What makes peer cities great? How do we cultivate Wichita and ensure it is on the right path? How do we find best practices and customize them for Wichita and our region? These questions are the why behind the Chamber’s annual City-to-City Leadership Visit.
Each year since 2006, the Chamber has convened a group of local leaders for an annual trip to another U.S. city to introduce the Wichita region’s business and community leaders to innovative projects and best practices. Attendees network, learn and bring home ideas to adapt and implement in our community.
For our 2019 City-to-City Leadership Visit, 63 local leaders, including our 2019 Chairman, Michael Monteferrante (President & CEO of Envision, Inc.) traveled to San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the U.S. and is expected to double its population within the next 20 years. This growth has been celebrated, but it did not come without issues such as economic strain, affordable housing and an increase in homelessness. The leaders of the city have come together and collaborated on sustainable projects for these issues and others in innovative ways. This was the Chamber’s motivation for visiting the city of San Antonio and learning from their city leaders.
The twelfth City-to-City Leadership Visit was the most attended trip to date, increasing from the 59 leaders that traveled to Boise, ID last year. Many had been on previous visits, but over 25% were first time attendees. Chairman Monteferrante said, “Having such a large number of new attendees brought great energy to the trip. It truly shows the commitment that Wichita leaders have to bettering our community.”
Over the trip, attendees heard from over 40 San Antonio city leaders through presentations and panels. One of those leaders was San Antonio Mayor, Ron Nirenberg, who is focused on making key infrastructure investments necessary to accommodate the city’s growth. The topics ranged from a visionairing process for the city that established a non-profit, SA2020, to drive the progress of the city by reporting on key community indicators to the partnerships of public and private sectors who work on the transition of their military community into the talent pipeline.
New to the trip was the introduction of three separate tracks that attendees could take the second day. The individualized tracks into Economic Development, Mental Health & Homelessness and Education allowed attendees to choose an area of interest to them for a deeper dive. This format provided meaningful conversations that were truly invaluable.
Click on each of the tracks below to see some takeaways from attendees.
“The economic development track was very insightful! It is evident, San Antonio is what it is today due to the acceptance of change, having leadership who think boldly and know the importance of collaboration and making its city authentic. It’s more than just the Alamo. We witnessed a lot of success coming from San Antonio and I strongly feel that Wichita is poised to do great things…thanks to the great leaders we have in place and the vision we have through initiatives like, Project Wichita.” – Jennifer Hughes, Global Partner Solutions
“My biggest takeaways from the economic track was the need for a long term vision of a program (like Wichita’s riverfront) that involved all aspects of the community, for long term sustainable funding and delivery to the public. One that would cross multiple different city/county administrations. Also the involvement of local private sector companies to help cast the vision, and then receive the value of local development groups turning dreams into realities.” – Mike King, Hutton
Mental Health & Homelessness
“I am very impressed at the level of collaboration San Antonio achieves across multiple sectors (i.e. business, not-for-profit, government) to improve their community. This was especially evident with their focus on providing a high level of resources to help people with mental health and/or substance use disorders. The consistent theme across the trip was that the community shares a vision, focuses on tracking progress by measuring key performance indicators and invests in resources to drive success. I’m excited at the opportunity for the trip participants to leverage what we learned to improve the health and wellbeing of the Wichita community.” – Amy Feimer, Hunter Health Clinic
"It was a wonderful opportunity to visit Haven for Hope and hear how San Antonio developed the campus for community members who are struggling with homelessness, mental health and substance use issues. The collaboration between the city and non-profits to ensure they were aligned to better their community is a great example for Wichita. The firsthand account from a person who experienced many of these hardships, received services from Haven of Hope, and is now working to help others in the community was incredibly moving. Her story showed how light can shine in darkness and communities can come together to help change things for the better.” – Andrew Wiens, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce
“The Education track was very insightful and inspiring in many ways. As professionals who are in the trenches everyday, it is invaluable to have the experience to see what and how others are finding success in their city. My thoughts weren’t that we need to copy or do everything we saw, but elements of what we saw combined with the mission of our city will move us in the right direction quickly.” – Kyle Ellison, Real Men Real Heroes
“It was eye-opening to see how serious the community is about public/private partnerships in education. They’re providing experiences that set their students apart in the marketplace, while also driving economic development through a pipeline of high demand skills. Besides what we learned, the best part of the track was being at the table with Wichita area education professionals to hear their perspective about key takeaways and how they relate specifically to the education system in our community.” – Gabe Schlickau, Meritrust Credit Union
The common thread throughout the trip was the degree of collaboration among the city and its leaders. The collaboration between the public and private sector and the collaboration among non-profits was impressive. The overall concept of collaboration took the city of San Antonio from setting a vision to aligning the focus and growing their region.
We all have the opportunity to make an impact in our city. We can join together and collaborate. We can take the chance and be bold in our vision, in our work and in our community.
We can influence and shape Wichita’s destiny by asking, what do I want Wichita to be?
See photos from the trip here or search #ICT2SAT on Twitter to see what attendees tweeted about on the trip.