One of the greatest rewards of my Chamber career has been the chance to work alongside outstanding volunteers and staff. We’re so fortunate to have Board leadership like Junetta Everett (Delta Dental) right now. As lucky as I am to work with a great Board and volunteer base, I feel even more fortunate right now to work with 18 high achievers on the Chamber staff. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the world in 2020, this Chamber team has responded to the challenge in extraordinary ways. Let me give you just a few examples of that.
On Saturday, March 21, a few members of my team spoke by telephone with City Manager Bob Layton who had emailed me that day about how the Chamber might partner with the City to provide online resources for businesses for the oncoming crisis. We had already closed the Chamber building four days earlier due to a potential COVID-19 case at the Chamber (results came back negative). By 9:30 a.m. the following Monday (less than 48 hours), Monica Poe (Manager of Marketing & Communications, pictured right) had built the Wichita Resource Center, a special area of the Chamber’s website with the most pertinent COVID-19 response information and the most valuable resources, including financial tools, legal advice and technology tips. A month later, Monica built a second webpage dedicated to providing local and regional sources of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
If you haven’t already seen this resource, I encourage you to follow the link below.
COVID-19 has really impacted the Chamber’s event department. However, Chelsea Dyer (Manager of Engagement, pictured left), in conjunction with our communications team, quickly transitioned to a virtual event strategy. Since mid-March, the Chamber has produced more than twenty events to reach more than 22,000 members and nonmembers alike. Those programs (click here to see a timeline of them) have included educational webinars, virtual events with elected officials, marketing and communication tips during challenging times and opportunities for members to learn about financial tools and grants.
That’s eight to ten times more touch points than we would have experienced with traditional events during that timeframe. The team has also had to work to reschedule some events for later in the year, like the Chamber Golf Classic and Honors Night.
Andrew Wiens (Vice President of Government Relations, pictured left) has never worked harder or been more effective than during the past two to three months. In addition to informative policy programming, our Government Relations Committee and staff have intensified their work at the local, state and federal level on issues like transportation funding and reopening the Wichita and Kansas economy. We’ve never been more laser focused on the best interests of business than during this time as we pressed for using sound data to make policy about opening business in a safe and responsible manner. I credit Andrew and Jason Watkins (Watkins Public Strategies) for taking our advocacy effort to the next level during this period.
Finally, I want to talk about the leadership of Alejo Cabral (Director of W, A Community of Young Professionals, pictured right). Alejo and the leadership of W were the first to recognize the need to come out forcefully for racial justice after the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. W has been a Chamber affiliate for more than 15 years and now has over 3,000 members. It was their bold leadership that helped convince the Chamber to join forces with W on this issue. You can see how W walks the talk when it comes to inclusion by going to their website. I believe the Chamber’s work the past four years on diversity and inclusion has also positioned us to make a difference on this critical community and national issue.
I have similar stories I could share about every member of the Chamber team. It has been inspiring to work with the entire Chamber staff during the last few months and to be part of their commitment to deliver information, policy recommendations, services and products on new platforms. This disruption has clearly shown the Chamber’s relevance and ability to rise to the occasion. Now, more than ever, the Wichita Regional Chamber is committed to success for our members, prosperity for our region and leadership for our community.
President & CEO
Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce