Last Word: Matt Pivarnik
All great communities are characterized by thriving businesses, committed leaders and a cooperative spirit of philanthropy. When we study successful metropolitan areas, we always find that the public and private sectors are copacetic and working hand-in-hand to move their region forward. There are many success factors in a community, but none greater than a thriving business environment.
What lessonds did you learn from your time in Tulsa? In Tulsa, I learned that determination and persistence are omnipotent. Tulsa didn’t just wake up one day and have a renaissance. Instead, business and elected leaders worked together to make things happen. We woke downtown Tulsa up. We created jobs. We understood that small business was a major driver of our economy. We fought hard to protect education funding. We developed strategies to attract and retain young talent. We learned the business case surrounding diversity and inclusion. We emphasized workforce. We put major emphasis on our existing businesses that had contributed to our economy for years. We fought bloody wars to protect education and healthcare funding. We learned that great places to visit equal great places to live and work. After working for the Tulsa Regional Chamber for 16 years, I could go on and on about the lessons I learned, but none are more important than, “We are stronger together.”
What is your vision? That Topeka and Shawnee County is widely recognized as a leader in economic and individual prosperity.
How does the Chamber's agenda help achieve economic growth? The Chamber works with many partners to achieve economic growth. I actually represent multiple organizations that partner daily including GO Topeka, the Greater Topeka Chamber, Heartland Visioning and Fast Forward. All of these organizations have different tactics and missions, but point back to the primary function of creating regional economic prosperity through economic development, legislative advocacy, education and workforce, and quality of life. Just as important is our realization that we work with many community partners to create economic prosperity. Partnerships with organizations like Downtown Topeka, Inc., Visit Topeka, Inc. and dozens of others are crucial.
What are the biggest challenges moving forward? First is realizing how great Topeka and Shawnee County are. Ask anyone who has moved here from somewhere else and that individual will readily tell you how fortunate we are. It is time we believe this and start telling the rest of the world. We need to continue to develop our product and clearly understand and market our competitive identity. This all leads to our biggest challenge—our ability to import talent and grow our population and workforce.
Opportunities? Topeka and Shawnee County’s biggest opportunities are our current momentum and quality of life. It is easy to live in this really cool place. Now we need the rest of the world to know it.
What do you know for sure? That building regions and creating economic prosperity is a team sport.
Matt Pivarnik serves on numerous industry boards affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce and the Association for Chamber of Commerce Executives. He sits on the Heartland Visioning Management Committee and is a member of the boards for the United Way of Greater Topeka and Visit Topeka. He also serves on the President’s Advisory Council for his alma mater, Northeastern State University.
Matt recently moved to Topeka from Tulsa where he was the Executive Vice President and COO for the Tulsa’s Future Economic Development Organization, Tulsa Regional Chamber, VisitTulsa, Tulsa’s Young Professionals, Tulsa Sports Commission, Tulsa Film and Music Commission, MOSAIC and the Tulsa Small Business Connection.
Matt’s favorite career accomplishments include founding Tulsa’s Young Professionals, a progressive organization focused on the retention and recruitment of young talent that boasts more than 8,000 members, and co-founding MOSAIC, an organization that makes the business case for diversity & inclusion. Matt and his wife, Wendy, live in Topeka, Kansas, with two of their three sons, Chase (18) and Trey (13). His oldest son, Zac (22), is a senior at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Matt’s parents and in-laws have also made Topeka their home.