Top 5 Events of 2014

Tis the season to make lists, so we have made a list of the Chamber’s top five 2014 events.

5. Golf Classic – Held at the Wichita Country Club, 250 people took part in a day of networking on the green. Be sure to save the date of June 1 for this year’s Classic. See photos here.

4. Small Business Awards Luncheon – 350 people were in attendance to celebrate Small Business Excellence in the Wichita area. The 2015 program is already underway, so visit our website for more information about how you can be involved this time around. See photos here.

3. Chairman’s Lunch – 550 attendees heard a message about the need for Wichita jobs from community leaders at INTRUST Bank Arena. Tickets for the 2015 Chairman’s Lunch on Feb. 5 are on sale now. See photos here.

2.  Honors Night – A record-setting 700 people gathered to celebrate individuals and businesses who have an enhanced our community as a whole. Follow our blog (via the orange “Follow” button in the top right corner of this screen) to be the first to know who our 2015 honorees will be. See photos here.

1. Annual Meeting with Dr. Condoleezza Rice – Our most popular event of 2014 was when 3,000 people had the opportunity to hear a message about leadership from the former U.S. Secretary of State. See photos here.

2014 was a great year and we are looking forward to an even better 2015!

Happy 2015, from your Chamber staff

                                          Happy 2015, from your Chamber staff

Janelle Bogart to depart Chamber

Bogart_webAccount Executive Janelle Bogart will depart the Chamber after 1.5 years of service. During that time, she brought joy to our workplace and very effectively showcased the Chamber to many prospects and new members.

Beginning Dec. 29, Janelle will assume the role of Account Manager for Grainger, a Chamber member and leading distributor of industrial supplies, MRO equipment, tools and materials.

“I am so blessed to have worked with some of the most incredible talent in Wichita,” Janelle said. “I will look back on my time here with wonderful memories and look forward to staying actively involved in the Chamber community.”

“While we will miss Janelle’s expertise and contagious laugh, we wish her the very best and much success in all she does,” said Chamber President Gary Plummer.

Suzie Ahlstrand departs Chamber after 27 years

Ahlstrand_SuzieSuzie Ahlstrand, Executive Vice President of Community Advancement, is leaving the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce at the end of this calendar year. The information about her scheduled departure was shared with the Chamber’s Board of Directors at today’s monthly board meeting.

Ahlstrand said, “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Chamber members, board and staff to advance important community issues like downtown development and education. The Chamber plays a vital role in working with business leaders, community partners and elected officials to ensure that Wichita has the best possible environment for businesses and families to grow. I’ve developed some lifelong friendships with a very diverse group of people who are devoted to doing what’s best for Wichita. It’s been a special honor to be part of that important process. I’ve enjoyed mentoring and being mentored by Wichitans with different backgrounds who represent different generations, industries and interests.”

2014 Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors Wayne Chambers said, “Her expertise will be missed. She led our Visioneering Wichita process where thousands of local people set a 20-year vision for the community and has led numerous City-to-City visits that have resulted in important initiatives. One of those initiatives involved working with the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation to develop the downtown master plan.”

Through her 27 years with the Chamber, she has had numerous jobs, including some she performed simultaneously. “Through her entire Chamber career, Suzie has been one of those people that Chamber and community leaders have turned to when we needed someone to work with a group to solve a big challenge or advance an important issue,” Chambers said, “She has taken on a number of different responsibilities and at some point has touched every aspect of the Chamber. As Visioneering Wichita Chairman and then Chamber Chairman, I have enjoyed getting to know and work with Suzie on a variety of community issues and treasure that time and her counsel.”

Ahlstrand began her career as Manager of Membership Services and was quickly promoted to Vice President of Membership Development when she helped recruit and provide services to members and supervised a staff of four with fundraising and volunteer responsibilities. After that, she served as Director of Marketing for the economic development organization the Wichita/Sedgwick County Partnership for Growth (WI/SE) with responsibilities including air service and marketing for business development and recruitment. Starting in 1995, she was Executive Director of the Business Education Success Team (BEST) working to bring various educational entities and businesses together to sustain high expectations in the region’s education and training systems. For three of those years, she was asked to simultaneously serve again as Vice President of Membership.

In 2004, she was named Vice President of Community Advancement where she launched and managed the community’s Visioneering Wichita effort that eventually touched more than 16,000 people. Ahlstrand simultaneously served as Interim President of the Chamber and GWEDC in 2011. She continued serving as Interim President of GWEDC until 2012, until the search for a new GWEDC president was completed.

In 2012, she was named Executive Vice President of Community Advancement and has been instrumental in working with Jeff Fluhr and other partners to develop Project Downtown, the master plan for Wichita’s downtown. She also led nine City-to-City visits, helped launch the Chamber’s Leadership Council and worked with the Business and Education Alliance. In addition, she serves as the resident agent for the Wichita Educational Foundation, an affiliate organization housed at the Chamber.

Chamber President Gary Plummer said, “I’ve always appreciated her resourcefulness and willingness to lead in so many important areas of the Chamber, including membership, fundraising, economic development and community advancement. The Chamber will continue to benefit immensely from the relationships she’s developed and fostered with our members, elected officials and community partners.”

Rather than retiring, Ahlstrand plans to re-charge during a short sabbatical and then redirect her talents and experience in the next phase of her career. Ahlstrand said, “I have a passion for Wichita and its people, and I look forward to spending time with family over the holidays before determining what’s next in this journey, working to advance our community,” Ahlstrand said.

That commitment can be seen in Ahlstrand’s service to the community before her Chamber career. She was a founding member of Botanica – the Wichita Gardens, Ronald McDonald Houses, the inaugural Zoobilee and the parent support organization for Wichita Collegiate School. She was also president of the Junior League of Wichita and the Sedgwick County Medical Auxiliary boards of directors. In addition she has served and continues to serve on multiple community boards.

A reception honoring Ahlstrand is planned for early next year.

Fire Back – A recap of the Sunrise Scrambler with Jared Estes

Sunrise Scrambler 072_cropIn 2005, Jared Estes, his wife Paige, and two friends were hit by a drunk driver on Kellogg. Jared sustained burns to more than 50% of his body, and Paige sadly did not survive the crash.

Jared shared his story with a sold-out Sunrise Scrambler crowd Wednesday morning at our annual non-profit showcase, where 34 area non-profits talked to attendees about their programs and services. Jared spoke about forgiveness and the power of positivity, two things he knows a lot about. He said that through the whole experience, he learned (and wants others to know) that no one has to be a victim to anything. Jared encourages people to be masters of their circumstances and fire back when life gets you down. He has decided to be happy, because that is what he knows Paige would want and what he would want for her if the roles were reversed.

Below are a few of Jared’s points and words of wisdom.

  • Grace – Grace is equal parts kindness, patience and forgiveness. Be someone who affords grace to those around you.
  • Goals – Setting long term goals helps you to keep going. Accomplishing short term goals add up to reaching the long term ones.
  • Teamwork – It is okay to ask for help. Everyone is going through trials in their own lives but people want to help one another.
  • Perspective – Perspective is both a burden and a gift, because it typically comes out of trying circumstances.
  • Letting Go – Jared had to let go of both Paige and the self he was before the accident and try to be the best version of the self he is today.

KWCH 12 did a four-part series about Jared’s story. You can see it here.

A huge thank you to Jared for sharing his story with us, and thank you to Emprise Bank and Hyatt Regency Wichita for sponsoring the event.

See photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Chamber adopts 2015 Legislative Agenda

The Chamber board of directors recently adopted the 2015 Chamber Legislative Agenda based on issues identified by Chamber members and staff that could impact business in the upcoming year. The agenda is designed to support the Chamber’s strategic priority of creating a better business environment that promotes investment, innovation, and job creation. The Chamber will be advocating for these business principles in Topeka during the 2015 session.

State Budget – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes the State should practice fiscal discipline.

  • Reduce or maintain state spending at FY15 (July 2014-June 2015) level
  • Seek out efficiencies and implement priority- or performance-based budgeting throughout all levels of state government
  • Establish a “BRAC-like” process for closure or realignment of government functions and agencies
  • Move the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System from a defined benefit system to a defined contribution system
  • Funding decisions should be at the sole discretion of the legislature and not the court system
  • Establish Rainy Day Fund by placing State General Fund ending balance into fund
  • Support outsourcing state government functions to the private sector while main- taining needed services

Taxation – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes in a fair and equitable system of taxation that promotes private sector growth and makes Kansas more competitive.

  • Support continued business tax reform including reduction of the Kansas corporate income and Kansas privilege tax
  • Continued support of long-term state tax structure reform including further reduc- tion/elimination of personal income tax including future tax cuts in existing statute
  • Oppose increases in business taxes/fees that would negatively impact Kansas’ competitive environment
  • Oppose repeal of any existing sales tax exemptions on business inputs and services

Economic Development – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes the State should invest in economic development and develop programs that result in jobs and investment.

  • Support continued funding for the National Institute for Aviation Research
  • Create competitive economic development incentives and making Kansas a leader in innovative research, manufacturing, and technology
  • Retain and enhance tax incentives to include more flexible investment and job development tax credits with options for cash incentives

Investment-friendly Business Environment – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a low-cost business environment is critical in order to be a competitive and attractive business destination.

  • Support legislation to allow admission of evidence that shows plaintiff’s losses have been compensated from other sources such as insurance or workers compensation, known as “collateral source”
  • Support legislation allowing parties to collect attorney fees as a prevailing party
  • Support policies which maintain the integrity of the Employment Security Trust Fund, and accurately reflect the employer experience rating when determining contribution rates
  • Encourage federal resolution to immigration reform and oppose state legislation increasing penalties or threatening the business licenses of employers
  • Maintain fair labor practices by opposing unfair advantages for union organizations

Regulatory Environment – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes there must be certainty in the regulatory environment in order for business to grow and relocate in Kansas.

  • Support legislation that creates a state OSHA plan
  • Support legislation that eliminates/reduces the requirements of Kansas Renewable Energy Portfolio
  • Support reforms in the unemployment insurance program that create a more pre- dictable employer assessment
  • Prohibit State and Federal Agencies from misusing rule and regulation authority in place/lieu of policy decisions made by the legislature

Transportation – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a strong transportation infrastructure is critical in developing and expanding commerce.

  • Urge continued state financial participation in efforts to continue low-cost air service from Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport
  • Ensure dedicated transportation funding streams only be used for the transportation program
  • Support the current comprehensive state transportation program

Environmental Resources – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes environmental management must take a balanced and reasonable approach that protects the environment without putting unnecessary burdens on business.

  • Support on-going funding for existing Equus Beds Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project

Education and Workforce Development – The Wichita Metro Chamber believes a strong education system is vital in workforce and talent development.

  • Support continued funding for the National Center for Aviation Training as part of on-going workforce development critical to the aviation manufacturing cluster
  • Support a funding formula for K-12 schools that protects the high urban poverty weighting and the current at-risk formula
  • Encourage the Legislature to allow local school districts to have more flexibility in how state dollars are spent within their school district
  • Support growing the Kansas economy through applied research and private-public partnerships, like university/business innovation programs, at all higher education institutions
  • Support career and technical education programs, including the Governor’s Career and Technical Education Initiative, to ensure an abundant and skilled workforce
  • Oppose any language or budget proviso that interferes with the Postsecondary Tiered Technical State Aid Cost Model
  • Support an increased focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning initiatives

Please contact the government relations team if you have any questions or comments.

Chamber President, Chairman be to featured on Lite Is Local broadcast

Lite is Local 001_smallChamber President Gary Plummer and 2015 Board Chairman Jon Rosell will be the featured guests on Sunday morning’s Lite Is Local broadcast on 99.7 LITE FM. During the interview with host Gayla Crouse, the two share their favorite takeaways from our recent Annual Meeting with Dr. Condoleezza Rice, as well as what the new 2015 Chamber board members bring to the table.

In regards to the Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Agenda, Gary states the goal as establishing “predictability for business.” Jon also lets us in on his vision for the upcoming year, and you may be surprised by his answer. Tune to 99.7 LITE FM this Sunday at 8 a.m. to hear his response.

Lite is Local airs every Sunday at 8 a.m. on 99.7 LITE FM. Hear podcasts of past interviews on their website.

APEX Engineering International, GWEDC announce 108 new jobs with County approval now added to City

Wichita-based APEX Engineering International LLC (AEI), a fully integrated producer of aircraft parts and assemblies for both new and existing aircraft, has selected Wichita for a new project to build large aircraft sub-assemblies for Tier 1s and OEMs. The project involves expanding the workload at the existing Wichita plant.

AEI’s clients include Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, Gulfstream, and others. Their administrative offices are located in Wichita with plants are located in Wichita and Ada, Okla.

The Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC) and other economic development partners worked together to secure the deal for Wichita.

Project Impact
Jobs: 168 base jobs plus 108 new full-time jobs over the next 5 years

Base Average Wages: $35,363 plus benefits

Capital Investment by APEX: $5.9 million ($5.7 million in new equipment; $0.2 million in building improvements)

Direct and Indirect Impact to Regional Economy over Ten Years: 215 new full time jobs and more than $7 million per year (estimated by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research)

Status and Job Investment Funds
The project was approved at both the Wichita City Council meeting on Dec. 2 and at the Sedgwick County Commission meeting on Dec. 10. Our thanks to the elected officials at both the City and County for supporting economic development in the Wichita area.

Local: $180,000 total investment from the City of Wichita ($90,000) and Sedgwick County ($90,000).

State: Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) and Kansas Industrial Training (KIT) Programs are being offered to AEI for this project.

Taxation History
Over the last ten years, AEI has paid almost $1 million in total property taxes, $231,557 of which is the estimated Sedgwick County share.

The city of Charleston and the state of Texas actively recruited AEI’s expansion project.  The city of St. Louis was also a strong contender for the project since equipment relocation costs would not have to be incurred.

GWEDC Project Assistance

  • Discussed options available for financial and training assistance programs
  • Provided workforce information
  • Developed appropriate package for incentive and training
  • Coordinated the completion of applicable forms

GWEDC Project Lead
Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition
Vice President of Business Development

Other Economic Development Partners
Business Development Consultant for the Kansas Department of Commerce

City of Wichita Economic Development

Sedgwick County Economic Development

Start the New Year with a vacation on us

We can’t think of a better way to start 2015 than by planning a vacation with FREE airfare! So we are giving away a Southwest Airlines ticket to one lucky blog follower. Entries will be accepted now through January 9.

Here’s how to enter:

  • Click the orange “Follow” button in the top right corner of this page.
  • Enter your email address.
  • Click “Sign me up!”

The winner will be randomly selected from all blog followers on January 9 – it could be you! See official rules below.



1. To Enter: NO PURCHASE OR OBLIGATION NECESSARY to enter or win this contest. Void in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, Rhode Island, and where prohibited. Contest begins December 9, 2014, at 10:00a.m. C.T. and ends at noon C.S.T. January 9, 2015. To enter without purchase or obligation, please FOLLOW the Chamber’s blog at Incomplete subscriptions are not eligible. Completed subscriptions must be received by noon C.S.T., January 9, 2015.

2. Drawing: A random drawing from all eligible entries received will be conducted between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on January 9, 2015. Entrants need not be present to win. Prize is guaranteed to be awarded. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute prize of equal or greater value. Odds of winning will depend on the total number of eligible subscriptions/entries received.

3. Prize: One (1) Prize to consist of one airline ticket issued by Southwest Airlines with an expiration date of June 1, 2015. Tickets will not be redeemable for cash or credit at any time, nor will tickets be replaced if lost or stolen. Tickets are subject to conditions imposed by the airline. Certain restrictions may apply. Prize is not transferable (and must be accepted as awarded). Winner is solely responsible for payment of all federal, state, and local taxes that may apply. Approximate Retail Value of Prize: $400.

4. Eligibility: Sweepstakes is open to all legal U.S. residents of the 48 contiguous United States and District of Columbia, excluding Rhode Island. Subscribers must be 21 years and older as of January 1, 2015. Employees of Southwest Airlines, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, their advertising and promotions agencies, any subsidiaries or affiliates and their immediate families (spouse and parents, children and siblings and their spouses) and individuals living in the same households of such employees are ineligible. This sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. By participating, entrants agree to these official rules and accept decisions of the Sponsor as final. Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited or restricted by law. This promotion is offered in the United States only and shall only be construed and evaluated according to United States law. All federal, state, and local laws apply.

5. To Claim Prize: Potential winner will be notified by email and will be required to complete and sign an Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability Release and a Publicity Release. If prize is undeliverable or if potential winner is ineligible, the prize will be awarded to an alternate winner in a random drawing. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission (except where prohibited) to use winner’s and winner’s guests name, voice, biography, hometown and likeness for purposes of advertising, promotion and publicity in any media without additional compensation.

6. Limitation of Liability: Neither the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce nor its affiliated entities, is responsible for printing or typographical errors in any contest-related materials; or transactions that are processed late or incorrectly or are lost due to computer or electronic malfunction. Winner is solely responsible for payment of all federal, state, and local taxes on prize and for any travel or other expenses not specifically mentioned in prize description. Sponsor reserves the right to cancel or modify Contest if fraud or technical failure compromises the integrity of the Contest as determined by Sponsor in their sole discretion.

This Contest offer is being made exclusively by the Sponsor. Sponsor is not responsible for technical, hardware, software, or telephone failures of any kind; lost or unavailable network connections or fraud; incomplete, garbled, or delayed computer transmission whether caused by Sponsor, user, or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the promotion or by any technical or human error which may occur in the process of submissions which may limit a participant’s ability to participate in this promotion.

Winner and guest assume all liability for any injury or damage caused, or claimed to be caused by participation in this sweepstakes or use or redemption of any prize/offer.

By entering, entrant agrees to hold harmless and indemnify the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, governors, employees, and agents against any and all liability, damages, or causes of action (however named or described), with respect to or arising out of (i) entrant’s participation in the sweepstakes, (ii) the receipt or use of the prizes/offers awarded herein.

7. Winners List: Official printed rules are available at the reception desk of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. The rules are also displayed on the Chamber blog at Winner list can be obtained on or after January 10, 2015, by sending a self-addressed envelope and request to Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, 350 West Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202-2970.

8. Sponsor: Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, 350 West Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202-2970.

Dr. Condoleezza Rice inspires Wichita crowd at Chamber Annual Meeting

TJ7_6940Last week’s Annual Meeting kicked off with 2014 Board Chairman Wayne Chambers passing the gavel to 2015 Chairman Jon Rosell and ended with Dr. Condoleezza Rice answering questions submitted by the public. A crowd of 3,000 people were in attendance to hear the former U.S. Secretary of State’s presentation, which was packed full of quotable insight as she addressed a wide variety of topics from 9/11 and ISIS to education and football. We have collected some of our favorite Condoleezza quotes below.

  • “If you were in as position of authority on September 11, every day after that felt like September 12. From that moment on, our perception of security would never be the same.”
  • “Before we get impatient, we should remember democracy is really hard. And it takes a really long time.”
  • “The men and women of the military who volunteer to defend us are a gift the United States enjoys.”
  • “When the U.S. steps back, those who don’t believe in free people and free markets will take power.”
  • “When the world is this chaotic, we have to hope someone will lead. I hope it is the extraordinary country of the USA.”
  • “Education is the single most important intervention we have against social inequality.”
  • “We have to make sure if people work twice as hard, they have a chance.”
  • “Your role models and mentors don’t have to look like you. My role models were white men. If I had waited for a black, female Soviet specialist, I would still be waiting.”
  • “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from but it matters where you’re going.”

A big thank you to all our event sponsors (see below) and to all who attended.  See conversation from the event on Twitter using #RiceDec4 and view photos from the events on our Facebook page.

Media Coverage
Wichita Business Journal – “Condoleezza Rice sees education as route to equal opportunity”
Wichita Eagle – “Condoleezza Rice: Education disparity biggest threat to U.S. security”
Carrie Rengers – You don’t say

Presented by Murfin, Inc.

Premier Sponsors
Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Cox Business, High Touch Technologies,
INTRUST Bank, Kennedy and Coe, LLC, Lubrication Engineers, Inc.,
Meritrust Credit Union, Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., Westar Energy

Now accepting nominations for our 2015 Small Business Awards

2015_SBA_awards_4cThe Wichita Metro Chamber is accepting nominations for the 2015 Small Business Awards now through Friday, Dec. 12. The program, presented by Balco, Inc. and Icon Structures Inc., offers well-deserved recognition to small businesses for their achievements and contributions to our community. It provides owners and employees the opportunity to showcase their company, share their story, and be rewarded for their efforts.

Business Criteria for Participation

  • Headquartered in Wichita Metro area
  • Employ between 1-25 FTE for Tier One, or 26-100 FTE for Tier Two
  • Have been in business for at least three years
  • Demonstrate a commitment to good business practices
  • Maintain good employee relations
  • Contribute to the community
  • Have primary source of revenues from business operations, rather than grants, donors, or governmental funding (not-for-profits may be eligible to apply if they meet this criteria)
  • Be a member in good standing of the Wichita Metro Chamber at the time of application

Nominations can be made online at

One business from each tier will be selected as the 2015 Small Business of the Year, and an awards luncheon will be held in the spring to announce the recipients.