Three priorities. Three years. Starting now.
These six punchy words herald a new effort to add focus and urgency to the city’s long-running Visioneering community-building effort. It’s too early to tick off a list of multimillion-dollar projects or programs, say its backers, but they will, and soon.
A collection of business and government leaders gathered Monday at the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce to announce the effort.
There isn’t much new about the priorities, they concede, but they are the right ones to pursue because they are the product of about 3,000 resident responses.
• Diversify the local economy by keeping existing industries here and recruiting new jobs in new industries.
• Increase the number of people in the region seeking education beyond high school.
• Develop more downtown activities and events for all ages.
The three groups spearheading the effort – Visioneering Wichita, Young Professionals of Wichita and the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. – will develop specific projects and actions under those priorities. Local government and business groups will help make those happen by incorporating those projects into their plans.
What the next step is, when it will happen and how success will be measured hasn’t been determined yet, said Sommer Keplar, who is co-chairing Visioneering.
Although the effort is still relatively undefined now, it won’t be for long, said Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh. Eventually, the effort will lead to a concrete list of projects and programs, some funded by government and some by business.
County Commissioner Tim Norton said this is a chance to inject some much needed urgency and focus in a comprehensive community effort.
“The key is to be laser focused, know where we’re going and start now,” he said. “Those are the key words, ‘starting now,’ not sit on our hands, not wait for things to happen, but to control our own destiny.”
Norton conceded that Visioneering, which started in 2004, lost momentum in the recession.
Visioneering was a huge effort to bring a broad variety of companies, nonprofit groups, governments and individuals together in task forces to tackle major community issues such as increasing average income and reducing divorce.
Limiting it to three areas helps, so they can move to the next phase and develop specifics.
“There is some meat that needs to be put on the bones, such as what does ‘downtown activity’ feel like, sound like, look like? What are the strategies and tactics?” he said. “But this narrows it down to ‘Downtown is important.’ ”
Setting a deadline of three years is important too, said Keplar.
“We don’t want to continue losing jobs,” she said. “We don’t want to continue losing talent from our community.”