(reprint of guest editorial published in the Wichita Business Journal May 16, 2014)
Wichita and surrounding communities lost one in ten jobs during the recent recession. This does not include the full impact of Boeing leaving and the recent merger of Beechcraft and Cessna.
The fact is we are struggling as a community to regain a vibrant economy. This is in sharp contrast to those of our neighboring Midwest cities that are experiencing a more significant economic recovery.
There have been a number of surveys and community meetings recently and those who participated seem to agree that we need to restore the economy by growing jobs and getting serious about diversifying our economy. There is a sense of urgency. The difficult question is “What makes the most sense to do and how do we do that?”
As Chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Leadership Council, I have learned there are no simple solutions to creating jobs and it takes time. All communities engage in this somewhat complex process and it entails a number of steps that include community conversation. I’m glad the community conversation has started in our community.
Let me offer a few thoughts to help you start in your conversations:
- Be a part of the discussion rather than an observer on the sidelines. We need your thoughts to craft a long-term solution to move our economy along at a faster pace.
- Learn what other communities are doing to support jobs and grow their economies.
- Our community must have several plans to grow different types of jobs. One plan likely does not fit all needs. To be successful, we need a number of different tools in our tool box.
- We must get better and faster at growing our critically important Wichita-area based companies. We are an entrepreneurial community, and we need to revive that spirit, nurture the local entrepreneur, and then keep them here.
- We need to be competitive in creating primary jobs because they create other jobs. Primary jobs are those jobs that sell goods and services outside the community and return the dollars back to this community.
There is a proposal being considered within the community to create a $90 million ‘jobs fund’ that would allow us to be more competitive with other communities. That proposal has a number of features that should be discussed. I hope you will take time to review it here and provide input to this proposal.
All in all, the creation of jobs and revitalization of the local economy is a complex issue and requires a good amount of discussion. Be a part of the discussion and offer your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.