Project Wichita right to look ahead at city’s future

Business leaders want to know what Wichitans want their city to be in 2028.
Business leaders want to know what Wichitans want their city to be in 2028. File photo

There’s a sense that Wichita’s community pride is at a high.

Our downtown is becoming more of a destination and place to live. We remain a great place to raise a family.

Sure, problems exist. No sizable city is without obstacles.

But Wichita feels pretty good about itself, which suggests the community is at the perfect time to think about its future.

Project Wichita, announced Thursday, is a collaboration of business, education and government leaders with a goal to learn what Wichitans think about their city and where they want it to be in 10 years.

To hear leaders of the project tell it, this is a weeks-old movement that got serious when businesses donated more than three-quarters of the $400,000 needed for the information-gathering part of the project.

It will get more serious in March, when students and volunteers from Wichita State University’s Public Policy and Management Center spread out over the city to ask residents: What does your Wichita look like in 2028?

They’ll conduct town hall meetings and focus groups, be at community and neighborhood association gatherings, and, most importantly, go after the opinions of those who won’t go to a meeting. Online surveys and social media will play an important role.

Most encouraging? The city’s high school students will be key targets for opinions on the future of their city.

Public Policy director Misty Bruckner and her group will deliver feedback and conclusions to Project Wichita’s four co-chairs. Community input will be as wide as the city limits. River development, public safety, bike paths, keeping our young minds here – there has to be an endless number of priorities in Wichitans’ minds.

Project Wichita seems similar to Visioneering Wichita, an eight-year project started in 2004 that scoured the city for residents’ input on quality of life and business.

There are a couple differences. Unlike Visioneering, Project Wichita isn’t headed by city or county government. Business leaders got the idea and fundraising going quickly. Additionally, there’s a potential for far more Wichitans to be reached for input than ever before.

A project like this, without a lead business or development group, faces challenges. An effort of such scale needs a lot behind it. Four co-chairs – Fidelity Bank president Aaron Bastian, Spirit AeroSystems vice president Debbie Gann, Lubrication Engineers president Scott Schwindaman and Boys and Girls Club executive director Juston White – have a lot of their plates.

Still, Project Wichita promises to be an important part of the city’s future, if Wichitans make their views known – and city and business leaders listen and act on them.