The boards of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce and GO Topeka have announced changes that the respective chairs of these organizations said will improve efficiency and effectiveness in growing the community. Brent Boles, chair of the Chamber board and president of Schendel Lawn & Landscape, and Scott Griffith, chair of the GO Topeka board and president of INTRUST Bank, said the boards approved the following changes recently:
- Public posting of GO Topeka board meeting minutes on its website
- Separate payrolls for the two organizations, effective Jan. 1, 2016
- A revised purchased services agreement underway estimated to decrease GO Topeka’s costs for Chamber services by approximately $50,000 and the appointment of a third-party vendor to periodically review the agreement and make recommendations (purchased services include marketing and communications, financial services, government relations and administrative expenses)
- Separate bylaws and governance by each organization’s respective board of directors
“Six months ago we initiated discussions with city officials, JEDO members, Chamber members and others in the public so we could listen and learn ways in which we could be more effective and efficient in our operations. We believe these changes accomplish that and will improve public perception,” said Boles.
Additionally, the boards opted to keep a single president and chief executive officer structure for the organizations to capitalize on synergies, but rather than have the individual report to each board independently now a new governance committee comprising members of both boards will be responsible for overseeing the activities of the president and chief executive officer and administration of the purchased services agreement.
Boles said the past few months have provided the organizations with an opportunity to “reset and reassess internal procedures and policies that have prevented us from being effective and perpetuated misperceptions in the community.”
Griffith said, “On behalf of GO Topeka, we were our own worst enemy in terms of not telling our story. We permitted people to say negative things without responding. We plan to be deliberate and straightforward in telling the community what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and who we’re doing it for.”
For example, Griffith said that while many people know about GO Topeka’s role in bringing in new businesses and helping established companies grow, many are unaware that 10 percent of GO Topeka’s taxpayer dollars are allocated to Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development to support entrepreneurs and minority- and women-owned businesses.
“Clearly economic development is not just a GO Topeka issue but a Chamber issue as well,” said Boles. “Recruiting new companies to the community used to be about land and incentives, but the industry has evolved to include more quality of life considerations like education, workforce development and lifestyle amenities.”
Boles said a committee comprising members of both boards interviewed nine candidates in October with second interviews to be conducted in November and a possible announcement of an individual in December.
Top Five Recent Highlights for Topeka
- Expedition Topeka
- Washburn University Developments
- Downtown Development (specifically Jazz Fest)
- Riverfront Development
- Collaboration Amongst Elected Officials and Community Leaders to Drive Momentum
- Washburn Tech
- Financial Services Summit and Development of Financial Services Core
- Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development
- Economic Development Announcements (Mars, FHLBank, Big Heart Pet Brands, Koch & Co.)
- 712 Innovations