December 9, 2019

Good afternoon LK Alumni,

As CEO of the Kansas Chamber, it is my honor to lead a team of talented individuals who care deeply about our state and work diligently to build relationships with business leaders across Kansas to influence positive change for the benefit of all Kansas businesses and citizens.

The Chamber’s membership is comprised of diverse organizations in every industry sector ranging from the largest (15,000 employees) to smallest (1-2 employees), with unique products and services and varying cultures deeply rooted in Kansas and each vital to our state’s success. From the Chamber’s inception in 1924, our team has gained a unique perspective of the business climate throughout the state, not easily visible by all. The desire of the Chamber to share this unique perspective and a blue print of Kansas is why the Kansas Chamber Education Foundation created the Leadership Kansas program. The Leadership Kansas service mark is on file with the Kansas Secretary of State and is owned by the Education Foundation.

Each of you hold the honor of being an LK alumn us, something that is sought by many but granted to only 40 Kansans every year. That is why I want to share with you details of the Education Foundation board's recent management changes made to Leadership Kansas . In the face of change, it is important you have context on where the program started, the reasons for the changes (that thus far has been riddled with misinformation), and the excitement about the future of Leadership Kansas.

In launching the LK program in 1979, Kansas Chamber staffer Rob Hodges, and then Jim Edwards, created a thoughtful roadmap, taking the selected LK class members on a journey throughout our state. They carefully crafted an itinerary that ensured a variety of businesses would be represented during the tours and sessions of the LK program. Meeting the business owners, learning about the history of their companies, issues that they are currently facing in business while also sharing operational models that have proven successful would contribute to the “teachings” that the program offered.

As I described above, Chamber staff operated Leadership Kansas until it was outsourced to an independent contractor, John Federico, in 2003. LK has remained under the oversight of the Kansas Chamber Education Foundation during this time. John and his team have done a terrific job overseeing the program and we thank them for all their efforts and years of service.

Several years ago John approached the Chamber and expressed he would be considering retirement in the next few years. With John's latest contract coming to an end, the Foundation Board asked the Chamber to begin planning for that inevitable transition, either to another independent contractor or to be operated again by Chamber staff. The Chamber representatives met with John and members of the LK Advisory Executive Committee multiple times during the last few months to update the program's internal guidance documents and to get more Chamber members and the business community involved with LK. Unfortunately, those conversations were not productive.

Despite clearly stating that the Kansas Chamber owns the intellectual property of Leadership Kansas and its name in internal guidance documents to the Leadership Kansas Advisory Board for more than four decades, an LK Advisory Board member attempted to personally establish ownership of the Leadership Kansas program by filing a service mark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office with himself as the owner. To be clear, there is no legitimate legal question regarding the ownership or control of Leadership Kansas by the Kansas Chamber Education Foundation and the Kansas Chamber. This LK Advisory Board member has no personal right to own the Leadership Kansas name. The program has a deep history and has, since its inception, been publicly presented as a program of the Kansas Chamber. This inexplicable attempt to take the program away from the Foundation Board and the Kansas Chamber and make it his own demanded action. Therefore, the Foundation Board made the decision to protect our program and bring it back in house, once again.

The Foundation Board and the Chamber are committed to the continued success of LK. Under the guidance of the Foundation Board, the Chamber team (of which, four are LK alumni) will work to grow LK's impact and prominence in Kansas and get more Kansas business leaders who are LK alumni involved with the leadership program, especially through both financial support and involvement in the LK Advisory Board and Class Selection Committee.

Rest assured, the criteria for selection to Leadership Kansas will remain the same. The best and brightest of Kansas will be sought, whether they be from the public sector, the private sector or the non-profit sector. LK will continue to bring leaders and future leaders together where they can find common ground to learn and grow from each other. The classes will continue to visit communities across our great state and learn about key state issues. Kansas Chamber membership will not be a requirement for class membership. The Chamber team will work with the amazing network of LK alumni from across the state through local programming committees. Our network of alums is what makes this program what it is today.
LK alumni involvement is critical to the ongoing success of Leadership Kansas. We value your input and support. Please contact me if you have an interest in serving on the LK advisory board or the selection committee. And again, please continue to engage with the local programming committees and continue to nominate class members.

All the best,

Alan Cobb
Kansas Chamber President & CEO

P.S. The application process for the LK class of 2020 is underway. Nominations will be accepted online through December 31, 2019. Click here to nominate someone for the 2020 program . Nominees then will be notified and provided with application materials in early January.

About the Kansas Chamber

Headquartered in Topeka, the mission of the Kansas Chamber is to continually strive to improve the economic climate for the benefit of every business and citizen and to safeguard our system of free, competitive enterprise. The Chamber's vision is to make Kansas a top state to do business.
The Chamber is member-driven and its strength comes from hundreds of Kansas employers of every size. It listens to its members, develops a Legislative Agenda and then takes the issues and concerns of Kansas businesses directly to the policymakers.
The Kansas Chamber partners with other organizations and local chambers to promote legislation and policies focused on creating a more positive business climate that allows for more jobs and economic growth in Kansas and our communities.
835 SW Topeka Blvd
Topeka KS 66612