The hopes and ambitions of our new millennium were sobered by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The resulting economic contraction caused a decline in our community and a determination to recover as a community. What followed was an impressive list of successful community initiatives led by our elected political leaders, the business community and the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, all working together to improve south-central Kansas.
Bryan Derreberry reported to work in October 2003. Prior to his arrival, the city, county and chamber were developing the foundation of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, a merger of city-county-private sector-chamber business recruitment and retention efforts. The GWEDC has paid significant dividends to our community and is now well into its second round of five-year funding commitments.
Bryan led the fulfillment of the initial chamber promise to secure matching private-industry funding and was able to increase private-sector matching funds during the second phase.
In 2004, more than 15,000 of our residents took part in one of the largest community planning activities in the United States. Visioneering Wichita created a community action plan that in the ensuing years has produced 15 active strategic alliances focusing on initiatives in education, health care, recreation and other community goals. Visioneering Wichita is now a national model for citizen-directed community planning. This plan emerged as a result of Bryan's initial visits with more than 100 private and public sector leaders and their joint expressed concern of "why doesn't greater Wichita have a common road map?"
In 2005, the first community-based Unified Legislative Agenda, born of Visioneering, was created. In the past four years, the ULA successfully focused the activities of the south-central Kansas legislative delegation on an agreed-upon community-formed legislative agenda for community advancement. The ULA has resulted in a strong lobbying effort promoting legislative support for the National Institute for Aviation Research, the National Center for Aviation Training and Affordable Airfares.
In 2005, the chamber also launched Young Professionals of Wichita. Today more than 2,100 young professionals are participating in community improvement activities, making YPW one of the most successful young-professional organizations in the country dedicated to community advancement and professional retention. YPW is part of the chamber, and Bryan challenged our community to aspire to both maintain and attract top talent to south-central Kansas.
In 2006, the first Visioneering city-to-city visit occurred. The visits have been repeated annually as our community leaders have learned about the successes of similar U.S. communities for adaptation and implementation in our community. These trips motivated our community's leadership to take a hard look at our downtown and what it could mean to the future success and prosperity of our metro region.
The decade was capped with a successful two-year, community-based downtown planning program led by the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., Visioneering Wichita, the chamber and the city of Wichita for the renewal and redevelopment of downtown. Project Downtown, the resulting revitalization plan, is now being implemented.
Wichita began the 21st century with a decade of community growth and development initiatives in which the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and Bryan Derreberry played an important leadership role. Despite the unemployment and aircraft industry contraction of the past two years, I believe our community has a bright future and has planned for it well. Bryan Derreberry was a key leader in this entire effort. While we will miss him and wish him well in his new adventure in Charleston, S.C., with the continued leadership and the joint efforts of all of us, we can build on Bryan's leadership vision to make this community better and stronger, and reaffirm that Wichita is a great place to live, work, and raise our families.