Bringing economic development organizations together for focus, efficiency and improved engagement
By: Michaela Saunders
It’s no secret that the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, GO Topeka, Visit Topeka and Downtown Topeka, Inc. have similar goals. It’s even common to hear the names used interchangeably – even among those “in the know.”
Boards of those four organizations, after inspiration from last year’s inter-city visit to Des Moines and the recent recommendation by Market Street, have signed off on establishing the new Greater Topeka Partnership beginning January 1. Incorporation papers for the new 501(c)6 organization were filed Oct. 2 and the remaining months will allow for ironing out logistics.
“This approach will allow us to play to our strengths in some important and exciting ways for the betterment of this community and its residents,” said Matt Pivarnik, who will serve as President and CEO of the Greater Topeka Partnership.
The Partnership will serve as an umbrella agency including nine distinct efforts that support the enhancement of economic development and quality of life in Topeka & Shawnee County. In addition to the Chamber, Downtown Topeka, Inc., GO Topeka and Visit Topeka, the entities involved are 712 Innovations, Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development (a GO Topeka program), Heartland Visioning, Forge and Momentum 2022, the community’s holistic economic development-focused strategic plan.
With the support of each board, which will maintain their crucial functions, the Partnership is now working to secure a joint location on Kansas Avenue that can house its more than 40 employees. Work also is underway to convene a Chairs’ Council, made up of the chair and chair-elect of the Chamber, GO Topeka, Downtown Topeka and Visit Topeka boards as well as at-large community members. The Chair’s Council will be the Partnership’s governing board.
Within the Partnership, each organization maintains its key functions and no combining of public and private dollars will occur as the entities execute their missions. The Partnership will provide shared services in the areas of event planning, marketing, public relations, finance and administration, and resource development.
Brett Oetting, who will continue to serve as president of Visit Topeka and will serve as Executive Vice President of the Partnership, explained that those shared marketing services began in May, but the other shared service departments are joining forces now, and the transition will begin quickly, with the staff as coordinated as possible when the GTP officially begins in 2018.
“We have been combing through the details of this for months to ensure each organization keeps its unique identity while allowing its strengths to shine,” Oetting said. “This is a huge positive for the community.”
“The Momentum 2022 plan identifies five key pillars of focus for community enhancement and the structure of the Partnership will make those changes easier to achieve,” said Visit Topeka Board President Brendan Wiley.
“The community wants to see the (Momentum 2022) plan come to fruition. Having everyone together will ensure that,” he said. “Each of these organizations has its own vision, but it’s easy to see the opportunity to share services and be so much more organizationally efficient while focusing together on long-term community success.”
Chamber Board Chair Janet Stanek agreed: “We saw this model work in Des Moines, Iowa. These are like organizations with similar missions and goals that will be able to leverage their own strengths and play to each other’s strengths … for the good of the entire community.”
Coming in the Winter Topeka Business Edition: Momentum 2022 is a big plan. Learn how you can support it and help the community reach its goals.
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