Opinion Columns & Blogs

A slice of the city has shared its dreams. Now it’s time for the rest of the pie

The next phase of Project Wichita begins in late June, when both online and paper surveys will be available to south-central Kansas residents.
The next phase of Project Wichita begins in late June, when both online and paper surveys will be available to south-central Kansas residents. File photo

Project Wichita facilitators fanned out over the region this spring to conduct more than 100 focus groups. From teens to octogenarians, people who are homeless to the city’s power brokers, they heard residents’ visions for the next 10 years, their greatest hopes and dreams.

And after a Cheesecake Factory, people said.…

“We heard that one enough,” Project Wichita leader Evan Rosell joked to the Entrepreneurial Task Force focus group this week.

Scores of scribbled-on poster paper now make their way to Wichita State University’s Public Policy and Management Center, where they will be dissected for commonalities.

“Big rocks” is what the center’s director, Misty Bruckner, calls them. The recurring words and themes that come from many focus groups.

The questions posed were designed to receive broad responses:

▪ What’s the one best feature of the Wichita region?

▪ What is your big dream for the Wichita region in 10 years?

▪ In 10 years, how do we attract, keep and develop people?

▪ In 10 years, how does the region need to change physically (attractions, roads, parks, etc.)?

▪ In 10 years, how do we thrive economically?

▪ What will make you want to live in the Wichita region 10 years from now?

Bruckner and Rosell saw their share of focus groups, but didn’t want to speculate on common themes because not all data was in. But it’s not hard to guess on some popular thoughts.

Jobs. Livability. Pride.

But those words can mean different things to different people. Business leaders can see jobs as a recruiting tool for bringing high-quality applicants to the region. High school students can see them as career starters and may view networking as a key to finding quality work.

It’s up to Bruckner’s team to take the big rocks and carve them into the next step — which involves all of us.

Up to now, Project Wichita has been about collecting thoughts of those who have made the simple effort of attending a meeting. Now, all 650,000 of us in the region have a stake.

Project Wichita will release a survey late this month that takes what was learned from focus groups and offers south-central Kansans their turn for input.

“Several times we’ve been asked what’s on the survey,” Rosell said. “We’ve said, ‘We’ll tell you when the community tells us.’ 

Take the survey online at projectwichita.org or ask for a paper copy. It’s from those surveys that WSU’s Public Policy center will identify the most common responses.

The Vision team — led by co-chairs Aaron Bastian, Fidelity Bank president; Debbie Gann, Spirit AeroSystems vice president; Scott Schwindaman, Lubrication Engineers president; and Juston White, Boys and Girls Club executive director — is made up of representatives from more than 90 area businesses and organizations. It will take the feedback and create an action plan of three to five items that the region should focus on through 2028.

Private support of Project Wichita is already a big success story. About 85 percent of the organizations involved are businesses or private organizations that see the importance of keeping momentum going in the community.

But Project Wichita is reaching the point where grassroots involvement means the most. You may have thoughts that haven’t been heard at any point in the process. Your opinion may reinforce a strong theme throughout the region.

Either way, don’t waste an opportunity to give an opinion. It’s your city, too.

But you can probably leave the Cheesecake Factory pleas for another day. They hear you.

Kirk Seminoff: 316-268-6278, @kseminoff