Chamber leadership talks change at 94th Annual Meeting


Change of both perspective and leadership were the night’s themes during the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Banquet.

The Chamber held the 94th annual event in the Manhattan Conference Center Friday, Feb. 15.

“Change is debilitating when done to us, but exhilarating when done by us,” says Matt Crocker, 2018 Chamber Board of Directors Chair. “Let’s be exhilarating, Manhattan.”

Crocker started off the night by recapping the year which included plenty of change — from the retirement announcements of multiple big names around the community such as Chamber President and CEO Lyle Butler to the unveiling of Region Reimagined.

“Through the efforts of hundreds of individuals involved in Region Reimagined, we have engaged and energized our business communities across the region to levels last seen during the Listening Tour for Fort Riley,” says Crocker. “However, in this case, we aren’t coming together to react to a potential change happening to us, we are coming together to drive a great change to maximize the impact of future economic growth opportunities in this region.”

Crocker says that the year had many great initiatives and that he’s excited because they’re just getting started.

K-State Director of Strategic Relations Dr. Cheryl Grice was awarded the C. Clyde Jones Volunteer of the Year Award. Outside of KSU, Grice is a founding member of the Fairy Godmothers Fund and sits on the Manhattan Boys and Girls Club board as well as the Chamber board.
Phil Howe was awarded the Lud Fiser Citizen of the Year Award. Howe is the founder of Kansas State Bank and played a central role in the establishment of the K-State Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship.

Crocker also announced the renaming of the Leadership Manhattan Distinguished Service Award to the Lyle Butler Distinguished Leadership Award as well as the establishment of the Lyle Butler Donor Advised Leadership Fund of the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation.

Butler told the audience he was at a loss for words and spoke with emotion in his voice.

“This is a great community, I’ve been fortunate to have been able to be here,” Butler says. “You all have helped make this happen, but I challenge all of you that it’s got to continue.”

Butler says he will continue to be involved in the Manhattan community in retirement and that he’ll follow in local businessman and philanthropist C. Clyde Jones’ footsteps.

“We’re going to be partners.”

2019 Chamber Board Chair Wayne Sloan thanked Butler for all his work as well as outgoing chair Crocker and continued on the night’s theme, saying his term will be a year of change — but it won’t be easy.

“Change is never easy, but it does give us a chance to improve if we take advantage of it,” says Sloan. “I want to take advantage of every opportunity we have to improve our organization this year.”

He also spoke about the need to compete as a region, rather than as an assortment of individual communities.

We do not have the resources to go alone anymore,” Sloan says. “Our Region Reimagined efforts will produce opportunities to make our region grow economically and diversify our economic drivers.”

Additionally, Sloan says he wants to transform the Manhattan Young Professionals organization into a world-class organization.

“We need to involve more of our young professionals — not only in our chamber, but our communities and our region, but we also need to give them more,” says Sloan. “We need to give them more opportunities to be involved, we need to give them more information, and we need to give them the opportunity to speak out and make their opinions known.”

Incoming Chamber President and CEO Jason Smith closed out the evening and spoke about his impressions coming into Manhattan from Norman, Oklahoma.

“You see that this is a community where the business community, pubic groups and the university and the military are all engaged and working together,” Smith says. “We have a big task ahead of us — regionalism. While everyone loves it and everyone talks about it, very few places are able to pull it off; It’s an extremely difficult process.”

He commended everyone on all the work they’ve done to get the project to this point, and called on everyone to think about what they can do to further it this year as it’ll take a community effort to succeed.


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