On the evening of April 12, community leaders gathered at Memorial Hall to observe the centennial of the Hutchinson Reno County Chamber of Commerce. One hundred uninterrupted years of existence is no small accomplishment for any organization and is the result of 10 decades of hard work and dedication by a long list of visionaries representing businesses large and small. The milestone is ample reason to celebrate before re-grouping to start the next 100 years.

It is an honor to serve as the Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board of Directors for 2019 and note that two of my predecessors, Kevin Miller (2014) and Gene Schmidt (1992), served in the same capacity during the past 27 years.

The Chamber of Commerce is in good company in the Hutchinson community when it comes to longevity, as the Kansas State Fair reached this pinnacle in 2013 and three years later Kuhn Krause, a major farm equipment manufacturer, did the same. In 10 short years, Hutchinson Community College will join the ranks of centenarians in our community.

Still, it is alarming how few organizations or human beings reach the age of 100, although one category is increasing. In 1950, 10,000 human beings were at least 100 years old world-wide, a figure that has increased to 340,000 this past year. On the other hand, statistics for the staying power of business has declined. In the 1920s, successful companies remained in business an average of 67 years, a number that has decreased to 15 years, according to recent tabulations.

Chambers of Commerce date to colonial times and precede America’s independence from England. In 1768, New York City formed a Chamber of Commerce, 169 years after the start of the world’s first business advocacy organization in Marseille, France. Today, 13,000 communities worldwide, including hundreds of cities in China, are served by a Chamber of Commerce.

For a century, the Hutchinson Reno County Chamber of Commerce has worked to further Reno County’s quality of life and economic well-being. The Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront advocating good roads, recruitment of new businesses, supporting legislation favorable to our community and, occasionally, urging the defeat of laws detrimental to our area. Most importantly, a major goal of the Chamber is to support existing businesses, the backbone of our community.

Chamber archives paint a picture of an organization willing to seize the moment when opportunities arise with the knowledge that not every venture will produce the desired results.

— In 1988, the Chamber’s Transportation Committee joined other Chambers of Commerce in successfully lobbying the Kansas legislature to appropriate funds to widen Highway 96 to four-lanes between Hutchinson and Wichita. The effort resulted in the construction of a second four-lane highway connecting Hutchinson with McPherson.

— In 2005, the Chamber of Commerce joined with state officials in the successful recruitment of Siemens, a world class wind power company.

— Throughout the Chamber’s history, the organizations top executive has testified before committees at the Kansas legislature to put our community’s best foot forward on a wide range of issues. This year, Chamber President Debra Teufel spoke in opposition to a piece of legislation restricting companies building wind farms. Last year, Debra was front and center at a hearing held in Newton to develop criteria for a new Transportation plan which, if enacted, will include funding for the expansion of Highway 14 between South Hutchinson and Lyons.

The Chamber’s accomplishments since the organization’s inception will provide inspiration and guidance for the next 100 years and beyond. Congratulations are in order for those who have worked tirelessly on the Chamber staff and the thousands of volunteers who have served on committees and in other ways to make the Chamber of Commerce the warm welcome to the Hutchinson community.

Businessman David K. Williams penned a column in 2013 explaining the seven traits essential for the long term success of an organization and company: respect, belief, loyalty, commitment, trust, courage and gratitude. According to Williams, if employees and organizations are fully engaged and leaders are fully leading, miraculous successes occur, all of which provides food for thought for the next 100 years of the Chamber of Commerce and community where we live, work and play.

I am very blessed to be a part of the Hutchinson/Reno County community and Chamber of Commerce.

 

Ken Johnson is president and CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System.