Business Perspectives

Why the long road back to ‘HQ city’ is worth the drive for Wichita

Bruce Rowley, managing partner of RSM Marketing, wrote a poignant article about Wichita’s long road as a headquarters town to a division town and back again. It resonated profoundly, so I researched why it should matter to all Wichitans. I will share my findings in the coming weeks, starting today with a sense of obligation.

dascher

Tuesday after Thanksgiving was Giving Tuesday so it is apropos to focus on corporate citizenship. American business culture has made great strides embracing corporate social responsibility (CSR). Forbes Magazine predicted CSR will develop a focus on social impact.

Liba Rubenstein, SVP of social impact at 21st Century Fox, agreed, “A key driver for a company’s pro-social program should not be some generic standard of responsibility or as penance for perceived negative effects, but rather unique, measurable, positive impact – human, environmental, societal, and financial.”

Who wouldn’t agree with that? But let’s remember all companies’ — particularly public, multi-divisional companies’ — primary obligation is to maximize shareholder value. As such, CSR policies tend to partner with national public service organizations (e.g. the Red Cross or United Way) to maximize impact and efficiency. Makes perfect sense.

Divisional headquarters of large companies are often generous sponsors of local organizations, but do they have a sense of obligation to make a social impact? Better yet, do they have a sense of ownership of their local communities? By all means, some do. I am reminded of this each drive down Kellogg past the Cargill Cares Complex of the Kansas Food Bank.

Here’s the relevance why Wichita needs to be a headquarters town again. All companies — large or small, public or private — have a strong sense of obligation and ownership to the local communities where they were founded and headquartered. It manifests itself in their CSR policies directing a greater magnitude of impact directly in their own back yard.

A perfect example of this dynamic is found in the “Generosity of Generations” article of the Wichita Community Foundation’s recently published 2016-2017 Report to the Community. Clark Bastian, chairman and CEO of Wichita-based Fidelity Bank, quoted his father Marvin Bastian: “He always felt Wichita was so good to his family, and he needed to always be conscious of where the prosperity came from: from the citizens of Wichita. He encouraged us kids to not lose sight of that and give back in any way we could.”

Other evident examples are the Charles Koch Arena and the INTRUST Bank Arena. I can’t help but wonder, though, if there’d already be a new baseball stadium or Century II if, say, Coleman was still headquartered in Wichita to sponsor it?

The National Philanthropic Trust, an independent philanthropic solution and research provider, reported that corporations and foundations accounted for $76.9 billion or 20 percent of all charitable contributions in 2016. Individuals and bequests accounted for the remaining 80 percent, or $312.0 billion. Of the latter group, 91 percent of high net worth households made average charitable contributions of $25,509, slightly more than 10 times greater the $2,502 by general population households. These are powerful statistics when one considers high net worth households generally are founders, board members, senior executives of large corporations.

Perhaps the ultimate case in point why Wichita needs to be a headquarters town again is epitomized by the largest individual charitable contribution made in 2016. Nike Inc. cofounder Phil Knight and his wife Penny made a $500 million contribution to establish a new scientific research center. Where? I’ll give you a hint, if it’s not already obvious. Knight was raised and educated there. Nike was founded there 54 years ago and still calls it home.

John Dascher is president and CEO of e2e Accelerator Inc. Contact him at jfd@e2eAccelerator.com.

Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Marcia Werts at mwerts@wichitaeagle.com or 316-269-6762.

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