Should Wichita support startup companies?

By Phyllis Robertson

The answer is an absolute and unequivocal yes!  Entrepreneurism is a critical catalyst for the economy.  Studies show that startups account for about 70% of job creation globally, and in some markets, that figure grows as high as 90%.  Startups that use technology more effectively create, on average, twice as many jobs and are more productive and profitable than companies who don’t.

Furthermore, the shrinking lifecycle of many products and services due to advancement in technologies, and job displacement from automation mean that the creation of new industry sectors and products is essential.  For example, the printing industry is projected to lose 16% of its jobs by 2018, while motor vehicle parts manufacturing’s projected loss is almost 19%.  Even more extreme is semiconductor manufacturing which forecasts losing 33% of the jobs it had in 2008.

If we want Wichita to thrive and grow, then encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs is vital.  Startup Weekend Wichita is a creative way to do just that.  It provides an energizing environment for collaboration, exploration, and ideation.  It centers on technology – an essential sector for our future.  It’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs and other business professionals to work together on new ideas that just might generate a huge win.  At a minimum, it continues the conversations and momentum from last month’s ICT Unconference on strengthening our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

There are numerous ways the community can support the incredible entrepreneurial talent we have.  Get started and take advantage of the immediate opportunity to participate in Startup Weekend Wichita!

Phyllis Robertson
Vice President of Business Services
Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce

Building a Culture that Delivers World-Class Service

Jamie Haenggi

Jamie Haenggi

A recap of the May Sunrise Scrambler

Chamber member Protection 1 embraces a two-word mission statement:  To Grow.  The company’s 2,500 employees at 75 branches clearly understand how to accomplish that mission.

During today’s Sunrise Scrambler, Jamie Haenggi, Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer for Protection 1 Business & Home Security Systems, shared her company’s ambitious and successful journey towards improving their customer service.  The company’s new culture is a result of clear and consistent messaging about mission and objectives, an employee training program that actually starts during the interview process, and attracting employees who understand and embrace accountability.

Haenggi shared a number of ideas with the audience about the importance of cross-training, setting measurable expectations, and constant education about the connection between the company’s measurable metrics and the customer experience. The company’s measurable metrics include dependability, average handling time, quality, attitude and experience. Identifying, discussing and overcoming the obstacles to meeting the goals for those metrics are all part of the coaching experience. Bringing a GREAT attitude to work every day is considered as important as meeting and exceeding measured goals. In fact, Haenggi says she tells employees that attitude can sometimes trump metrics, since a poor attitude inevitably affects the team’s performance.

A Coaching Certification Program, readily available employee stats, and employee engagement programs have increased customer retention rates and earned Protection 1 numerous industry awards. The bottom line according to the company’s CEO, “If you take care of your customers, everything else will fall into place.” Understanding that engaged employees translates to satisfied custoemrs, Protection 1 places great value on their employees and the personal attention they provide customers.

To learn more about their innovative investment in their employees and their customers, follow this link to an article in SDM magazine. Check this page for photos from today’s event, and visit our SlideShare account to see Jamie’s full presentation.

A special thanks to Jamie for sharing her time with us today and our sponsors Legacy Bank, Friends University and Davis-Moore for helping us bring this inspiring and educational presentation to our members. For more info on Jamie, connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter, and check out this recent “A conversation with…” article from the Wichita Eagle.

Reserve your space now at our next Sunrise Scrambler on June 18, when Dan Oblinger, Director of Training with the National Screening Bureau, will discuss how to “Listen Like a Negotiator.”

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

We’re seeking your input on jobs plan

Wayne Chambers, 2014 Board Chairman

Wayne Chambers

(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

Walk/run in June for the puppies, the hearts, and the arts!

Saturday, June 7 – Fido 5K and Puppy Parade
Come run with your dog! This is a RunWichita race to benefit the City of Wichita Dog Parks. There will be a 5k followed by a 1/2 mile fun run/walk with prizes for biggest, smallest, best dressed, etc. dogs.

Saturday, June 14 – 2014 Wichita Heart Walk
Join the American Heart Association for their “Mission In Action,” encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and raising funds to future their work.

Saturday, June 21 – 2014 Ballet Wichita 5k Art Run
Grab your tutu and come a-runnin’ for the 3rd Annual Ballet Wichita 5K Art Run. Enjoy entertainers along the route and great food at the finish. Then help create pieces of art in real time with the SILK EXPERIENCE.


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

National Small Business Week: May 12-16

SmallBusinessStickerEach year since 1963, the U.S. President has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. This year, that week falls on May 12-16.

Small Business Week helps us make a conscious effort to stop and thank the small businesses in our communities for everything they do. For example:

  • More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business.
  • They create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
  • Small businesses (defined by the Chamber as fewer than 100 employees) account for 88% of our membership base.
  • More than 44% of Chamber member businesses have fewer than 10 employees.

We know that being an entrepreneur and/or small business owner is not easy. It is often filled with long days, small paychecks, and few “thank yous.” But we want you to know that we appreciate you. Our community and country would not be what it is without your dedication and hard work.

So whether you run a restaurant, a salon, a tech start-up, or any of the countless other small businesses, we thank you and we love you! Happy Small Business Week!


Jobs Fund Proposal initiates needed community discussion

Several City Council members expressed their appreciation yesterday for the work that has been done to prepare the Jobs Fund Plan titled, Will Wichita Accelerate Competition for Primary Jobs? Time for a Community Discussion. The Plan was presented to the Wichita City Council during a workshop session by Gary Schmitt, the Chairman of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC).

City Council members posed some thoughtful questions following the presentation. Council Members Jeff Blubaugh (representing District 4) and James Clendenin (representing District 3), wanted to know more about the source of funding for the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) and how it has been used to attract businesses to that state. According to the Texas Governor’s web site, TEF is the “largest deal-closing fund of its kind in the nation.” The TEF is an example of the accelerated competition Wichita faces for keeping and growing our own local companies as well as attracting new businesses to the community, but there are many other examples closer to home. As Gary Schmitt pointed out, this proposed Jobs Fund is about making us more competitive with other cities, states, and countries.

City Council member Janet Miller (representing District 6), expressed her hope that the community would provide feedback to the plan, so that the Council would have a clearer idea about what the public thinks about the issue. We agree. The purpose of the proposal was to initiate more community-wide conversation about the importance of growing jobs in our community. One of Gary Schmitt’s closing remarks during his presentation included Wichita State University Basketball Coach Gregg Marshall’s mantra, “Ask yourself, are you satisfied?”

Are we satisfied with our community’s slow recovery from the loss of 31,000 jobs in recent years?  We all have family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors who have been affected by these jobs losses. If we are not satisfied, then we need to decide how we are going to change our course. Community leaders are interested in hearing from you about your reaction to the proposal and how high you rank job growth among the many important issues the community’s leadership is currently reviewing. Please share your comments at this email address:

As noted in an earlier posting, the Plan is a working document that will likely change with input from the community, business leaders, and the City Council. The current edition is available at this link.

Chamber announces 10th Annual Small Business of the Year recipients

Icon Structures Inc. and Balco, Inc. are the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Small Businesses of the Year, marking the 10th year for the award program. The Chamber made the announcement today at a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Award finalists were divided into two tiers based upon number of full-time employees. Icon Structures Inc. represents Tier One (businesses with 1 – 25 full-time employees), and Balco, Inc. represents Tier Two (businesses with 26-100 full-time employees).

The luncheon was presented by Eric Fisher Academy and Great Plains Communications, the 2013 Small Business of the Year winners. Jon Rolph, President of Sasnak Management Corp., gave the keynote address.

Small businesses make up more than 85 percent of the Chamber membership and recognizing their accomplishments is vitally important. The small business awards program is designed not only to provide small businesses the recognition they deserve but to also give other small businesses a chance to learn from the best.

2014 Top 10 Small Businesses
Tier One (1 – 25 full-time employees
Cassandra Bryan Design
Chapple Insurance Group
Icon Structures Inc.
Kansas Truck Equipment Co., Inc.
Mize & Co., Inc.

Tier Two (26 – 100 full-time employees)
Balco, Inc.
Building Controls and Services Inc.
J.P. Weigand & Sons Inc.
Mid American Credit Union
Zernco, Inc.

Videos highlighting each of the finalists can be seen on the Chamber’s YouTube channel:

See photos from today’s event on the Chamber’s Facebook page.

Tier One - Icon Structures

Brandon and Tricia Wilson (middle) of Icon Structures Inc. accepts the Tier One award from Wayne Chambers (left) and Gary Plummer (right).

Tier Two - Balco

Ronnie Leonard (center), CEO of Balco, Inc., accepts the Tier Two award from Gary Plummer (left) and Wayne Chambers (right).

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.