Great Bend Chamber Bestows Legacy Award on Community Champion, Jan Peters

2019 Legacy Award

For fourteen years, Great Bend earned notoriety across the State of Kansas because of the diligent work of a community champion whose passion for her hometown was evident to everyone she worked with. Her unmatched ability to forge lasting relationships and find creative solutions resulted in numerous long-lasting impacts on Great Bend’s business sector. It is for that reason that the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce named Jan Peters the recipient of the 2019 Legacy Award during their Annual Meeting & Banquet on February 22, 2020.


Jan Peters graduated from Great Bend High School in 1977, and then earned a Bachelor of Science in Personnel Administration from the University of Kansas along with many other areas of study including association management, fundraising, leadership, and more. After college, Jan traveled the world doing community service projects and providing entertainment with traveling performing arts group Up with People until 1984. One of her fellow cast mates says, “Jan discovered during her time in Up with People that there are no limits on what can be accomplished, and that taking initiative and collaborating are the best ways to get things done,” says Bruce Erley, Agency Principal for Creative Strategies Group in Denver, Colorado. “She brought all those things into her future roles in community leadership, and is one of those people that makes everyone feel valued - from the president of the company to the janitor. She embraces everyone and builds genuine relationships with everyone she meets.”


Following her worldwide tour, Jan took her talents to the Hutchinson community, where she worked for the Kansas State Fair and then for the Hutchinson Convention & Visitors Bureau. In both roles, she was responsible for planning events, developing sponsorship programs, and making strategic plans - the fruits of which are still being seen to this day. “Jan brings a lot to the table with her creative personality and ability to command the attention in a packed room,” says Jon Daveline, former President of the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce. “She was a huge asset to Hutchinson, and has the ability to take a complex problem and break it down into a strategic plan. Not many people can do that.”


Daveline, who now serves on Hutchinson’s City Council, also noted that after leaving the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Peters served as the first full-time Executive Director for the Historic Fox Theater in Hutchinson, where she helped bring in huge national acts that their area had never been able to pull before. “She really helped raise the standard for arts in our City,” Daveline says.


Jan was recognized with the Outstanding Tourism Professional award from the Travel Association of Kansas in 1995. In 1996, she returned to the tourism industry as the Executive Director for the Lenexa Convention & Visitors Bureau in the Kansas City area, a role she held for over 3 years before launching her own company called Projects by Design. In this capacity, she served as an expert consultant to numerous private enterprises and associations for event planning, strategic planning, tourism, conventions, performing arts, and more.


In 2006, Jan moved back to her hometown of Great Bend to accept the position of President/CEO for the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development. During her time with the business advocacy organization, Peters was instrumental in restructuring the Chamber, creating additional non-dues revenue, getting the Chamber out of debt, and growing the organization’s financial assets to create long-term security. In addition to vastly improving the strength of the Chamber, she was also responsible for leading the Economic Development efforts for the City of Great Bend. For fourteen years, Jan worked tirelessly to represent Great Bend on countless committees and statewide task forces, as well as networking with state and national government leaders to advocate for the Great Bend business community.


But what was most notable during her time with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce were the countless relationships forged locally, regionally, and nationally with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and developers - many of which resulted in important and significant outcomes for Great Bend’s economy. “One of the things I’ve always been impressed with was Jan’s ability to build genuine relationships. Her prospects were her friends. She championed this community because she loves it,” says Andrea Bauer, former Director of Membership & Events for the Chamber. “Jan created a climate of nimbleness within the organization that allowed us to pivot when a particular challenge or opportunity came about. Partnership was at the heart of everything we worked on.”


Some of the most notable projects Jan helped facilitate include American Ag Credit, Stutzman’s, Bartlett Grain, Sutherlands, Golden Belt Cinema 6, Holiday Inn Express, Shoe Sensation, The Reserves at Trail Ridge, Heartland Ag, Blizzard Energy, The HandleBar & Grill, and countless others. But probably the single greatest impact was when the former John Morrell beef packing plant closed in 2009. Jan was quick to create career fairs for the 275+ employees that lost their jobs, while simultaneously beginning to market the available real estate to all the prospects and developers she knew. Within a matter of months, national pet food manufacturer Redbarn Pet Products was eyeing the property to expand their operation from Long Beach, California. The owners of the now global enterprise speak very highly of Jan and the role she played in recruiting them to Great Bend. “Jan was always very positive, and was there for us with any questions we needed answered. She was our biggest supporter,” says Jeff Baikie, Co-Founder of Redbarn Pet Products. “When our team started moving there from California, she helped each of them get acclimated. We still get together with her. She is still one of our biggest cheerleaders, and was instrumental in bringing us to Great Bend.”


Another way that Jan helped put Great Bend on the map was by participating in Leadership Kansas, an organization that she now helps lead as a volunteer. After completing the exclusive networking program in 2009, she has since volunteered in several capacities including serving on the selection committee, as Orientation Coordinator, and in 2019 as the Statewide Program Chair. “Jan’s role as program chair is our most labor intensive volunteer role, and basically exists to organize the organizers in six regions of our state,” says Jeff Chapman, Executive Director of Leadership Kansas, part of the Kansas Chamber. “Jan made a very positive state-wide impact, and has certainly put Great Bend on the map with our alumni because of her ability to highlight the great things happening there. Her representation of the Great Bend area was spectacular. Our program is successful because of dynamic people like Jan.”


Outside of her busy professional life, Jan also participated in Rotary Club, even taking a turn as the group’s President. She also sang in the First United Methodist Church choir, and was an active caregiver for her mother until she passed away last year.


In January 2020, Jan Peters accepted a new role as Regional Director for Kansas Manufacturing Solutions, and now splits her time between Great Bend and their corporate offices in the Kansas City area, as well as traveling throughout the state helping manufacturers solve problems, make valuable connections with other industry partners, and develop solutions to grow their operations.


Jan will undoubtedly continue to be a champion for the community of Great Bend and all she holds dear. The number of people she will mentor and empower will grow longer and longer, making her most worthy of this special award from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce.


About the Legacy Award

The Legacy Award, presented by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, honors the life and legacy of individuals who have made an indelible mark on the fabric of our community.  The first recipient of this award was Great Bend’s own Skip Yowell, founder of the company Jansport - an American brand of backpacks and collegiate apparel, now owned by VF Corporation, and one of the world's largest apparel companies.


Previous Legacy Award Recipients

2018 Great Bend Recreation Commission

2017 Kids Ag Day

2016 Kari Smith

2015 Skip Yowell