Is Wichita its own worst enemy? How attitude could affect the economy

(City of Wichita photo)

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Is Wichita its own worst enemy? A Sedgwick County commissioner believes in some ways it is.

Commissioner Jim Howell is calling out residents to change their attitudes about the City of Wichita. He wants them to focus on the positive aspects and what the city has to offer rather than what it might be lacking.

“Aattitude is a lot. Attitude is contagious and if you have someone that is negative and they are critical and they’re looking at all of the horrible things in our community and they don’t understand what is good about our community, that has an impact on others,” said District 5 Commissioner Jim Howell.

Howell and several other community leaders recently visited Raleigh, North Carolina for the city-to-city tour.

“Basically, we compare ourselves with other communities that are thriving and doing well, find out what works for them, what’s good, what’s bad, find out how they solve problems,” Howell said.

Howell said he had two major takeaways from the trip: there is a need to invest public capital in new quality of life opportunities and there is a need to develop fresh, positive attidues about the Wichita community.

“One of the people in our own trip said, you know, ‘come to Wichita and you will like us better than we do.’ Well, that was kind of a funny joke, but the reality is there some truth to that,” Howell said. “I have gone to some of the Go Wichita events where they talk about how great Wichita is, we market ourselves to other communities, but you talk to people who live here and they don’t know what’s good about Wichita.”

Howell admits the city’s economy is not where he’d like to see it. According to the 2018 Wichita employment forecast, Wichita total non-farm employment is expected to increase by 1,065 jobs. It states the production sectors are expected to remain relatively flat in 2018 while the trade transportation and utilities sector is forecasted to contract by 0.7 percent, decreasing by around 350 jobs. WalletHub, a personal finance website, also recently named Wichita the 4th slowest growing large city in America.

“Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t so rosy here. We need to wake up,” he said.

Howell said he doesn’t have the perfect solution to help Wichita’s economy, but he said it all starts with a positive attitude – if people are proud of where they live, more people will be attracted to live there. It’s something he witnessed first hand during his visit to Raleigh.

“What I noticed about Raleigh and Nashville is they like living there. You talk to the cab drivers, the workers, or the people who work in the schools, they like living there. They are excited about living in their community. They like their community and you know what they have problems too. We’re not exempt. They’re not exempt from problems. They have some of the same challenges we have, but their attitude is, you know, they are aware of those problems, but they don’t focus on those problems as being why they are negative about their own community,” Howell said.

Howell said ultimately the city, the county and its residents need to capitalize on what makes Wichita great and the amenities it has to offer.

“We have got to identify what’s good about our own community and get that message out in some effective way and hopefully the pop culture picks up on that and we will start seeing a change of attitude because attitude is contagious and really we have so much to celebrate here, we just need to know it,” he said.

Howell said some of the things to celebrate are the city’s new airport, the Wingnuts, Intrust Bank Arena and Wichita State University.