Government Relations Update 12/16/09


Kristi Wyatt, Senior Vice President, Government Relations & Policy Development

As many of you already know, now is both a bittersweet and exciting time here at The Chamber.  Longtime Chamber President Pete Levi will be leaving The Chamber at the end of the year (check out Pam Whiting’s take on Pete’s departure).   

In the past month we have celebrated Pete’s amazing career and long list of accomplishments, most recently with a dinner at the Winter Garden on the Sprint campus.  Past Chamber Chairs, board members and Chamber staff all gathered to toast and roast our fearless leader.  This past weekend, Pete was honored at the University of Kansas v. LaSalle basketball game by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City’s Tom Bowser and David Gentile.  It was a special moment and we all surely thought that Pete should try for a three pointer while down on the floor. 

On a more serious note, I will definitely miss Pete.  Just pondering today who I will be emailing about Chamber issues before the sun comes up.  Pete has been a wonderful friend, boss, and mentor throughout the years.  We will miss him.

Now on to the issues….

Washington DC here we come!
Last week I joined Chamber President Pete Levi and Chamber staffer Cathy Bennett on a trip to DC.  It had been far too long since we had made the trek to the Hill to catch up with our federal delegation.  But, we spent a whirlwind 36 hours in D.C. last week visiting with our congressional members about the need for more support for small business development, a robust and diverse federal transportation plan, continued support for animal health, and concerns about a balanced and progressive federal energy plan.  We spent a considerable amount of time with “the Sams”, Senator Sam Brownback and Congressman Sam Graves and we enjoyed a quick but energetic visit with Senator Claire McCaskill.  We were very encouraged by our discussions and our delegation’s desire to use The Chamber to connect with our regional membership, it is a pleasure to know that The Chamber still has a solid and trusted voice with the delegations from both Kansas and Missouri.

If you would like to add your business’s voice to the collective clout of The Chamber, please consider joining The Chamber’s Federal Affairs Committee.  Click here for more information.|040

Kansas Economic Progress Council
It has always been great to have a chamber membership that appreciates the economic drivers of quality public education, and investment in higher education, research and key infrastructure measures.  So, it was exciting to see over 40 Kansas business leaders attend a special meeting Tuesday to launch the re-purposed Kansas Economic Progress Council (KEPC) which will now advocate for the economic development supports listed above.  Tuesday’s meeting included well-reasoned pleas by Governor Mark Parkinson and Kansas Board of Regents Vice Chair Gary Sherrer for business to be mindful future needs when the recession subsides and Kansas must compete in the knowledge economy. 

The Chamber was a charter member of KEPC when it began about four years ago to advocate against a destructive Tax Payer Bill or Rights (TABOR).  We are pleased to be involved on the ground floor of the re-launch for this re-engineered progressive business advocacy agency.  Other ground floor supporters and investors include the Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City, the Kansas Contractors Association.  Chambers of Commerce, and individual businesses across the state are being recruited to become members of KEPC.  We are delighted that KEPC will be staffed by Bernie Koch, former Vice President of Government Relations for the Wichita Chamber. The Council will advocate for the economic drivers we have learned are so necessary to economic development in the knowledge economy, including K-12 education, higher education, transportation, and anti-TABOR advocacy.  Click on this link to learn more about this progressive agency and how your company can get involved.

Pete Levi – New Centurion, Class of 2009
The Centurions celebrated the holiday season with their annual social last week at Crosstown Station in downtown Kansas City.  There was a brief presentation recognizing retiring Chamber President Pete Levi for his years of support for the Centurions program.  Centurions presented Pete with a book of Kevin Sink Photos “Illuminating Kansas City” with more than 100 signatures from current and former Centurions congratulating Pete on his years of service “illuminating Kansas City.”  The crowning event was when Scott Hall, current Centurions chair announced to Pete the program had made him an honorary Centurion Alum Class of 2009 and presented Pete with his “official” Centurion’s name badge; which he is to keep in his glove box and wear to all future Centurions events…like all good Centurions do, congratulations Pete!

Animal Health Corridor Focuses on Innovation
The Animal Health Corridor continues to grow through collaboration and investments in the region.  One of the ways that we work to keep the momentum going is though educational programs like Corridor Conversations.  On Thursday at the Stower’s Institute we’ll be “addressing national bioscience challenges in the corridor” with presenters Tom Thornton, President of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, and Ron Trewyn, Vice President of Research for Kansas State University.  A large portion of the discussion will be focused on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). which will not only create a world class research facility in the corridor, but will generate new jobs, establish cutting edge research, and additional economic growth.  Please email if you are interested in attending.

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