GWEDC Aggressively Pursuing New Leads

Wichita received some outstanding economic development news this week with the final selection of McConnell Air Force Base for the KC-46A Refueling Tanker mission. The base will benefit from $219 million in improvements to prepare for the mission and the new mission strengthens the local economy in numerous ways that will show long-term benefits.

Less than 24 hours after the announcement from the Air Force, Spirit AeroSystems announced that it is filling 250 open positions in Wichita, while 575 Kansas employees at Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft received 60-day layoff notices. Airbus has also announced pending layoffs.

These types of announcements strengthen the resolve of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) to provide more employment certainty for our skilled workforce. Aggressively pursuing opportunities to grow our established businesses and attract new ones will help our community retain experienced employees and their families.

The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) staff believes this quarter will set a new record for the number of leads generated. They have been primarily focusing on three sectors this month: non-aviation manufacturing, additive manufacturing, and pitching the Boeing facilities.

Non-Aviation Manufacturing
GWEDC President Tim Chase and VP-Business Development Debra Teufel spent 12 days in Germany earlier this month. The first part of their trip was devoted to making connections during the world’s largest annual manufacturing trade fair,  Hannover Messe. Chase and Teufel held 25 meetings with technology company representatives during their four-day stay. Held April 7-11, the fair is made up of over 20 halls filled with 5,000 exhibitors representing 100 nations. About 180,000 industrial company representatives attended this year.

Debra Teufel at the Hannover Fair 2014

                                        Debra Teufel at the Hannover Fair 2014

Chase and Teufel also spent time in Bremen to capitalize on relationships that were established when GWEDC hosted a 30 member Bremen delegation in Wichita last fall. Bremen shares some interesting workforce similarities with Wichita and officials there reciprocated with meetings and tours of some of their manufacturing and assembly facilities, including those operated by Airbus (where the wings of the A330 and A350 XWB Aircarft are equipped with relevant systems) and Mercedes. In addition to discussing similar supply chains and learning more about the special development effort that has resulted in  Airport City Bremen, information about WSU’s proposed Innovation Center were shared with three engineering companies that are possible candidates for establishing a US presence.

Additive Manufacturing
Beth Shelton, Manager of Business Development for GWEDC, attended an Additive Manufacturing Users Group conference in Tucson, Arizona. Utilizing the unique expertise found at user group events vs. traditional trade shows proved to be extremely more enlightening as GWEDC prepares our strategy.  Beth established additional contacts in the 3D Printing industry to those identified at last year’s Aerospace and Defense event by Tim and Debraand was able to familiarize them with the technical expertise available in Wichita.

Pitching the Boeing Facilities
GWEDC is reaching out to a variety of companies that can re-occupy the vacant Boeing properties. One primary use would be for large aircraft modification.  Beth Shelton participated in GWEDC’s first time at the MRO Americas Conference & Exhibition. The Conference was well attended with 10,000 registered attendees and over 720 exhibitors representing 72 countries. More than 25 Wichita companies exhibited. Beth had pre-arranged meetings with several of the largest MRO companies in the world.

Follow this link for a webinar that was posted this week with more information about the role of the GWEDC.

Promoting New Ventures in Wichita – Your Help Needed!

Two of the Chamber’s most important strategic priorities this year are:

JOB CREATION – We are focused on growing the regional economy through the retention and creation of high-quality primary jobs and new capital investment by new and existing businesses.

SMALL BUSINESS – Meeting the critical needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Wichita metro area

I’m pleased that the Chamber is involved in the promotion of two upcoming events that align with these important strategic priorities.

ICTUnconferenceThe Chamber is a sponsor of the ICT Unconference that will be held at the Wichita Marriott Hotel on Tuesday, April 22. The ICT Unconference has a simple mission:  to gather the region’s innovative entrepreneurs so they can learn from each other and exchange ideas. This is a very interactive opportunity to get involved with new ideas and ventures. The Chamber’s Tech Alliance is a sponsor of the event through the Knight Foundation and Wichita Community Foundation. The Chamber’s Leadership Council Entrepreneurship Task Force is also sponsoring the event. Representatives of both of these Chamber initiatives will be attending, participating, and staffing a booth at the Conference. You can also look for representation from another Chamber affiliate, the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW). YPW Executive Director Suzy Finn is an official conference Ambassador.  Gary Oborny, CEO/Chairman of Occidental Management is also an official conference Ambassador. Oborny is also leading the Leadership Council’s Entrepreneurship Task Force along with Scott Schwindaman of Lubrication Engineers.

How can you participate? Click here to register to attend. Be sure to stop by the Chamber’s booth to take a short survey and learn more about the work of the Tech Alliance and the Entrepreneurship Task Force.
Shocker New Venture Competition Logo

The 2014 Shockers New Venture Competition was created by the Wichita State University (WSU) Center for Entrepreneurship to inspire students to put their entrepreneurial principles into practice. The Trade Show will be held on April 25 from 3-6 p.m. at Koch Arena, where 16 teams will display their products and business concepts in a trade-show format. The Reception and Awards Ceremony is May 2 from 4-6 p.m. at Devlin Hall Lobby.  All of the events are on WSU’s main campus. Contact Tia Bodine, Coordinator of Operations and Student Services, by email at or by phone at 316-978-3000.

How can you participate? Click on this link to sign up to as a Judge. The deadline to complete the 2014 Judges Registration Form is Wednesday, April 23. You’re also invited to attend the Trade Show on April 25, and interact with some of the brightest students in the area. They welcome your input and feedback. Attend the Reception and Awards Ceremony on May 2, to see who walks away with more than $25,000 in prizes.

These events are important ways for our business community to foster new ideas and support new ventures. We hope to see you there!

Successful Business Leaders Share Valuable Insight

Jim Holt of Mid American Credit Union

Jim Holt of Mid American Credit Union

The April Sunrise Scrambler event is always devoted to learning lessons from our Small Business Awards finalists.   It’s a rare opportunity to hear directly from some of our must successful business leaders. We’ve summarized some of the insights that were shared at today’s Scrambler by each of our speakers. All ten of the award finalists are profiled in today’s Wichita Eagle, so be sure to follow the links below to learn more from each of their success stories. See photos from today’s event here.

Ashley Thill, President & CEO of Zernco

It’s important for the company’s new leader to build their own team when leadership transition takes place.

Chock Chapple, CEO of Chapple Insurance Group

Providing excellent customer service is instrumental to your success. The key components of growth are ensuring that you have good associates, clients, and vendors.

Levi Mabe, Director of Development for Cassandra Bryan Design

Internet presence is critical for your business. It’s imperative for your customers to be able to locate you quickly so that you can provide the solutions they need.

Jim Holt, President of Mid American Credit Union

Dedication to providing world-class service produces growth and success. Spend time with each staff member to engage, educate and inspire service improvements that will differentiate your business.

Ken Stoppel, President of Building Controls and Services

                – A blend of hard work and intelligence assures success, but hard work is the most important of the two attributes.

                -Communicating properly, effectively and promptly helps convey your integrity.

                -Demonstrating honesty, dignity, and respect in all of your conversations, especially the difficult ones, is imperative.

                -Combining people and technical skills results in optimal success.

                -Starting your own business requires a great deal of sacrifice and passion.   

Maurice Linnens, President of Kansas Truck Equipment

Becoming a business owner is a challenging and an incredible experience. Don’t delay getting started.

Dawn Truman, President of J. P. Weigand & Sons

Creating and maintaining a culture that allows employees to grow personally and professionally is imperative. Show appreciation by celebrating your employees’ milestones and visibly demonstrate your care for them when they encounter challenging situations.

Brandon Wilson, President of Icon Structures

Diversification is satisfying and enjoyable for business owners and employees. Cross-training ensures success.

Pat Robinson, President of Mize & Company

Resilient employees are a huge key to business success. Hire people who provide peer pressure to produce results and are always willing to do more.

Ronnie Leonard, President of Balco

Rigorous testing and continual product enhancement ensure that you are providing your customers with the best possible products.

The Small Business Awards Luncheon is less than three weeks away. You’ll want to attend on May 7, when the2014 Small Business of the Year Award winners are announced. Be sure to register soon!

Run, walk, or cycle at these May Chamber member events

May is just around the corner and so are several opportunities to get out and get some fresh spring air while doing good things for our community!

Sunday, May 4 – Prairie Fire Spring Half Marathon
Take part in the Spring Prairie Fire half marathon, 5K, or the Fun Run/Walk. Registration closes on April 18, so register now!

Girls on the Run 2013

Girls on the Run 2013

Saturday, May 10 – Girls on the Run Spring 5K
Girls on the Run of Sedgwick County, a life changing, non-profit prevention program for girls in the 3rd through 8th grade, is hosting a 5K run starting at the Wichita Boathouse. Proceed benefit the Girls on the Run Scholarship Fund.

Saturday, May 10 – American Diabetes Association Wichita Tour de Cure
Tour de Cure is a cycling event to help stop Diabetes. The American Diabetes Association is offering three rides this year including a 5 mile family ride, 50K and 100K. It’s fun and it’s for a great cause – raising funds in support of the nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes and their families.

Saturday, May 24 – Ronald McDonald House Charities Color Me Rad 5K
Color Me Rad is coming to Wichita (to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities) with a tsunami of color that’ll make colored tears of joy run down your cheeks and will renew your will to live. Visit to register and use the Promo Code “CHARITY” to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities® Wichita.

Saturday, May 31 – Kansas Health Foundation River Run 2014
Kick off Riverfest 2014 by participating in a 10K, 2 Mile, Tot Trot, or the Family 2-Mile Walk. River Run features a terrific downtown route adjacent to the Arkansas River, a high-energy finish line, bib tag timing, and live music at the WaterWalk Stage. All registrants receive a Riverfest button and commemorative T-shirt.

We have probably missed some of the great things our members are doing in May, so please contact Courtney Sendall at if you are hosting a run/walk as well.

YPW Leadership Update

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Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) recently announced some changes to their leadership roles. Ian Worrell of INTRUST Bank is now serving as the 2014 Chair. Originally slated to serve as chair-elect in 2014, he accepted this position change when the original 2014 Chair, Lora Jennings of Martin Pringle, transferred to the firm’s Overland Park office. Worrell joined YPW in 2011 and chaired the Community Relations team in 2012 and 2013.

Laura Bernstorf of Airbus Americas Engineering is serving as the Chair-Elect.  Bernstorf has volunteered for YPW since 2011 and served on the board for a year as Secretary.  Upon Bernstorf’s role change, Katie Gribble of Cornejo & Sons was selected to serve as Secretary for 2014.  Gribble has served on the Leadership Link team since 2011.

The complete list of new 2014 YPW officers is as follows:

  • Ian Worrell, INTRUST Bank, Chair
  • Laura Bernstorf, Airbus Americas Engineering, Chair-Elect
  • Katie Gribble, Cornejo & Sons, Secretary

There is also a change coming to the YPW staff. Jaime Dupy has accepted a position within the Chamber supporting both the Business Services and Government Relations departments. She will move into this newly created position effective May 1.

“Losing a staff member or volunteer leader from YPW is always bittersweet,” said YPW Executive Director Suzy Finn. “Both Lora and Jaime will be missed, but we are proud of the steps they are taking to move forward in their careers. I am confident that the new volunteer leadership team will continue to build on what has happened in the past nine years to contribute toward a better future for Wichita.”

YPW is actively searching for applicants to fill the position that Dupy vacated. A full job description is listed on the YPW website.

Wayne Roberts – McConnell Air Force Base Champion

Roberts, H. Wayne with flag

Wayne Roberts

It’s been gratifying to see Wichita State University basketball coach Gregg Marshall winning national accolades for his outstanding leadership during the last several weeks. Everyone recognizes that success depends on leaders who believe in your cause, develop winning strategies, and then implement their plans with passion.

The Chamber’s Tanker Task Force was fortunate to enjoy that type of leadership under volunteer Wayne Roberts. A member of the Chamber’s Friends of McConnell organization, Roberts received the highest recognition that a local military installation can bestow upon a civilian several years ago when he was appointed a Golden Eagle and an Honorary Commander. These appointments were in  recognition of his support of local airmen and his volunteer efforts on their behalf.

Roberts took the reins of the Tanker Task Force when it was formed in 2012, and began focusing his efforts on doing everything possible to ensure that McConnell won the new KC-46A program.

In August of that year, Roberts led a delegation including representatives from Sedgwick County, GWEDC and the Chamber to the Pentagon where they met with the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force and other personnel who were strategically involved in the selection process for the basing of the KC-46A.

Recognizing that the national competition for this program would be fierce, Roberts and Friends of McConnell President Jack Pulley kept elected officials, community leaders, and the media briefed on the program’s developments.  In the spring of 2013, he and a select group of Task Force members met with Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base to brief General Paul Selva and others on the many advantages of selecting McConnell Air Force Base for the critical new mission.

The Tanker Task Force successfully promoted two information sessions in 2013 that the Air Force held to gauge public interest in the project. Both sessions were very well attended, in part because Roberts and Pulley spent time educating the public about these opportunities through radio, TV, and newspaper interviews. Roberts and Pulley were the always-available spokespersons on all things related to the Tanker project.

The importance of the KC-46A program to the economy of South Central Kansas cannot be overstated. And Wichita received more good news about it last month. We’re one step closer to celebrating the final announcement this year that the KC-46A program will officially arrive at McConnell Air Force Base in 2016. U.S. Rep Mike Pompeo shared the news with local media that the Base has passed the last step of the process with a positive environmental impact study. An Air Force spokesperson confirmed that the Base is on track for an official announcement this spring that it will be the first main active-duty base to receive the new tankers. Links to some of that media coverage are available here:

As we await the final announcement, it’s a fitting time to recognize our community leaders who have devoted so much time and expertise to securing this new mission for McConnell.  Wayne Roberts has long recognized that McConnell Air Force Base is a critical contributor to the area economy.  And he has spent the last two years of his time in Wichita making sure that Wichita doesn’t have to contemplate what the community would have faced if the Base hadn’t been at the top of the list for the new tankers.

We wish Wayne and his wife, Norma, all the best as they retire from their leadership positions at Pioneer Balloon and begin a new phase of their life in another part of the country. We’ll miss his leadership, expertise and passionate support of McConnell Air Force Base. Wichita is better prepared for the future thanks to his dedication.