Project Wichita Continues to Next Phase

By Bill Wood
Partner, Foulston & Siefkin
2018 Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce

Bill Wood leads the Chamber Board as Chairman in 2018.

Project Wichita is a community engagement process that is being utilized to identify the future we want for our region and the steps necessary to achieve it. The listening sessions and focus groups for the first phase of Project Wichita have concluded and the co-chairs for the initiative have reported that input was received from 239+ focus groups and 3,800+ participants, ranging in age from 9 to 90.

I’m pleased that our Chamber team initiated and led 9 focus groups with 274 participants as we sought responses from the Young Professionals of Wichita, Past Chairmen and Chairwomen of the Chamber, the Small Business Committee, our regional partners, the Board of Directors, our Board of Advisors and participants from our 2017 Diversity and Inclusion listening tour.

Project Wichita co-chairs have shared eight major topics that are on the minds of the community.

  • Downtown Area (Downtown development and innovation, Old Town, Delano and entertainment districts, retail shopping, etc.)
  • Riverfront (Create destination place for entertainment, leverage river as community destination, performing arts venue and conference/convention center)
  • Strong Neighborhoods and Communities (Affordable housing options, support unique and diverse neighborhood cultures, safety and infrastructure issues)
  • Cultural Arts and Attractions (Cultural investment in museums, art, entertainment and restaurants, natural attractions, festivals, diverse entertainment options)
  • Economic Opportunity (Industry diversity and balance, emphasis on technology, promote education hub, workforce development)
  • Transportation (Completion of Kellogg and regional expressways, enhanced/improved public transit, air serves and connections, passenger trains and bike/walking paths)
  • Education (K-12 improvement and investment, all levels of higher education and pathways, increased emphasis on STEM, establish goals for graduation and global preparedness)
  • Community Wellness (Mental health care, access to quality health care, care for aging populations and homelessness)

The next step in this process is underway. A digital survey launched on June 18. It will remain open through July 6. Your input is vital to this phase and we hope that you’ll share the link found on projectwichita.org with your colleagues and neighbors. The survey results will be used to develop an action plan focused on the next ten years.

As a member of the Project Wichita Visioning Team I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about any phase of the initiative. I welcome your input and I look forward to continuing to share more information with you during the process.

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.