The Wichita Community Foundation engaged Reach Advisors, a New York-based research firm founded by Wichita native James Chung, to determine what Wichita needs to do to reshape the future of the city.
Chung first presented Reach Advisors’ findings in September 2015. He returned in November and presented “Focus Forward – Step One: Diagnosis” again at Newman University on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Some of the findings are not surprising to most Wichitans. For example, manufacturing, especially aircraft manufacturing, drives much of the economy. The city is known as “The Air Capital of the World” after all. When business and commercial aircraft manufacturing is down, Wichita is down. When it’s up, Wichita rebounds.
However, Chung’s findings highlight a drastic difference in the way Wichita rebounds and how comparable Midwest cities and the United States as a whole rebound: Recessions hit Wichita harder, and the economy comes back from recession slower.
According to Chung, Wichita is losing ground on several economic indicators when compared to other Midwest cities, such as Oklahoma City and Omaha, Neb., to the United States and to the Wichita of 40 years ago.
Four drivers Wichita needs to address include:
- The business cycle challenge, or increasing stable sectors, such as healthcare, and redistributing the workforce of volatile sectors, such as manufacturing
- The human capital challenge, or increasing the labor force and educating talent to generate better income for everyone
- The entrepreneurial challenge, or increasing venture capital and driving innovation to generate jobs
- The perception challenge, or changing the way the Midwest and the United States thinks about Wichita
In a press release, both Chung and Wichita Community Foundation President and CEO Shelly Prichard said other communities have changed their economic future addressing these economic drivers, and Wichita can, too.
About the Wichita Community Foundation:
The Wichita Community Foundation is an independent public charity with the mission to create lasting legacies by partnering with people, families and organizations that devote resources to causes that matter.