The three goals that the Priority Project set for Wichita this week have been kicked around for decades. But there is value in seeing them elevated to the top of the community agenda and treated with new urgency and accountability.
The big three:
• Develop more downtown activities and events for individuals and families of all ages.
• Diversify the local economy by keeping industries already here and recruiting new jobs in new industries.
• Increase the number of people in the region who advance their post-high school education, either through degrees, certificates or retraining opportunities.
There is something for everybody on that wish list, and a lot for Wichita as a whole.
Having sampled the views of 140 organizations and thousands of individuals to settle on eight priorities and now three goals, the impressive lead partners – Visioneering, Young Professionals of Wichita and the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. – are focused and ready to go.
The ambitious effort will need a lot of ideas, skills and energy over the next three years. To get involved, go to visioneeringwichita.com.
The leadership role of YPW seems especially apt, as what’s really going on here is a fight for the community’s future in the context of a troubled national economy and a fierce regional recruiting contest for businesses and jobs.
This started with a challenge to the 8-year-old Visioneering group from Mayor Carl Brewer and Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh; the city and county will be players in pursuing the goals, as will the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.
One goal got a welcome boost this week, as the City Council and County Commission agreed to grants that will enable data-storage company NetApp to expand and add 418 jobs. As Walter Berry, chairman of the Wichita chamber, told the County Commission, such high-paying, high-tech jobs are the kind envisioned by the Priority Project. “We do not want to diversify our economy by shrinking our aviation cluster. It’s the envy of the world,” Berry said. “We want to diversify it by growing other aspects of our economy, and this falls into that category.”
The goal of more downtown activities already is coming along nicely, too, on track with Project Downtown. And Visioneering’s College Mecca Alliance has an initiative under way to boost the number of companies offering incentives to employees for earning a degree.
It would be easier to sit back and settle for whatever the community can manage on its own, without the benefit of strategy, coordination, partnerships and the economic development tools that rub many Wichitans the wrong way.
But the community has enough going for it these days to realize it wants more for itself. The Priority Project goals will be a good guide. Let’s get started – then let’s see some results.