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Sommer Keplar and Wayne Chambers: Wichita can learn from ‘Omaha way’

  • Published Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, at 12 a.m.

What is the “Omaha way”? More than 50 regional business and community leaders on Visioneering’s recent city-to-city visit learned it is a focused way of getting things done in that community. People there are dedicated to making Omaha a great place to work and live.

Of course, all communities want and need to do that, so what’s different about the “Omaha way”? Here are just a few components:

Omahans have a strong sense of the collective “we.” It seems to come with a culture of healthy conflict, plus the ability to look at issues through the lens of what is best for the community rather than as individual groups.

Community leaders talk about the four pillars of their community working closely together – business, government, Chamber of Commerce and philanthropy.

As the leaders work closely together, the community at large seems ready to do those things it takes to make Omaha a great community.

Local and state governments are aligned in bringing the state and local community to the forefront of national recognition.

Omaha has numerous philanthropic people who give significantly to community projects. That giving allows them to move quickly when they have an important project.

One result of this focused effort is that Omaha has built its educational capacity. The community recruits students from a variety of locations, including Kansas, and connects them with business. This helps education and business thrive; plus, companies have located in the community because of the young talent pool.

Another effort is that through Gallup Inc., the community has an emphasis on helping entrepreneurs grow. Gallup is using Nebraska as a pilot location for its programs, including the Entrepreneur Acceleration System.

We were impressed with this incredibly livable and connected community. It has a commitment to develop people, places and programs, which is what communities have to do to grow. Omaha has a strong start and is moving fast.

As Omahans focus on what’s next for the community, they then turn their attention to that end result – what they want to get done and what it takes to win.

We have a lot to be proud of in Wichita, too. But we are at risk of falling behind, and change must be constant.

Communities near and far continue to invest in themselves. Omaha recognizes that without smart investment, just like a business, it will fall behind and begin to lose businesses and people.

One of our biggest conclusions is that as others pick up their pace, we must, too. We must quickly develop our own “Wichita way.”

Sommer Keplar and Wayne Chambers co-chair Visioneering, the region’s long-range plan.

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