Chamber’s economic development campaign hits $9 million target

Private sector donors have pledged more than $9 million to fund the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s economic development effort.

The successful end to the chamber’s campaign to fund its part of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition was announced Thursday at the Chairman’s Lunch, held at Intrust Bank Arena.

Chamber board chairman Debbie Gann said 173 companies promised to supply $9,025,800 over five years. That’s a 50 percent increase over current private sector funding.

The city of Wichita and Sedgwick County also supply $300,000 each per year to the coalition’s operations. The funds don’t cover any of the incentives used on particular projects.

Gann said that Wichita is seeing a lot of activity: In 2012 work began on a new airport terminal, as did construction on a new building on East Douglas – the first in more than 20 years on that stretch of Douglas. In 2013, the city will see the arrival of Southwest Airlines service, as well as a new direct flight to Los Angeles on United Airlines, and the start of a major new building to hold hundreds of new workers at Koch Industries.

Gann said that winning the competitive struggle for jobs and economic growth against other cities, regions and countries requires that everybody in Wichita pull together. Only together, she said, can Wichita bring to bear the money and other resources needed to win projects.

“We are the team,” Gann said. “We have the will, the talent and the resources to make Wichita the best place to do business.”

She called on audience members to exert their will on others to vote for helpful candidates, to join the chamber, and to invest in their business and their employees.

The luncheon’s other speakers, Mayor Carl Brewer and Sedgwick County Commission chairman Jim Skelton, reinforced Gann’s message that the community needed to form effective partnerships to compete economically.

“What kind of city should Wichita become? What kind of legacy do we want to leave our children?” Brewer asked.