Economic development group takes new downtown space

The Greater Wichita Partnership is official.

The new economic development umbrella group has received its tax-exempt status and has officially incorporated, has its own logo and brand, and is in the process of hiring a chief financial officer, the organization announced Wednesday.

It also will move the offices of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, which now falls under the partnership’s oversight, to a 3,000-square-foot space at 501 E. Douglas.

The relocation, putting GWEDC just west of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. offices and its Design & Innovation Center, will be made possible through a $90,000 grant from Fidelity Bank’s fund at the Wichita Community Foundation.

“It’s a physical demonstration of the focusing of our economic initiatives and resources,” said Jeff Fluhr, president of the partnership.

The space GWEDC will be moving to is currently occupied by Intake Studios, which a company official said Wednesday will be relocating to another downtown space.

Plans for the formation of the partnership were first announced in April at a meeting of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Council. The intent of the partnership is to “align and focus” various improvement initiatives in the city and county into a cohesive group “so that we’re maximizing every new opportunity we have presented, but also cultivating new ones,” Fluhr said.

In addition to taking on oversight of GWEDC – previously housed at the chamber’s offices – and downtown development, the partnership will oversee the Entrepreneurship Task Force and the Business and Education Alliance.

Fidelity Bank chairman and CEO Clark Bastian, who is also a member of the Leadership Council, said he sees promise in the partnership. That’s one reason why it made the grant to relocate GWEDC’s offices.

“It’s exciting to see this coming together,” Bastian said. “We believe strongly in the Greater Wichita Partnership model and in Jeff Fluhr’s leadership. It’s all about moving Wichita forward.”

The organization also announced Wednesday that Craig Bay, formerly of NetApp, has joined GWEDC as director of special projects and will coordinate the related Blueprint for Regional Economic Progress effort.

Contributing: Dan Voorhis of The Eagle

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.