The Wichita Independent Business Association said Tuesday that its members voted to allow publicly held companies to become members of the 80-year-old group.
WIBA said those companies will be permitted to join as allied members, allowing them to participate in all member activities, including voting on issues that require a full vote of members.
However, seats on the board of directors will continue to be reserved only for firms that are independently owned.
Though the organization's membership has declined over the years — it has about 700 members — that wasn't the main reason to allow public companies as members, said Tim Witsman, WIBA president.
"It really came from members saying, 'We've got these people who want to participate. Can we do that?' " Witsman said.
There were no dissenting votes by members on allowing public-company participation, he said.
Witsman said WIBA will tout its networking opportunities with business owners, its seminars on business issues such as health care and workers' compensation, and its lobbying efforts to recruit public companies.
He said the organization is not looking solely at recruiting the area's aircraft manufacturers but public companies with local operations in a variety of industries, such as insurance and telecommunications.
"And we are not an expensive outfit to join," he said. "It's a good value proposition for them."
Witsman said annual membership dues start at $220.