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Author Archives: Matt Lara

About Matt Lara

Matt is the resident social media guru and website guy, working on the marketing and communications team. He supports GO Topeka, the Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development, Forge and Heartland Visioning.
  1. GO Topeka Update – January 2016

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    2016 Small Business Awards – Save the Date

    The 2016 SIMG_6863mall Business Awards Luncheon is coming up soon! Make sure to get it on your calendar; May 10, 2016 from 12 – 1:30pm. Start thinking about who you want to nominate we will be asking for your nominations soon.To secure your seats or table at this years Small Business Awards, register here.





    New Business Attraction

    Industy TypeThe chart shows a breakout of the projects that we received in 2015 by industry type. The majority of the projects that came in were from the manufacturing industry followed by back office, and then food manufacturing, animal health industry and clean energy industry. GO Topeka is starting off this year strong with 29 active projects in the pipeline and 2 of those are new this month.

    2015 was a successful year for Topeka/Shawnee County. A total of 266 new jobs were created for the community with a capital investment of $165,800,000! There were expansions in the food processing industry with Big Heart Pet Brands and Mars Chocolate North America, as well as an expansion in the professional and financial sector with FHLB. The advanced systems technology industry also grew by one company, Koch & Co., opened a location in Shawnee County as well as there being an expansion completed by R & R Pallet, Inc.  Prospect Acreage

    The chart on the right shows the acreage that was requested from the projects in 2015. 31% of the projects requested 31 to 50 acres, 18.75% indicated a need for 51 to 99 acres and another 18.75% requested 100+ acres. Larger acreage requests are the current standard in project requests.



    Are you hiring?

    Are you expanding and growing your workforce or hosting a hiring event? Let GO Topeka know, we can share your job details, links or flyers via our social media channels to share the information and gain more reach for your hiring needs.

    EMBD is starting the year off right! Make sure to visit to see all the events that are scheduled.
    Individuals wishing to start a business or those in the first year of business should consider registering for the FastTrac NewVenture. For those more experienced entrepreneurs in a growth mode, wishing to take their company to the next level, join the FastTrac GrowthVenture class.
    Need a little guidance on effectively marketing your business? Join three dynamic local experts for the Blue Ribbon Academy Lunch & Learns.  For tips on Marketing to Millennials, Knowing Your Brand and Effective Marketing using Social Media.  These Lunch and Learns are being presented by: Martha Bartlett-Piland, Kerrice Mapes, and Alissa Menke.  Hear from the experts, register Now!
    Lean Six Sigma

    Yellow BeltThe Yellow Belt Lean Six Sigma class for January has already passed but you can still get signed up for the class in March. Call 785.670.1399 or go to for more info.




    Social Media

    Social media is becoming increasingly important in our marketing efforts. Make sure that you follow us on our social media platforms!

    GO Topeka Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

    Topeka Entrepreneurs Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.




  2. GO Topeka’s EMBD Kicks off the Blue Ribbon Academy Lunch and Learn Series

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    TOPEKA, Kan., Jan. 15, 2013- GO Topeka’s Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development (EMBD) introduces the new Blue Ribbon Academy Lunch and Learn Series. The Academy, presented by industry experts from across the community, will consist of three sessions each quarter. Experts will present the first of the four series this year, beginning with Marketing Your Small Business. The information shared is applicable to business of all stages and sizes. Nonprofits and corporations can also take advantage.

    Series One topics include:

    Session I

    February 16th

    Finding Your Marketing Plan and Knowing Your Brand

    Smart marketing and brand-alignment strategies to grow your organization from the ground up. Presenter is

    Expert: Martha Bartlett Piland, President of MB Piland Advertising + Marketing

     Session II

    March 29th

    Getting Social: Marketing with Social Media

    Understand how to leverage social media to build demand for your product/service as well as reach a wide demographic.

    Expert: Kerrice Mapes, President of 785 Magazine and Director of Marketing for the Topeka Civic Theatre

     Session III

    April 26th

    Marketing to Millennials

    Millennials are the new workforce of professionals. Understand how this generation makes buying decisions and what catches their attention to build new business partnerships.

    Expert: Alissa Menke, jhP, Vice President Digital Innovatio

    Future Academy topics: Series Two – Human Resources, Series Three – Legal Issues and Series Four – Financial Advice.   The Academy will be held at 120 SE Sixth Avenue, Chamber Board Room (2nd Floor).  The cost is $15 per person (lunch included).  The Blue Ribbon Academy is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.   Seating is limited.  To register, RSVP to Mary Ann at or online at


  3. GO Topeka Update – December 2015

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    GO Topeka/Chamber Hire President and CEO

    MATT-PIVARNIK-1-2015Matt Pivarnik, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, has been hired to serve as president and chief executive officer of GO Topeka and the Chamber, effective January 11, 2016. In his role with the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Pivarnik works closely with a 20-member executive committee of a board of directors comprising more than 90 members. He supervises 40 staff members and has dotted line responsibility to the senior vice president-economic development. He works closely with two senior vice presidents who oversee the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Workforce Development. He is responsible for strategies and operations of the chamber and advises officers, the CEO and board members on program, finance and long-term strategic planning for economic development, tourism, workforce, political advocacy, community development and education. Click here to read the full release.


    GO Topeka partners with many organizations to support veterans. Partnerships include the Topeka Workforce Center and Heartland works, Washburn Institute of Technology and Washburn University to provide funding to open the Veterans Lounge. Barbara Stapleton, director of existing business & workforce development, share information and host presentations for HR personnel about Federal Veterans Initiatives. GO Topeka is also working on potentially opening a Veterans benefits office with KanVet and regularly particpates in 190th Air Refueling Wing events.

    New Business Attraction

    New BusinessGO Topeka staff are continuing to work on projects that are in the pipeline. There are currently 34 projects in the pipeline, 3 of which came in this month. Almost half are in the manufacturing or advanced systems technology industry followed by professional services, food manufacturing and those that have not specified an industry. You can read more about our target industries on our website.



    Lean Six Sigma

    The Yellow Belt Lean Six Sigma class is coming up. Call 785.670.1399 or go for more info. Yellow Belt


    Have a Happy Holiday and a Happy New Year! We look forward to working with you in 2016.

  4. Chamber/GO Topeka Announce New President and CEO

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    Matt Pivarnik Head ShotBrent Boles, chairman of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, and Scott Griffith, chairman of GO Topeka, announced today that Matthew (Matt) Pivarnik, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, will serve as president and chief executive officer of the Chamber and GO Topeka, effective Jan. 11, 2016.

    Boles said the search committee worked with Waverly Partners, LLC, a firm specializing in finding chamber executives across the country.

    “The extensive search process also included input and guidance from elected officials as well as business leaders in our community,” Boles said. “Chamber staff also had an opportunity to meet candidates and provide feedback. We interviewed several highly qualified candidates, and ultimately we believed Matt’s credentials, personality and enthusiasm for our community’s progress and potential made him the ideal choice. We are thrilled to have him join us and look forward to his leadership.”

    Boles said Topekans who participated in an inter-city visit to Tulsa in 2014 had met Pivarnik then and were impressed by his professionalism and ideas, particularly as they pertained to economic development, recruiting and retaining young professionals and enhancing quality of life through entrepreneurial and recreational efforts.

    “It’s fantastic to think that he will be joining us and applying the expertise he gained through Tulsa’s transformation to our city,” said Boles.

    In his role with the Tulsa Regional Chamber, Pivarnik works closely with a 20-member executive committee of a board of directors comprising more than 90 members. He supervises 40 staff members and has dotted line responsibility to the senior vice president-economic development. He works closely with two senior vice presidents who oversee the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Workforce Development. He is responsible for strategies and operations of the chamber and advises officers, the CEO and board members on program, finance and long-term strategic planning for economic development, tourism, workforce, political advocacy, community development and education.

    His previous experience includes positions as a vice president with Oklahoma Credit Union Association in Tulsa and 66 Federal Credit Union in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He is a certified chamber executive through the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and a graduate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Northeastern State University.

    Pivarnik is the founder of MAKO, a professional development organization for chamber executives in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma; chair of the national board of trustees for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management; and a member of the Tulsa Area United Way Campaign Leadership Team and the National Rainmakers Council.

    He served on the board of directors of Junior Achievement and is a member of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives executive committee and board of directors. Pivarnik is a past chair of the University of Arizona Board of Regents and a former board member and past chair of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce Executives.

    Pivarnik will be relocating to Topeka with his wife, Wendy, and three sons.

    Pivarnik’s compensation includes an annual salary of $220,000, split between the Chamber and GO Topeka, as well as other benefits and bonus options.

    “We worked with Creative Business Solutions to assess competitive salaries for this position based on communities comparable to Topeka with similar chamber structures,” said Boles. “We are eager to begin the new year with Matt in place and excited about the possibilities ahead for Topeka’s economic vitality and quality of life.”


  5. Six Women Honored at Women of Influence 2015 Event

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    Several women were honored at the Second Annual Women of Influence 2015 recognition reception Thursday, Oct. 22, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Ramada Topeka Downtown, 420 SE Sixth Ave. The event, sponsored by GO Topeka’s Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development, honored the following women:

    Anita Wolgast, Community Service

    Dr. Beryl New, Principal, Highland Park High School, Education

    The Hon. Marla Luckert, Kansas Supreme Court, Mentorship

    Martha Bartlett-Piland, Piland Advertising & Marketing, Outstanding Entrepreneur

    Stephanie Heston, Kansas Ballet Academy, Rising Star

    Dr. Brenda Dietrich, Retired Auburn-Washburn Superintendent, Woman of Achievement

    Retired Brigadier General Deborah Rose, U.S. Air Force, will be the keynote speaker. There is no cost to attend the event, but attendees are asked to register at by Oct. 20.

    Anita Wolgast, Community Service

    A former fifth grade teacher at State Street School, Wolgast has been an advocate for a variety of community projects. She served as chair of the “Carousel in the Park” project to restore the antique carousel placed in Gage Park; served as executive director of Historic Ward-Meade Park where she oversaw the fundraising, renovation and dedication of four historic buildings and the drug store built to replicate an historic Topeka drug store; helped raise funds for the Topeka & Shawnee County library renovation and coordinated the visit of First Lady Laura Bush for the grand opening ceremonies; served as chair of the Kansas Arts Commission; oversaw the design of the Kansas quarter and chaired a committee to launch the quarters at the Kansas State Fair; and served as a founding co-chair for the NOTO Arts District. Wolgast was named one of the 2013 Distinguished Kansans of the Year selected by the Topeka Capital-Journal; a Sales and Marketing Executive of the Year in 2014 and an ABWA Woman of Outstanding Achievement. She is a past president of the Rotary Club of Downtown Topeka Inc., and has received numerous awards for service and volunteerism from organizations committed to the arts, parks and recreation, historical preservation and more.

    Dr. Beryl New, Principal, Highland Park High School, Education

    New attended the historic Monroe Elementary School, Highland Park North Elementary School, Highland Park Junior High, Topeka High School, Washburn University and the University of Kansas. Committed to diversity and mentorship, she serves as an adjunct professor in the Education Leadership program at Washburn University. As principal at Highland Park High School, she helped facilitate the only high school onsite industrial robotics program in the world and initiated a certified nursing assistant program on campus. New is also an author and entrepreneur. She and her family established Kwenzi House Publishing in 2014 to support writers of all ages and genres to publish their works with professional guidance and to address the acquisition of early reading skills for parents of children who may not be selected to attend pre-school programs or who may not be able to afford high-quality nursery schools. New wrote “The Sure Line,” an inspirational fictional work, and a handbook for educators called “A Tiger’s Tale,” which depicts the brief life of a young Lawrence man who died at the hand of a police officer in 1971.

    The Hon. Marla Luckert, Kansas Supreme Court, Mentorship

    Justice Luckert has served on the Kansas Supreme Court since 2003, only the second woman to do so. Previously she served as a judge of the Third Judicial District in Topeka, beginning in 1992, and as that district’s chief judge from 2000 to 2002. Before that she was a partner with the Topeka law firm of Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds & Palmer. She chairs the Kansas Judicial Council, serves as a member of the Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and has taught several undergraduate and law school courses as an adjunct professor. She is a past president of the Kansas Bar Association, the Kansas District Judges Association, the Kansas Women Attorneys Association, the Topeka Bar Association, the Women Attorneys Association and the Sam A. Crow American Inn of Court, which she helped establish with others to foster excellence. She has received numerous professional and distinguished service awards. More than 26 years ago she launched a statewide conference for women attorneys that continues and organized a summer program for high school students in legal careers. She participates in programs that assign mentors to students at Washburn University School of Law and has a network of alums she has mentored who are now judges, professors and lawyers around the country.

    Martha Bartlett Piland, MB Piland Advertising & Marketing, Outstanding Entrepreneur

    As president and chief executive officer of MB Piland Advertising & Marketing since 1998, Piland’s entrepreneurial spirit flourished early as a record-breaking Girl Scout cookie seller. She and her agency team members have won dozens of local, regional and international awards for their strategic work and creative execution on behalf of diverse clients. Piland has been honored with the Kansas Women-Owned Business of the Year, Topeka Chamber Small Business of the Year, ABWA Woman of Distinction and IABC Excel Award. She is a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow and a graduate of Leadership Greater Topeka, Leadership Kansas and Leadership America. She has served as the United Way of Greater Topeka Community Wide Campaign chair and as marketing chair for the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce board of directors. She has spoken on brand and marketing strategy in venues across the United States and Canada and in China. She founded Women United, a women’s philanthropy serving women in need and a small group women CEO roundtable so participants can provide mentoring and coaching for one another to continue growing personally and professionally in their careers.

    Stephanie Heston, Kansas Ballet Academy, Rising Star

    Heston moved to New York City upon graduating from Seaman High School in 1995, embarking on a 15-year career as a professional ballerina and performing leading roles in famous ballets throughout the United States and abroad. Upon retiring from the stage, she became the founding artistic director of the North Ballet Academy and Youth Company in Minnesota. She returned to Topeka in 2012 and opened the Kansas Ballet Academy, which she co-owns with husband and fellow dancer Alexander Smirnov. In 2015, KBA bought a competitor, successfully acquired their students and faculty members and rebranded its location. In 2013, Heston was instrumental in founding the non-profit 501©3 performing organization, the Kansas Ballet Co., where she and her husband both serve as artistic directors and board members. In just two years, the company has provided the community with more than 40 performances and brought in more than 12 guest artists to teach master classes and perform for local audiences. The company received the Arts Connect 2015 Arty Award for Best Performing Arts Organization and will collaborate with the Topeka Symphony Orchestra for Nutcracker performances at the Topeka Performing Arts Center in December.

    Dr. Brenda Dietrich, Retired Auburn-Washburn Superintendent, Woman of Achievement

    Dietrich was appointed superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn School District in 2001 and became the first female superintendent in the district. She served as the only female superintendent in Shawnee County for 11 years. As superintendent, she managed a $70 million dollar budget and 1,000 employees before retiring in July 2015 after 40 years in education and 19 years as a superintendent. She was the Kansas Superintendent of the Year in 2007 and one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year, one of only three Kansas superintendents to rise to the national level. In 2015, she was named the ABWA Distinguished Woman of the Year and as a YWCA Woman of Leadership. Throughout her career she has been engaged in professional activities and board service at the local, state and national level. She served as chair of Leadership Kansas, as a governor’s appointee to the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice, as an advisory board member for the KS/MO Superintendents Forum and as president of the Kansas Association of School Boards. She was elected to the American Association of School Boards Governing Board in 2011.

    Retired Brigadier General Deborah Rose, keynote speaker

    Deborah Rose graduated from Washburn University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and Wichita State University with a master’s degree in nursing. She was employed at the Colmery-O’Neil Veterans Affairs Medical Center for 14 years before becoming a military technician. She received a direct commission in the Air Force Nurse Corps in 1983, beginning her military career at the 184th Tactical Fighter Group in Wichita. She transferred to the 190th Air Refueling Wing, ultimately becoming the highest-ranking female in the Kansas National Guard when she was promoted to colonel in 2002 and brigadier general in 2007. Her final assignment with the military was as the director of the Joint Forces Headquarters, Kansas National Guard, where she was responsible for the integration of the nearly 8,000 Kansas Army and Air National Guard forces for homeland security missions. She was additionally assigned as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander of U.S. Air Force Africa. She deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield as a nurse. During Pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom, she deployed to Turkey as the leader of an aerial refueling base bed-down team. She retired from the Air Force in 2011. In May 2012, she received an honorary doctorate degree in public service from Washburn University. She has been active with numerous community causes throughout her career.

  6. 3rd Quarter 2015 JEDO Report

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    The 3rd Quarter 2015 Report to JEDO has been released.

    GO Topeka staff worked in the third quarter of 2015 to achieve the annual goals set and to ensure continued economic development success for Topeka and Shawnee County.

    The New Business Attraction program during the third quarter met with 34 site location consultants and corporate real estate professionals in face to face meetings. During the second quarter, staff worked with 7 new prospects resulting in 2 formal incentive proposals. The current portfolio of New Business Attraction projects, at the end of the third quarter includes 29 projects, capturing potential for 6,093 new direct jobs and $1,217,000,000 in new capital investment. Leads and prospects are being developed on an ongoing daily basis.

    The Existing Business and Retention program made 45 visits in the third quarter of 2015 and is currently working on 6 active projects; which, based upon data received to date, represents $5,000,000 in new capital investment, and 45 direct new and retained jobs. One annual audit verification was completed with 2 additional audit verifications in progress. Projects Point, Storm and Dogwood were completed with up to 88 new jobs and up to $100 million invested. Efforts continue toward meeting and educating local businesses of resources available within the community through the Financial Services Summit and the Manufacturing & Distribution Roundtable.

    Workforce Development initiatives and efforts remain strong. Efforts to assist in workforce training for non-profit organizations and small businesses continue with the addition of the Lean Six Sigma Scholarship program through Washburn’s Center for Organizational Excellence. The JEDO scholarship program with Washburn Tech for the 2015-2016 academic year has begun and initial awarding will occur in the 4th quarter for reporting. Manufacturers in the Classroom presentations were done at 7 area high schools, reaching over 550 students and leading up to the National Manufacturing Day activities at Washburn Tech. Other efforts in the workforce development area include assistance with the veterans lounge at Washburn and veterans efforts Washburn Tech, coordination with the Workforce Center regarding WorkKeys testing, partnership with local employers in hiring events and the reintegration of previously incarcerated individuals.
    GO Topeka’s EMBD continues to work with partners, both local and state, to create an environment conducive to the growth and development of small businesses. Supportive platforms such as counseling, workshops, training programs, loan programs, a bid room and small business conferences offer immediate access to cutting edge ideas and introduction to new business techniques.

    The Sixth Annual EMBD Conference was extremely successful. It offered individuals access to information and resources that were be immediately applicable to the day to day operations of their business. Through these efforts, EMBD has made contact with 588 individuals, businesses, or potential business owners this quarter. Social media has been an integral part of promoting and marketing the EMBD programs. The social media report indicates that EMBD is reaching a broader audience. Year to day, the Topeka Entrepreneur’s social media accounts have reached 18,297 people. EMBD also shares information on the GO Topeka social media accounts (68,206). Consequently, EMBDs average view and response rate equals 9611 per month. We are currently tracking business starts and job creations and will make an end of year report in December.

    Another tool that could be a definite aid in the growth of our local businesses is access to federal contracting opportunities. Having a representative in our region consistently promoting the value of doing business with the federal government would be an asset. Preliminary discussion has begun to determine the validity of a Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) being housed in Topeka.

    The following report gives much more detail as to all of the accomplishments and results of GO Topeka staff for the third quarter 2015.

    Click here to download the full 3rd Quarter 2015 JEDO Report.