Project Wichita considers community survey’s 10 priorities for region’s future

Nigh time view of the Wichita skyline.
Nigh time view of the Wichita skyline. File photo

Cheaper air fares and more direct flights from Wichita Eisenhower National Airport.

Collaboration between citizens and police for better public safety.

More educational opportunities for the region’s residents to meet changing workforce requirements.

Those are among the top 10 strategic items that emerged from Project Wichita’s survey of nearly 14,000 people living in and around a 60-mile radius of Wichita.

Project Wichita aims to hear from as many residents of Wichita and surrounding communities as possible about what their vision is for the region, gathering information through focus groups and the survey. From that input, its plan is to identify and prioritize projects and initiatives for an “action plan” to be implemented over the next 10 years.

Officials from Wichita State University’s Public Policy and Management Center — which analyzed the survey’s data — and Greater Wichita Partnership presented the survey’s final sections of results Wednesday.

The first set of survey results was released in early August.

Participation in the survey came from a cross-section of the community representing men and women, whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, low-, middle- and high-incomes and varying educations, from those with high school or GED diplomas to graduate and professional degrees, officials said.

“This whole process is about listening,” said Evan Rosell, vice president of projects for the Greater Wichita Partnership. “And what this information helps us to do is to listen well, to listen better to the different communities, the different age groups, the different income levels, things like that.”

“There’s a difference between hearing and listening, so what this really helps us to do is to listen better, which is the whole purpose of the front end of this project.”

The 10 highest ranking strategic items were culled from a list of 42 strategic items respondents were asked to rank on the mid-June through mid-July survey on a five-point scale, from “not important investment” to “essential investment.”

Those 42 strategic items were developed through more than 239 in-person and online focus groups with more than 3,800 people that were conducted this spring.

For example, “creating opportunities to retain college students” was ranked as the No. 1 strategic item based on a little more than 87 percent of respondents marking it on the survey as a “very important investment” or an “essential investment.”

The remaining five of the top 10 strategic items were: “support career pathways and job development in areas such as manufacturing and technology; increase access (availability, affordability) to quality mental health care; support after high school education to grow the regional economy; develop strong retention strategies for the regional workforce; and grow different types of business and industries.”

The final set of the survey’s findings have been presented to the group’s Vision Team, comprising leaders from more than 90 large and small companies, nonprofits and civic organizations charged with developing the action plan, which will be announced by the end of the year, officials said.

Misty Bruckner, director of the WSU center that analyzed the survey results, said just because one strategic item ranked higher than others, all 42 of the items are important to consider in deciding which ones will be a priority in the Vision Team’s action plan.

“The challenge is, is even though some of the items that may have been not ranked as high, they can still be very important,” she said. “Not only are they important issues, they can be tactically important to making sure our community overall can achieve some of those higher objectives.”

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark