jobs?, was developed by leadership across the community to initiate a discussion about the importance of increasing Wichita’s competitiveness and funding stronger economic development tools. Please keep in mind that this is a working document and subject to input from the community, business leaders and the City Council.

We look forward to the important community discussion that will be generated by answering this important question.