Wichita 2020: In the Face of Adversity

Header Image Credit - TRAVIS HEYING, THE WICHITA EAGLE

This year was a study in perseverance for Wichitans. See what changes to the workforce, infrastructure, and the cultural and economic landscape headlined 2020.

A year that began with so much promise and led to so much hardship has finally come to an end. The global pandemic has not only deeply impacted the lives of Wichitans, but also altered the city itself. While COVID-19 significantly impacted life for most of the community, there were several influential events that shaped Wichita in 2020.

Last year’s severe and frequent challenges have led to tension and uncertainty. But they’ve also shown the resilience of this city and its people. Slow-moving changes were accelerated – some due to the pandemic and some, like the Black Lives Matter movement, despite it. No matter their cause, all have resulted in large and lasting transformation to organizations, infrastructure and the Wichita workforce.

In 2020, there was hope for action toward a collective vision. Things didn’t go as planned to say the least. Wichita was forced to adjust in order to survive. But by embracing this change, perhaps 2021 can be the chance for Wichita to take that next step forward.

Here are some notable stories and events from this past year:


BUSINESS CYCLE

As many may have guessed, the news in Wichita’s Business Cycle was dominated by the virus’ effect on companies and the economy. New regulations and unprecedented shutdowns resulted in widespread changes, a tumultuous year for the aviation industry and even an affiliation change for the baseball team that has yet to play a game.

Here are some stories that sum up Wichita's Business Cycle Challenge in 2020:

1) Businesses face uncertainty among COVID restrictions

Hospital leaders urge the Sedgwick County Commission to establish tougher rules in the midst of soaring case numbers in the area. After the initial shutdown, businesses brace for another round of limitations as economic concerns grow.

Read the Wichita Business Journal’s coverage.

Whipple

PHOTO CREDIT: KMUW


2) Amazon to open area facilities

Amazon, one of the largest online retailers, delivers some needed news when it announces the opening of a distribution in Wichita. A few months later, they double down on its commitment to the community with the news of a one-million-square-foot fulfillment center in Park City.

Read the Wichita Eagle’s coverage of the Wichita and Park City news.

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PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


3) Wichita Wind Surge suffer numerous setbacks

After construction of a $75-million stadium and an agreement with the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, the Wichita Wind Surge agree to become the Double-A affiliated franchise of the Minnesota Twins for the next decade. Off the field, significant personnel changes leave the organization in flux after the death of owner Lou Schwechheimer to COVID-19, the resignation of president Jay Miller and layoffs to Wind Surge leadership.

Affiliation change – Wichita Business Journal and Wichita Eagle coverage

Death of Schwechheimer – Wichita Eagle coverage

Miller resignation and layoffs – Wichita Business Journal coverage

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PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA BUSINESS JOURNAL


4) Wichita’s COVID lab to help economy

The Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Wichita State University opens and begins to provide COVID saliva testing for students, teachers and other at-risk workers. The 24-hour turnaround time at the lab provides certainty for schools and businesses.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

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PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


5) A Mixed Bag for Aviation

The aviation industry in Wichita had some highs and lows in 2020. For every story about a new facility or contract, there was another about large layoffs.

Textron Aviation

Bell Textron opens Wichita facility – Wichita Eagle coverage

Beechcraft King Air 360 production begins – Wichita Eagle coverage

Multiple rounds of layoffs – Wichita Eagle April & July coverage

Spirit Aerosystems

Multiple rounds of layoffs – Wichita Eagle June & July coverage

Integra Technologies

Integra secures $20.7 million defense contract – Wichita Eagle coverage

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PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE



HUMAN CAPITAL

With unique, immediate needs arising in the community, Wichita responded quickly with new ways to improve the lives of its citizens.

Here are some stories that sum up Wichita's Human Capital Challenge in 2020:

1) Black Lives Matter movement in Wichita

In response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Wichitans took to the streets to peacefully protest and demand change from local officials.

Read KMUW’s coverage.

Choose-Wichita-Photo

PHOTO CREDIT: KMUW


2) Wichita school board makes difficult decision

The USD 259 school board grapples with how to handle the 2020-21 school year in order to meet the educational needs of children while keeping their communities safe. They decide to delay the start of school. Shortly after, they make the decision to prohibit in-person learning – causing a ripple effect for businesses with employees who now have to provide educational support at home.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

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PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


3) WSU Foundation crushes fundraising goal

The “Shock the World” campaign from the WSU Foundation exceeds its seven-year goal by 23% thanks to the contributions of more than 32,000 donors.

Read the Wichita Business Journal’s coverage.

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PHOTO CREDIT: FOUNDATION.WICHITA.EDU


4) Innovation Campus adds Deloitte

The City of Wichita and Wichita State University announce a partnership with Deloitte, whose new smart factory will be built on the Innovation Campus at WSU.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

image

PHOTO CREDIT: WICHITA.EDU


5) Textron helps create a collaborative apprenticeship program

Textron Aviation announces a partnership with WSU Tech and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to create a collaborative apprenticeship program. Under the program, students will be paid and split time between working at Textron Aviation and studying at WSU Tech.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

image

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE



ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Despite all the challenges facing businesses in 2020, entrepreneurial initiatives emerged throughout Wichita. Some adapted to the current environment while others worked to attract new business.

Here are some stories that sum up Wichita's Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2020:

1) Retail strip designed for COVID era

A 7,000 square-foot building is being built at 37th and Maize Road to accommodate social distancing and other measures implemented during the pandemic. The retail center will be designed and constructed for increased curbside-to-go and drive-thru features.

Read the Wichita Business Journal’s coverage.

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PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA BUSINESS JOURNAL


2) Tech startup part of pilot program to increase Wichita exports

Quicc, a video capturing company, is one of five Wichita-area companies in a Kansas Global Services pilot program to expand and diversify the city’s exports. The other companies include Meter Engineers, Hornet Cutting Systems, Lubrication Engineers and Big Dog Motorcycles.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

Rodriguez

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


3) Wichita company hopes to fight COVID in the air

PWI invests $3-5 million into its ultraviolet light technology to help neutralize pathogens aboard commercial flights. The product, named Biotek Shield, aims to assist the aviation industry that has been severely hampered by the pandemic.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

christina_long_founders_grove

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


4) NXTUS hosts global entrepreneur competition

The inaugural NXTSTAGE Pilot Competition announces 33 finalists focused in the areas of financial technology, industry 4.0 and community health and vibrancy. The competition serves as an opportunity to help young companies grow and to foster innovation within existing businesses.

Read the NXTSTAGE release.

Groover-Labs-Graphic

PHOTO CREDIT: NXTUS.IO



PERCEPTION

The year was wrought with scandal and resignations that captivated and divided the city. But across the country, Wichita’s perception looked to be on the rise thanks to local businesses receiving national recognition.

Here are some stories that sum up Wichita's Perception Challenge in 2020:

1) Scandal and shakeup in local government

Investigative reporting uncovers that Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, Wichita City Council Member James Clendenin and state Representative Michael Capps were behind the political ad that falsely accused Mayor Brandon Whipple of sexual harassment and a plot to blame the former Sedgwick County GOP Chairman for the ad. Facing removal investigations, O’Donnell and Clendenin resign. In November, Capps loses his reelection campaign.

Read the Wichita Eagle’s coverage of the O’Donnell and Clendenin news.

Project-Wichita

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


2) Shocking resignations at the top of Wichita State University

Wichita State University President Jay Golden abruptly resigned on September 25 after less than a year in office. Less than two months later, Gregg Marshall, head coach of the WSU men’s head basketball team, resigns following allegations of physical abuse toward members of the team.

Read the Golden resignation coverage from KMUW and the Marshall coverage from the Wichita Eagle.

040219revolutsia_jg1

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


3) Riverfest is cancelled and CEO steps down

In March, the 49th annual Wichita Riverfest is shut down amid coronavirus concerns. The cancellation of Wichita Festivals’ landmark event, which attracted 450,000 visitors in 2019, results in a 90% decline in revenue for the organization. In September, Ty Tabing, CEO of Wichita Festivals, resigns after only 10 months on the job.

Read the Wichita Business Journal’s coverage of the Riverfest shutdown and KMUW's coverage of Tabing's resignation.

Century-II-2

PHOTO CREDIT: KMUW


Del Norte, a handcrafted ceramics store created by Armando Minjarez, was featured on the Drew Barrymore Show. The movie star and daytime talk show host selected Del Norte as one of 16 small businesses for her holiday gift guide.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

Century-II-2

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


5) Sundance takes the floor with mama.film

Sundance Film Festival has selected Wichita as one of its community partners for their 2021 festival. Exclusive screenings will happen at mama.film microcinema, where local artists and Wichita-themed experiences will also be featured.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

wichita_all_america_city

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE


6) The future of Century II inches toward a conclusion

A Sedgwick County judge throws out the “Save Century II” petition. Wichita City Council approves a policy calling for a non-binding vote to give citizens a voice in the future of Century II and the former Central Public Library building.

Read the Wichita Eagle coverage.

wichita_all_america_city

PHOTO CREDIT: THE WICHITA EAGLE



In the face of adversity, the Wichita community adapted. But just because the calendar has reset doesn't mean our fortunes do as well.

This year, we must continue to persevere – building upon the opportunities to grow and press forward.


NEXT STEPS:


Learn more about the Four Challenges


Learn more about the Entrepreneurship Challenge


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