Jay Smith

President and COO


What makes Wichita a great place to live?

I think you start with the innate kindness and humility of our people. You can walk down the street and generally count on a smile being returned. Wichitans have a caring spirit and have demonstrated time and again their willingness to offer a hand of support. We have an affordable cost of living, the daily commute is relatively easy, Wichita State, Friends and Newman are wonderful urban universities delivering a quality education and we have a business community that is focused on our future. Few cities have a zoo that can compare to ours and many would be envious of our movie-going experience. People make the difference though, and we have the best.

What is the biggest challenge or opportunity for our community in 2016?

I believe our principal opportunity remains the improvement in the quality of life for our citizens. That means we have to operate in a manner that fosters the creation of meaningful new jobs. Those positions need to be attractive to citizens of all ages, but we’ve got to do a better job of making the city attractive to our young people, and a part of that attraction is the opportunity of working in a job that will allow them to advance and make a difference. A vibrant economy means that we are able to effectively compete with other cities and make appropriate investments in our people, infrastructure and other aspects relating to our quality of life. We need to make every effort to find common ground across our various constituencies and work together to make a positive difference in the lives of Wichitans.

What lasting impression do you hope the community will have of Together 2016?

Together 2016 will bring the “Keeper project” to life – and will encourage families to explore our city to identify all of the Keeper of the Plains statues. I also hope the community recognizes the partnership of the companies involved with the Together Wichita – and that it takes all of us to make positive changes happen.

What would you tell a person who is considering moving to Wichita?

Rather than telling the person congratulations on considering a move to a great community, I think I would ask them how I could help with the transition. Wichita is a pretty easy city to navigate, but I think anyone would appreciate input on educational, health care and other issues. I’d let them know that this is a great place to get involved in the community, and that while we are proud of our agricultural heritage, there are a variety of ways to experience everything the city has to offer. If you’re interested in a great place to raise a family, Wichita is for you. If you want to experience four seasons and a number of blue sky days, we’ve got it. Short commutes to the workplace – that’s Wichita. Bottom-line: we’ve got great people.

How has Wichita changed since you first moved here?

Wichita has obviously grown a great deal since I was born here 50+ years ago. We have new high schools; WSU had a football team, but did not have a baseball team. General aviation jet aircraft did not exist. Our zoo was located in Riverside Park, and you went to the NBC baseball tournament to see Fireball Jackson pitch for the Leavenworth Penitentiary team. There was no Kellogg flyover, and the Canal Route on I-35 did not exist. We had Joyland and KiddieLand and drive-in movies, but there were no Warren Theatres. There was no Bradley Fair, Towne East or Towne West. There was no INTRUST Bank Arena or Century II. Much of the area within the city limits today would have been planted in wheat 50 years ago. What hasn’t changed is the kindness of our people.

Who could be better served by our community?

If you approach each day looking to make it a bit better than yesterday, then I think the answer to this question is that everyone in our community could be better served. We have opportunities to improve the educational experience for our young people and our teachers. We can do better at addressing health and wellness issues for all of our citizens. We need to enhance the employment situation within the Wichita community to provide opportunities for our people to make economic gains. We can assist those less fortunate or disadvantaged so as to ease the daily difficulties they encounter and provide pathways for security and success. We can improve our infrastructure and provide greater support to our first responders. I don’t think we should be satisfied with the status quo, so to me, we have opportunities to improve our performance throughout the community.

What is Wichita’s best kept secret?

I think Wichita itself is a great secret. As a community, we are not well recognized for all that we have to offer. When we lived in New York for a few years, we did not encounter many people who were familiar with the great quality of life we have here. The quality and kindness of our people would probably have to lead my list as a secret, but depending on your particular interest, we have any number of “secrets”. The Sedgwick County Zoo, Botanica, Music Theatre, the Symphony, Exploration Place, Connie’s, Felipe’s, Hog Wild, Two Brothers, Pig In Pig Out, walking along the river, the Keeper of the Plains, our universities, College Hill at Halloween, a YMCA system that is unrivaled – these are but a few of the things that contribute to our quality of life.

How long have you lived in Wichita?

57 Years.

What is the first thing you would show a visitor to Wichita?

It depends on what is taking place on the date of the visit. Perhaps a concert or sporting event at INTRUST Bank Arena. If the Shockers are playing, a visit to Koch Arena would be a must. If a nice spring or fall day, you can’t beat the Zoo.