Welcome to Wichita, where business is growing, neighborhoods are flourishing, and the art, culture and recreation scene is plentiful and diverse. Short commutes and highly ranked schools – including two of the state's top public schools, according to US News & World Report – also contribute to the area's appeal.
Wichita's mix of large corporations and small businesses make it a great place for both seasoned professionals and new graduates to settle and pursue careers. With a focus on those recent graduates, the Young Professionals of Wichita (YPW) organization is working to grow the city's workforce by attracting, retaining and engaging young people.
“We want to be the place where young professionals brighten their futures and enhance the community,” says Suzy Finn, executive director of YPW.
YPW, which is about 1,900 strong, hosts a variety of events to help members network with other local professionals, learn leadership skills, volunteer and discover the city's newest developments.
“We're an event-driven organization, and we're proud to offer a really broad range of programming,” Finn says.
YPW draws interns to the area through LaunchWichita.com, a website where companies can post internship opportunities and students can see what's available. The site, which went live in January 2013, also includes a Wichita guide that features information about the cost of living, places to live, outdoor activities, restaurants, shopping and entertainment venues.
Additionally, YPW offers an annual six-week Leadership Academy that helps participants develop professionally and make community connections.
“I found it to be a valuable experience, both in getting to know some other young professionals in Wichita and in getting some insight from proven leaders in the area,” says Ryan Caplan, an INTRUST Bank digital marketing coordinator who completed the program in 2012.
New Condos, Growing Neighborhoods
Thanks to the influx of new residents and young professionals ready to put down roots, apartment and condo construction is on the rise, with about 2,500 units opening, being built or in the planning stages.
The city's downtown area already includes several complexes, such as 250 Douglas Place, Player Piano Lofts, Commerce Street Lofts, Finn Lofts, Zelman Lofts and The Renfro, and even more units are on the way.
Before moving to the Riverside area, Caplan lived in an apartment in downtown Wichita's Eaton Place, a mixed-use development anchored by the recently renovated Eaton Hotel in the East Douglas Historic District. It took him just six minutes to walk to his downtown job at InTrust Bank.
“I loved waking up and looking out of the floor-to-ceiling windows at Douglas Avenue every day,” Caplan says.
Wichita's outlying areas are also growing and will soon offer new rental properties. Jason Van Sickle & Company plans to build two $15 million, 180-unit apartment complexes in Andover and Derby, and Vantage Point Properties is constructing the 208-unit SunStone Apartment Homes at Andover MarketPlace.
Big-City Amenities, Small-Town Appeal
In addition to career opportunities and excellent places to live, Wichita's outdoor activities and cultural attractions are a major draw.
The city is home to the Wichita State Shockers men's basketball team, which made it to the NCAA Final Four in 2013, as well as the Wichita Thunder hockey team and the Wichita Wingnuts baseball team. Residents can also enjoy numerous parks, trails, more than 26 miles of bike paths and eight YMCAs.
Wichita's cultural landscape is equally impressive, with more than 35 museums and an array of entertainment venues, including Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center, INTRUST Bank Arena, The Cotillion and historic Orpheum Theatre. Performance groups, including Music Theatre of Wichita and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, entertain audiences throughout the year.
The city also hosts annual festivals that bring the community together, such as the Tallgrass Film Festival and Wichita Riverfest, and music and art crawls take place downtown monthly.
“Wichita has the same amenities as larger cities, like great theaters, plenty to do on the weekends and lots of health and fitness activities, but it also has small-town aspects, like knowing someone almost everywhere you go,” Finn says.