Transforming Wichita: Vision vs. Vernacular

By Guest Blogger Jonathan Long

Jonathan Long is the Resource Manager at the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, as well as the President of the Wichita Urban Professionals. He participated in the Chamber’s 2015 City-to-City Leadership Visit to Greenville, SC, and some of his thoughts following the trip are below.

Wichita’s identity struggle isn’t about its moniker as much as it is about it misunderstanding the concept of identity.

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Long with the Wichita flag

At some point, Wichita went all-in on being “the air capital.” The city embedded the brand so deeply that it burned through the skin and ended up in Wichita’s DNA. The byproduct of such immersion is that, now, Wichita can’t see itself as more than this one thing. The sheer notion of being looked at as something else has led to much frustration and indecisiveness.

The concept of identity is very much rooted in development and evolving. My first and most consistent encounter with the concept of identity is in my experience as an African American male. Growing up, I faced a variety of misunderstood expectations, misconceptions and stereotypes about what it meant to be a black male. However, eventually, I learned that being a black male shapes my identity, but isn’t solely my identity – I am so much more.

Wichita needs to understand that it, too, is so much more.

During the annual City-to-City trip the Mayor of Greenville, SC, told our group of Wichita leaders that the starting point in Greenville’s transformation was visualizing what they wanted their city to be. We went downtown and we saw a socialization-focused landscape. We listened to cohesive presentations from different program directors and city officials and felt a progressive excitement.

They didn’t sell us a catchphrase. They sold us on a vision.

We all have diverse perspectives on Wichita, and our vision should be inclusive of these perspectives. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary and we are capable of creating it.

I believe in this because I see Wichita as an oasis of opportunity that extends beyond one specific ecosystem or experience.

In the book, “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball,” Kevin Carroll writes, “Each day is an opportunity to live out your life’s work. There will be quiet moments as well as defining moments, which – if you shine – will propel you further than you ever imagined.”

Our quiet moments have passed. It will be in these defining moments that our identity is one that shines or is more fitting for shade.

You can see Jonathan’s original blog post at http://www.jlongachieves.com/

Cindy Claycomb of WSU Ventures was another City-to-City participant, and she recapped some of the main takeaways in a Wichita Eagle Business Perspectives piece published last week. See it here if you missed it.