Though James Chung may have an impressive resume with degrees from Harvard University, and though he has his own international company, Reach Advisors, with offices in Albany and Boston, Chung says it was his formative years growing up in Wichita that first had an impact on his career.
Chung’s father, Kae Chung, was a professor at Wichita State University, and Chung says that gave him exposure to other worlds.
On Wednesday, Chung returns to Wichita to share his insights through the Fuel the Fire Speaker Series, which is made possible through a partnership with the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Wichita Community Foundation and the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.
Chung said he hopes to provide a broader perspective of what’s happening in the world and prompt a productive discussion about what Wichita wants to be. Though he’ll share what’s happening elsewhere, such as in other midsize, manufacturing-driven cities, Chung says that won’t necessarily mean that’s what should happen here. That’s why he’ll also discuss some cities that have decayed and ask, “Where does Wichita not want to go?”
This is the second in a series of three Fuel the Fire talks. It will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at the Lux at the northwest corner of First and Market. The event is free and open to the public.
How did you figure out what you wanted to do for a career?
“There was sort of an epiphany in college I had. I didn’t feel like I would be comfortable being stuck in any one particular area. … I realized what I wanted to study … was the kind of stuff that I would just naturally read on my own.”
“I really enjoy business, and I really enjoy the social sciences.”
“Economics. Psychology. Anthropology. Sociology. … History. … I guess that’s the kind of stuff … I used to just love exploring in my younger years. Wichita was a fertile ground for someone like that.”
“When I was growing up in Wichita, that was just a remarkable era of entrepreneurialism. … I had a chance to mow the lawn for the Carneys. I knew a lot of the guys who spun off ventures from the Pizza Hut world. … It was a fascinating time to be in Wichita and realize the power of what you could do in business.”
How did you plan to combine economics and social sciences?
“I wanted to find a way to tie that together in my studies. It’s what I do now in my professional life. It’s the kind of stuff I think about for fun today. … I got lucky. I grew up in a place that I got to see all these things that feed what I do today.”
So what is it, exactly, that you do?
“Reach Advisors is a strategy, research and predictive analytics (firm). … We help clients navigate shifts in the external landscape. We figure out what’s changing, what’s going to change and what organizations can do to thrive and succeed amidst the changes ahead.”
How do you work with clients?
“We typically spend four months. … We start off building hypotheses. … What (the) opportunities are ahead. What the challenges are. … We add hypotheses to the plate based on what we see in our world.”
And then what?
“We determine how to build data sets … to prove or disprove hypotheses and from there what we can do is we can start to formulate better predictors for how things are going to change and how clients can … organize and set strategy.”
What are some of the ideas you’re going to address in your talk?
“We’re going to be sharing observations and insights and analytics on what’s changing for Wichita, why things are changing and provide some kind of indication of what kind of changes are ahead. What are the worrisome things that we want to flag so Wichita can address them and what are the opportunities for Wichita?”
How are young people a key to Wichita opportunities?
“The cities that are pulling ahead strongest out of the recession … are the ones that have the strongest base and highest growth of educated young adults. … It’s in part an indicator of strength, and we’re also finding it’s in part a predictor of future growth.”
What is Wichita’s potential for growth right now?
“Wichita is in an interesting period of time. It is an inflection point. The decisions made in Wichita over the next year or two will have significant impact on what happens through the decade and beyond.”
What do you want to accomplish with your talk?
“What we’re trying to provide is a broader lens. Hopefully that will prompt great discussions and pull more people together into the conversation about what does Wichita do? How does it proceed?”
Do you work internationally?
“These days I get to work with really cool clients all over the world.”
You especially like arts-and-culture clients, but your favorite arts organization is not a client, right?
“The most fascinating arts-and-culture organization I’ve ever encountered across the world is in Wichita, Kansas. (It’s) Fisch Haus (Studios). … I learned more about what art means from four guys in Wichita … than I have in working with these entities across the globe. It’s remarkable what’s happened there.”
You’re still on the e-mail list and see the Fisch Haus events?
“There’s so many times I catch myself saying, man, I wish I could be in Wichita for that. … It’s a truly inspired place.”
What’s one thing few people know about you?
“The first time I realized that I was somewhat quantitative was when I won the contest “guess the weight of the pumpkin” in my second grade classroom at Buckner Elementary.”