What do you want for Wichita? Project Wichita to establish 10-year action plan for region’s future

What’s your vision of Wichita?

Over the next few months, Wichitans and residents of nearby cities and in the region will be asked to provide input on what issues they think are important in a new initiative called Project Wichita.

Project Wichita, announced Feb. 1 to a sold-out crowd of about 550 people who attended the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce annual chairman’s lunch, is going to move “at lightning speed,” said co-chair Scott Schwindaman, owner and CEO of Lubrication Engineers.

Over the next few months, residents and others will have chances to be heard through online surveys, traditional town hall meetings, small group discussion groups and social media, according to organizers. Updates will be posted on the website, as well as the project’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Both donors and participants can start getting involved by signing up at website.

“We intend to work quickly to deliver a conclusion by the fall,” said co-chair, Aaron Bastian, president of Fidelity Bank.

The other co-chairs are Juston White, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of South Central Kansas and Deborah Gann, Spirit AeroSystems vice president of communications and public affairs.

Wichita State’s Public Policy and Management Center, experts at information-gathering of this kind, will be facilitating much of the engagement part of Project Wichita.

“We’ve had a lot of positive momentum in the last couple of years with new jobs, development and growing community pride,” Schwindaman said, in the release announcing the project. “With that momentum also comes more questions and opportunities for us to address and make sure that we as a community establish a vision for this generation and those to come.”

With Project Wichita, Bastian said, “We’ll be able to hone in on the things that people want.”

As a backer of The Chung Report, Bastian has been hearing from a lot of people in the community about what’s ahead for Wichita. The Chung Report is a website with information tied to four challenges for Wichita that were shared in a 2015 study by strategist James Chung.

“I hear it from people across generations. I hear it more from a younger generation. I think that’s in large part because they see the potential of Wichita,” Bastian said.

The project is going to involve people of every generation, from high schoolers to retirees, according to the news release. Organizers have already heard from Wichita school district officials to involve students, said Schwindaman.

Initially about 20 organizations – small and large employers, nonprofits and other community groups – were approached to determine interest and support before the Feb. 1 announcement. Of the $300,000 raised for the effort, about 75 percent is from private funding, Bastian said. Other organizations can still contribute, with the money paying for project costs such as the analysis and marketing.

Both Schwindaman and Bastian emphasized, however, that this won’t be a pay-to-play visioning effort.

“If we have groups that need to have their voices heard, we’ll make sure they’re there at the table,” Schwindaman said. The names of financial backers will be announced soon, both said.

The two co-chairs also said while named Project Wichita, the process and action plan will include a wider geographic area.

“This is not just about Wichita and within the city limits,” Schwindaman said. “It’s also about what will benefit south-central Kansas. We see it as regional.”