"Wichita is a little bit stuck where it is," report shows city needs improvements

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Some dim and grim statistics show Wichita's economy has declined while similar cities in the Midwest are growing.

Former Wichita resident and analyst, James Chung, of Reach Advisors, conducted the study that also shows college educated women and minorities are leaving town.

"Residents in other cities that are higher gross cities are seeing greater increase in salary, greater increase in jobs, greater increase in home values." Chung said.

Chung was hired by the Wichita Community Foundation three years ago. His report back then showed Wichita has been stagnant for decades. His latest report was revealed this week.

"There are a lot of things where other cities are pulling further ahead, when Wichita is a little bit stuck where it is," Chung said.

But current residents believe the city is trying.

"There's a lot of new businesses setting up in Wichita," resident Stephen Kawonga said.

Kawonga and Rajiv Chauhan have lived in Wichita for more than a decade. Both think the city leaders could do a better job promoting the educated workforce here, so companies will move in and people will stay.

"We cultivate a lot of talent, but that talent leaves," Kawonga said.

"I'm raising my family here. So, I want the city to be continuously growing and people coming here," Chauhan said.

The Wichita Community Foundation announced Monday it will invest $1 million to create the Talent Ecosystem Fund, in response to Chung's report. WSU Tech will receive $500,000 as part of the fund to use for a program that will pay housing, transportation and other expenses for students who want to move to Wichita to train for certain high-demand jobs.

Chung's report also says Wichita falls behind by hundreds of millions of dollars when it comes to investing in the city. Mayor Jeff Longwell disagrees. 

"If you go back just prior to Chung coming to town, there wasn't an [WSU] Innovation campus. There wasn't a Cargill. There's wasn't a Union Station... a Douglas Place apartment project, a River Vista apartment project," he said.

But according to the report, 42 percent of residents want to stay in Wichita, which is a much more positive number than the 27 percent who said they wanted to stay back in 2015.

Longwell and Chung say the fact that so many people are interested in the report tells them Wichitans care and want the city to thrive.

"I don't know what the magical solution is. It can't come from forced government. It has to be the community," Longwell said.

Find more information on the report here: https://thechungreport.com/

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