It starts with people. It always starts with people. You can have a premier location, the most ideal climate and amazing recreational and entertainment venues, but if you don’t have great people, you won’t get far.
Consider how Wichita began, in isolation, relying on hunting and trading in the 1860s, followed by the cattle trade for a handful of years.
Why did Wichita flourish? People like James R. Mead, William “Buffalo Bill” Mathewson and William Greiffenstein chose Wichita. They came to trade with the American Indians here and later became town builders. They built our city. These men could have chosen any other frontier town to live out their lives – and would have been successful. But they chose to stay in Wichita because our citizens possessed a unified interest in promoting this fledgling city as a place where one could make money and live the kind of good life they sought.
Throughout Wichita’s history, many great people chose to live here to the betterment of our city. Their entrepreneurial accomplishments – from kerosene lanterns to business jets, from pizza to frozen custard – all serve to create an atmosphere, a vibe, that is 100 percent good for Wichita.
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There is a spirit of grit and determination in Wichita that is both contagious and immensely productive. It builds upon itself as one good thing inspires another. It’s like seeing a construction crane in downtown Wichita (the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception) and then another (the downtown YMCA) and another (the Kansas Leadership Center).
Good things just don’t happen in Wichita, or anywhere else, until people are inspired to embrace and promote a new idea with a unified spirit.
Over the past six months, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some really great people who chose to come to Wichita. Last summer, John Bardo gave up his job as chancellor of Western Carolina University to come back to our city as president of Wichita State University. Kansas native Susie Santo left her job as director of travel industry sales for Universal Studios in Hollywood to become president and CEO of Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau. In September, Jeff Korsmo resigned his position as Chief Administrative Officer for the Mayo Clinic to become president and CEO of Wichita’s Via Christi Health.
Also in the last six months, these three remarkable people chose to remain in Wichita. In August, Patricia McDonnell, then director of Wichita State’s Ulrich Museum, became the director of the Wichita Art Museum. In November, Shelly Prichard, CEO of Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, headquartered here, became CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation. And Mary Beth Jarvis left a distinguished career with Koch to become the director of Wichita Festivals Inc.
All of these men and women likely had differing reasons for choosing Wichita. What matters is that they did – choose Wichita. And I for one can’t wait to see what creative ideas they come up with to benefit our city.
Now, I don’t want to overlook those of us who were lucky enough to have been born and raised in Wichita. Our feet are firmly planted, and we choose to stay. At age 60, I remain here because of the influence of a kindergarten teacher at Minneha Elementary, a scoutmaster at St. James Church, a Wichita State professor of American studies and hundreds of Fidelity employees with whom I’ve worked side by side over the past 36 years. The proud people of Wichita bind my heart to this place.
It simply comes down to this – Wichita is better for businesses than the other cities around us because of the people who came before us and because of the people here now.
We will take luck when it comes, but we move forward on a growing belief in ourselves. A belief that Wichita is the heart of the heartland. A belief it is the single best place to raise a family, build a business, develop lifelong friends and call home.
It is an honor for me to live here among the people who make this place exceptional. And I welcome you to join in helping our Wichita move Bravely Onward.