Chamber Speaker Sees Bright Future For Downtown Topeka

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The Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting Monday and the keynote speaker offered what the Chamber hopes will be helpful advice for a successful renovation of downtown Topeka.

A crowd estimated at over 600 people attended the Chamber Annual meeting and the keynote speaker was a man who saw the transformation of downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

Doug Burgum, Founder of Kilbourne group, told the Topeka audience about the redevelopment of downtown Fargo. Burgum described the a key factor to improving Topeka's downtown.

"I'd say it is the importance of walk-ability, meaning for the last 50 years America has built cities designed around the automobile and we need to start building cities back around people," said Burgum.

Topeka Chamber's CEO Doug Kinsinger and Mayor Larry Wolgast say they are confident downtown Topeka will be just as successful as downtown Fargo.

"I think when people think of Fargo they think of 'okay what kind of community is that?' but when you can see the energy going and helping support their small businesses and technology it is off the charts," said Kinsinger.

"It will be successful because I think Topeka is coming together now and we're working together. Things can only happen with community support," said Wolgast.

And Burgum says as long as the Topeka community keeps the momentum going, the capitol city's downtown will thrive.

"I think Topeka is in a great spot because it is in a great country and a great state in the Midwest and has an opportunity for a really bright future," says Burgum.

In December 2012, the Topeka City Council approved the revitalization of downtown Topeka. That project is scheduled to be finished in 2015.

The Chamber also presented their annual awards.

U.S. Bank was recognized Monday as the Chamber member firm of 2013.

Greg Schwerdt, President and CEO of Schwerdt Design Group was named Member of the Year of 2013.

The traditional passing of the gavel was handed to Neil Dobler, from Bartlett & West. This honor makes him the 2014 Chamber Chairman of the Board. Coleen Jennison, Cox Communications served as the 2013 Chamber Chairman of the Board.

Allan Towle, Fidelity State Bank and Trust, will remain Chairman of the Go Topeka board of directors for 2014.

Other awards presented were Top Ambassador to Mickey Shaver and Mike Braun was presented the Top Diplomat Award. Jay Loschke from Equity Bank earned Fast Forward Member of the Year.

The award recipients were commended for their support of Chamber programs and participation in 2013.