There is much about which to be excited in Wichita.
The Entrepreneurship Task Force recently hired a high-energy CEO in John Dascher.
A broad base of business owners from around the city and region are gearing up for the work of the Greater Wichita Partnership. Both county and city government are supportive of these efforts.
The Wichita Independent Business Association has entered into a contract with the City of Wichita to help grow jobs in the area.
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Downtown development is advancing at an ever-quickening pace.
And the Innovation Campus at Wichita State University is underway and attracting great attention around the country and the world.
So at this time it is incumbent upon all of us to stand together to grow our city. This is going to require that we get outside our comfort zone at times. It will require that we embrace some new ideas and practices. It will insist that we make calculated investments in our community, both from the public and the private sectors.
And not just investments in core functions such as streets, public safety and the like. But to retain current and attract new citizens and businesses to our community, we must continue to invest in a quality of life that rivals other communities of our size.
A great example of this is the public/private partnership that is the downtown train station project. This will be a great connector between Old Town and Intrust Bank Arena and a wonderful enhancement to the entertainment options in our downtown area. We need even more of the same.
We must appreciate and honor our heritage and those business sectors that have served us so well for many years: oil and aviation, to name the two most prominent.
But make no mistake: Wichita must diversify its business and manufacturing base to ensure growth. And in thinking about such diversification, we should look back to the early days of aviation development in our community.
Why did aviation grow to be such a powerful economic driver in Wichita? Because there was venture capital here in the form of oil money that attracted entrepreneurs to our city.
Great oil man Jake Mollendick attracted plane builder Matty Laird to Wichita. He formed the E.M. Laird Aviation Company in 1920, setting off a firestorm that led to 80 companies forming during the 1920s to build planes and support those who did.
We need to replicate that firestorm today, and we are. We need to put venture capital in place and then encourage entrepreneurs from within and outside our community to set up shop.
We can achieve great things here in Wichita, but we must be ready for the growth. That will require progressive thinking and actions.
Join us as we work together to achieve these lofty goals for our community, won’t you?
Lon Smith is president of the Wichita Independent Business Association.