WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Hundreds of local businessmen and women and community leaders gathered on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, filling the MPEC for the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Forum.
Larry McManus from the Business and Community Office of Governor Greg Abbott was the event’s keynote speaker, touching on the many successes of the Texas economy.
“78 headquarters moved to the state of Texas,” McManus said. “So companies [are] rethinking where they’re located.”
McManus added that Texas now houses the headquarters of more Fortune 500 companies than the state of California and the state of New York.
But the glowing report on our state’s economy isn’t what stirred the crowd most; it was the official public introduction of Ron Kitchens, the new President and CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce.
“I live by the belief that the greatest force for change is a job,” Kitchens said following his introduction. “The greatest force for change is a job.”
Following the resignation of the long-time beloved former President and CEO of the Chamber, Henry Florsheim, Kitchens has some big shoes to fill. However, he has a history of success that might suggest he’s just the man for that job.
During his time with the Birmingham Business Alliance, Kitchens helped lead the way to create employment opportunities, optimized organizational revenue by 22%, relaunched the Chamber of Commerce, and increased job announcements by 40%.
Previously, Kitchens was Senior Partner & CEO of Southwest Michigan First – Kalamazoo, Sturgis, and Three Rivers where he directed strategy, administration, and long-term success of a privately financed economic development consulting business in seven counties of Southwest Michigan focusing on job growth, leadership development, and social change.
During this time, Kitchens generated $9.3 million in annual consolidated revenue in 2020, with annual revenue growth of 19% between 2005 and 2020.
In other words, he brings a proven track record of success to Wichita Falls.
“It would be arrogant to say, but I don’t know nothing but winning,” Kitchens said. “I came here to win and winning means more and better jobs. It’s about building a phenomenally great team, both internal and external, and finding ways to win every day.”
Kitchens has been in his new role for less than a month, but he already has his boots on the ground, learning the landscape.
“My job is, for the next few months, is to listen, learn, and liason, and then build those capacities to go sell the opportunities,” Kitchens said.
Kitchens believes the greatest opportunity for growth is the long-time backbone of our community; Sheppard Air Force Base.
“Everything begins and ends with Sheppard,” Kitchens said. “The Air Force Base, the NATO mission, the commitment to aviation is at the heart and soul of this community, and where our opportunities are for the future.”
But at the end of the day, Kitchens believes real growth takes more than institutions… It takes individuals.
“It all comes down to more people,” Kitchens said. “You know, my belief is that our fundamental goal is more and better jobs. If we focus on that, well that takes people.”
Kitchens said whether it’s the training of people, the job opportunities, or the education to make sure our people continue to contribute to the workforce, both at home and globally, Kitchens said he’s excited for what the future has to offer in Wichita Falls.
“One of the things that strike me, and I knew it was one of the reasons I came here, is because you can either move to a place that has a great location or you can move to a place that has great people, but rarely do they meet together,” Kitchens said.
Beyond that, Kitchens said he already sees the potential Wichita Falls has in adding jobs and expanding.
“Wichita Falls is a place that has great people that are committed to the future, that are committed to their values, and that’s pretty easy to sell in America today,” Kitchens said.