Respected president ensures smooth start to South KC Chamber’s arrangement with the Martin City CID.
As the Martin City Community Improvement District (MCCID) begins its second year under the management of the South Kansas City Chamber (SKCC), the neighborhood is thriving and proving that nonprofits can make a difference in bolstering community development. As both the SKCC President and the MCCID District Manager, Vickie Wolgast is at the heart of the partnership and after a year on the job, she couldn’t be more optimistic.
On the Road to Progress
Walking along one of Martin City’s new sidewalks on a spring afternoon, Wolgast is already focused on what’s next after the recent completion of the 135th Street Improvement Project.
“The vision for 135th Street was a big reason the MCCID came into existence back in 2005,” says Wolgast. “It’s a tremendous milestone to now begin shifting our budget from development to maintenance, and also planning for Holmes Road.”
Wolgast says the Holmes Road project is just as important as the 135th Street project for Martin City’s continued growth. Improvements will stretch from Blue Ridge Boulevard to 137th Street and will share the same look and feel as 135th Street with sidewalks, landscaping, hanging baskets and more.
Infrastructure is still where the rubber meets the road in Martin City’s revitalization movement but Wolgast believes they’re now in a position to start thinking bigger. Marketing Martin City will become a larger piece of long term planning and Wolgast says everyone has ideas.
Interesting ideas like high-profile ‘Welcome to Martin City’ signage and bike racks along 135th Street have been floating around, along with how to fill our empty office buildings with businesses we’d like to see grow in Martin City. Discussions about what’s best for the neighborhood will continue at MCCID monthly board meetings, which are held on the second Thursday of each month at 8:30am, at Jess and Jim’s Steakhouse. Meetings are open to the public.
“Martin City belongs to those who live and work in the District so when it comes to identifying what’s important and what comes next, they ultimately get to decide. I’m here to provide resources and organization and I’m always excited about any thinking that helps take our CID to the next level.”
A Passionate “Go-To” Advocate
Officially, the CID’s management contract is with the SKCC, but it’s no secret Wolgast’s personal contribution is the cornerstone of the contract’s value. She’s a natural diplomat equipped with the kind of empathy and understanding needed when collaborating with different leaders on sensitive challenges.
“Running a business is extremely hard,” says Wolgast. “I’m really motivated to help these business owners succeed. They love their community and I’m really pulling for them.”
“Vickie’s interest in Martin City’s well-being is genuine,” says Kristy Meyers, SKCC Board member and Office Manager at Fishtech. “She’s responsive and I know others in our company, and here in Martin City share my feeling that it’s a pleasure working with her. Meyers said Wolgast slipped right into the Manager position and embraced the role right away. “The transition was smooth. It just seemed like a natural fit for Vickie.”
“She’s doing a great job,” says Debbie Van Noy, Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse owner and MCCID Board Chair. “We love her personality and work ethic.”
Van Noy says Wolgast’s long track record in Martin City is a huge plus.
“She’s been with us for a long time. She came into the Manager position knowing everything about us, what we’ve done so far, and what we don’t want to become. Now we’re all moving forward together.”
Wolgast worked with Martin City businesses long before she became the MCCID Manager. That history along with her experience as SKCC President made her the logical choice for the job. She is optimizing the relationships of the two entities and helping them help each other.
“I’ve worked for the South KC Chamber for over 13 years and I was already attending Martin City CID meetings. There wasn’t much of a learning curve. I knew my predecessors and had a good understanding of where the District had been and where it was going,” said Wolgast.
Wolgast respects the MCCID board members as the driver of Martin City’s evolution and continues to see her role as an advocate and resource for getting things done.
“My Chamber work exposes me to a lot of people outside of the District and I put those relationships to work for the benefit of Martin City. I keep my eyes open for opportunities to get business owners in Martin City noticed and do everything I can to help them solve problems. I don’t just want to connect people, I want to be ‘the’ go-to person for Martin City businesses to succeed.”
Wolgast’s Chamber work also gives her a broad perspective of Martin City’s planning and development goals. She says it feeds her natural tendency to ask new questions and explore new ideas.
“As the CID Manager, I don’t always have the power to jump in and fix things but I do have the power to spark conversations among area leaders and those conversations often lead to solutions. Working with two different entities inside the greater Kansas City area sometimes helps me see things differently and that gets others thinking about the possibilities.”
Wearing two hats as the South KC Chamber President and the Martin City District Manager covers a lot of common ground, but Wolgast is diligent about respecting boundaries to make sure she’s taking care of both entities.
“I think both the Chamber and the District benefit from my guidance and shared knowledge, but these two jobs are not the same and I never lose sight of that. It’s critical to keep the two entities separate because the Martin City CID is a public entity and the South KC Chamber is a nonprofit. So, for example, I have two laptops that literally keep documentation separate! I’m also very disciplined about staying focused on the top priorities of each entity when I’m on the job, whether I’m at the SKCC or on the street in Martin City.”
On the one year anniversary of MCCID’s management contract with the SKCC, Wolgast feels good about the arrangement and is committed to the ongoing work it requires.
“My sense is the arrangement is working, but we have to keep putting our heads together and communicating about priorities. As we mark the end of our first year, I’m visiting with each MCCID Board member to gauge their feelings about my work and what they’d like to see going forward. That’s the best way I can ensure I’m doing all I can for them.”
SKCC Board members agree the arrangement has brought value to both groups.
“I’ve known Vickie for more than 20 years,” says Scott Swim, owner of Legacy Mergers & Acquisitions and SKCC Board Treasurer. “She does an excellent job of representing both organizations while also recognizing her role and responsibilities within each organization. I think our partnership is strong. It promotes and strengthens the community we share and brings more attention to the advantages of doing business across our area.”
Paul Toler from KCUMB and Chair of the SKCC Board, also believes the arrangement is mutually beneficial for the SKCC and the Martin City CID and says it’s still only in the beginning stages of its real potential.
“Much of the first year was spent setting up to advance our common interests. I expect it will only get better over time. Vickie is in a unique position to facilitate both sides of the relationship in ways no one else can,” said Toler.
Common Interests in the Future
The bottom line for Wolgast… Martin City has always been special and now it’s growing into something even better. She says she loves helping the South KC community and believes the South KC Chamber and the Martin City Community Improvement District have found a solid partnership.
“Martin City is on the rise and so is the South Kansas City Chamber. They add to each other’s momentum and leveraging one to help the other is truly satisfying work.”
Wolgast says Martin City’s future is not about becoming a Brookside or a Country Club Plaza. She says the neighborhood is different and success will be tied to keeping it that way.
“The Martin City community has its own history and character and that will continue to define its appeal as it grows into a destination. More and more people will be coming to explore and we want to make their time here worthwhile. We have a lot of work still left to do but so much to look forward to!”
Thank you to Vickie and all the South KC Chamber board members for working so hard on our behalf this past year. We love being partners and look forward to growing Martin City and the South Kansas City Chamber together for many more years to come!