THIS MOVEMENT STARTS HERE.

Only through deep-dive, extensive research can the challenges before us be illuminated. James Chung, along with his New York City-based strategy firm Reach Advisors, does just that.

Without this knowledge, we're blind. With it, we identify the challenges and navigate our way to a stronger city.

The Wichita Community Foundation knew of Chung and his company's respected record of helping companies navigate tough times. When they asked him to do the same for Wichita, it kicked off a multiple-year study with a series of presentations the foundation calls Focus Forward.

James gave the first presentation last year and highlighted the four challenges Wichita faces today: the Business Cycle Challenge, the Human Capital Challenge, the Entrepreneurship Challenge and the Perception Challenge.


This video covers why these challenges matter and sets up what we will be talking about throughout this site.


Maybe you had never heard of James Chung before now, or have little knowledge of his original findings. Maybe, like many across Wichita, you have your doubts. That's OK. This is a good place to get up to speed on what we know so far, which has become the basis for our content here at The Chung Report.

View the report in its entirety here. If you're more interested in a synopsis, read through our comprehensive outline below.



THE DIAGNOSIS.

The first report from James' deep-dive analysis was a diagnosis, a discovery of Wichita's ailments. Just like a diagnosis from a doctor, it can be scary, but it's the first step toward a treatment.

I. WICHITA IN 1980

It was a place doing more. It was out-delivering its size.James Chung

James Chung grew up in, and was shaped by, a different Wichita than we have today. In relation to the rest of the country, the city was better educated, earned more and was more productive, which Chung says contributes to his "sentimentality" for Wichita.

KEY TAKE AWAYS:

  • In 1980, Wichita had an 8.4 percent higher household income than the national average.
  • It also had 15 percent more college graduates.
  • And 2.4 percent higher gross regional production per capita.

WATCH:

Video courtesy of the Wichita Community Foundation.


II. STRONG, STABLE OR STAGNANT?

Wichita's simply not producing the same level of wealth as elsewhere. Or ... that Wichita used to be able to produce.James Chung

Just looking at the numbers, it would be easy to say that Wichita is at least stable. Incomes are still going up and so are other indicators like population growth, but when you compare these numbers to those of past Wichita, and even the national average, Wichita is clearly losing ground, or market share, as Chung says.

KEY TAKE AWAYS:

  • In the past 30 years, Wichita experienced a 12-point drop in household income against the U.S. average.
  • Chung says 1980 was the "economic peak" for Wichita's growth versus the U.S.
  • Wichita is growing in population, but only because there have been more births than deaths.

WATCH:

Video courtesy of the Wichita Community Foundation.


III. THE FOUR CHALLENGES

There are four fundamental challenges at the heart of what's going on.James Chung

The diagnosis is this: there are four distinct, yet interdependent, challenges holding our city back from what it could be and what it once was. They are the Business Cycle, Human Capital, Entrepreneurship and Perception.

1. The Business Challenge

Wichita is slower to recover after recession, declines at a steeper rate during recessions and still lags. ... Each cycle ends up taking more and more from Wichita each time.James Chung

The Business Cycle is how Wichita reacts to economic trends, or booms and busts. Chung finds that Wichita is quick to decline, slow to recover and is still lagging compared with other Midwestern cities and the nation. Wichita is also heavily invested in manufacturing, which has seen a decline in jobs because of higher productivity with fewer people.

KEY TAKE AWAYS:

  • Gross Regional Product (GRP) growth is in the bottom quarter of all U.S. cities since 2008.
  • Manufacturing is still volatile, but is no longer a job creator.
  • Wichita has to embrace a cycle of constant upgrading to transform its manufacturing base as world economy changes.

WATCH:

Video courtesy of the Wichita Community Foundation.


2. The Human Capital Challenge

Wichita is clearly challenged in maintaining the significant amount of human capital that has been built up over time.James Chung

Human Capital is not just how many people live in Wichita. It's the training they receive, the talents they have and how they are used in creating economic value. Maintaining a steady flow of workers skilled enough to create that value is vitally important in order to keep and attract businesses.

KEY TAKE AWAYS:

  • If Wichita was behaving like other cities, it would have about 10,000 more workers in their prime earning and spending years, ages 35 to 54.
  • Between 1980 and 2014, Wichita's number of college graduates went up by 46 percent, while the U.S. grew by 80 percent.
  • Wichita hires only 1.8 percent more college graduates than it did two decades ago. Meanwhile, the U.S. hires 6.3 percent more.

WATCH:

Video courtesy of the Wichita Community Foundation.


3. The Entrepreneurship Challenge

Entrepreneurship no longer drives Wichita like it used to.James Chung

Despite a rich history of entrepreneurship, from oil and aviation to franchising, the amount of scalable innovation happening in the city has dwindled. Wichita's startup density is low, and the city doesn't even show up on the radar for venture capitalists. Other Midwestern cities have become havens for VC investments and technology startups.

KEY TAKE AWAYS:

  • Wichita ranks at 227 out of 366 cities for startup density. Oklahoma City ranks at 59.
  • Even though Wichita is the 51st-largest city in the U.S., it was completely left off the list of top 160 cities receiving venture capital investments.
  • Based on population size, Wichita should be seeing between $10 million and $20 million in VC investments each year.

WATCH:

Video courtesy of the Wichita Community Foundation.


4. The Perception Challenge

I know there is a lot more to Wichita that is just not coming through, is just not getting channeled.James Chung

This challenge comes from inside and out. First of all, the city is not sharing its story in a way that competes with other Midwestern cities. Second, many Wichita residents see "warmth and friendliness" as a defining attribute for the city. However, data from the Census Bureau on Civic Engagement has actually found that Wichita is not nearly as warm or friendly as it seems.


KEY TAKE AWAYS:

  • Midwestern cities like Des Moines and Omaha have learned how to boost their images even with similar challenges as Wichita.
  • Despite a reputation of warmth and friendliness, Wichita ranked low on several indicators from the Census Bureau on Civic Engagement, including talking with neighbors and hearing from friends or family.
  • The Knight Foundation found that young talent is perceived to be one of the least welcomed groups in Wichita.

WATCH:

Video courtesy of the Wichita Community Foundation.


IV. WHAT'S NEXT?

It's not going to reverse itself automatically. It's going to take directed action.James Chung

These challenges are not unique to Wichita. They face midsize cities across the U.S. Many of those cities have done the work to turn themselves around. Now, it's up to all of us to do what we can to create a better city.


KEY TAKE AWAYS:

  • Other cities have turned themselves around, but in most cases, it took a catalyst — usually a crisis — to pull the city together.
  • These challenges are not cyclical and will not fix themselves. It will take some intervention.
  • It will take a critical mass chipping away at all four challenges together. No one challenge is independent of the others.

WATCH:

Video courtesy of the Wichita Community Foundation.



NEXT STEPS:


Learn more about James Chung, the man behind the numbers


Learn more about the Four Challenges


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