Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Okay…this is officially a wet spring. I’ve seen wet years and saturated ground – but the forecast is what gets me…rain is predicted almost every day. Mayor Blake Jorgensen sent me this picture. Here are pictures from our basement on Tuesday morning. I talked with City crews at the river on Wednesday…the flood gates were closed Tuesday afternoon for the first time since 2012. On Wednesday afternoon the river level was falling but the forecast has so much potential for rain the gates across Main Street remain closed until this morning. If you would like to receive notifications about the flood gates or any City alerts you can sign up for a call or text here. The Prairie Spirit Bridge was opened Wednesday afternoon…here are some pictures from the bridge. Again we need to remember those who advocated and helped build the levees which protect Ottawa. We are safe because of their leadership and efforts!
 
Flea, Junk & Trunk:
 
It was a rainy day for the Flea, Junk & Trunk last Saturday…but enthusiasm was high among those who did participate. Here are the soggy pictures. The FJ&T has gone on for near 10 years but really has only brought in big crowds in recent years. The number of registered vendors from out of town was down some before the rain began and influenced the attendance by shoppers and sellers. In the end only 7 vendors showed up but as I walked Main Street there was still a lot of people in town shopping (not like it would have been with good weather). Our local downtown retailers tell us the FJ&T is usually one of their largest retail days of the year…I feel bad for crappy weather for their sake. Still…we know outdoor events pose a certain amount of risk. We take what comes with the weather. Thanks to all our volunteers who worked to help organize the day and to City crews who were out early in the weather setting cones to direct traffic. Here’s for a better day next year!!
 
Legacy Square: 
 
The weather has hampered construction on Legacy Square as well…but not halted building completely. Monday the trusses were delivered and Wednesdaycrews began erecting the huge supports in the center of the large pavilion…Thursday they put on the purlins. The base laid down after the parking lot was removed is well packed which allows crews and machinery to work even though much of the site is muddy. Bricklayers are putting the finishing touchesto the exterior of the restroom/shower facility. What has not happened is all the work I described a week ago in my newsletter…the storm sewer work under 1st Street and the milling and overlay of the alley. We need a few days in a row of good weather to do this work (the forecast does start to improve at the end of next week – fingers crossed). Once the storm drainage is hooked up it will relieve the amount of water ponding on site. Farmers are frustrated too…it’s just an extremely rainy year (I know…I said that already – it bears repeating!)
 
James Automotive:
 
Kevin James and his family hosted Chamber members for an afterhour in his shop Wednesday evening…here are the pictures. Kevin is a longtime Ottawan and also longtime businessman. He started out with a gas station on Main Street where the Kansas State Bank parking lot is now located. When the Bank was ready to grow and needed the parking space, Kevin went into business with his father-in-law, Dewy Cook in the old Minnick Motors building on the SE corner of 2nd and Hickory Streets. He eventually bought the business from Dewy and building where he is now located on 1st Street and has operated in the present site for 14 years. Kevin had on display in his shop the 1968 car which he bought while in high school in the late 70s…he has it completely restored. 
 
Mostly he and his mechanics do muffler installs, but also offer all under the car service (oil changes and general maintenance repairs and work) in addition to tire work too. Recently the shop became certified to install and monitor Smart Starts – which are court ordered devices installed on cars of people guilty of DUI. The device requires the driver to blow into the Smart Start to start the car…in addition they are required to take it to the shop on a required schedule to download the report of the breathalyzer. 
 
Kevin, his wife Dee and son Jeff have a front row seat to the building of Legacy Square. I often talk with Kevin when I’m inspecting the construction…he always has a good report. Kevin currently serves on the Chamber Board and has been active on committees for the building of Legacy Square. Thank you Kevin for being a valuable downtown businessman and active citizen!!
 
OU & OHS:
 
I had lunch this week with Dr. Reggies Wenyika, president of Ottawa University and Dr. Ryan Cobbs, Superintendent of USD 290 Schools. The two were initiating conversations regarding ways and manors the two organizations can have a closer working relationship. Exciting things are happening on both campuses. This fall, when the new performing arts center opens, there will be great opportunities for the university to partner with our local high school to expand offerings at OU in theater. OU is also considering expanding its music department to include a marching band…our new school facilities have room to help facilitate this too. For the University’s part, they have many athletes who can provide mentoring and coaching to younger high school students. This was a very positive discussion and one which I’m sure will bear fruit going forward. Any way we can form closer partnerships in our local community makes better use of our resources and teaches valuable lessons of cooperation to our youth.   
 
My Nephew:
 
Samuel John Gasper graduated from Paola High School last Saturday…he is the youngest of my nieces and nephews (here are a couple of pictures). There are 12 cousins altogether including my own children.  My daughter Whitney is the oldest at 35 and Sam the youngest at 18…he plans to attend Pittsburg State University next fall but is still somewhat undetermined about his field of study. He and I are going to the Royals game tonight…albeit it is a very rainy forecast for this afternoon and evening. 
 
My grandkids enjoyed the afternoon gathering to celebrate Sam’s big life event…here are a couple family pictures and also of them playing. My extended family is supposed to have a reunion this weekend…we reserved the Shelter House in Forest Park. We will have to see on this one too – have I mentioned this is a very rainy year!!
 
I’ve got to run…Wynndee Lee and I have a meeting in downtown Kansas City this morning. We are meeting with colleagues at Kansas City Area Development Council to better describe to them Proximity Park and the types of industry and manufacturing which would fit and work well in our community. We get many leads from KCADC as well as the Kansas Department of Commerce.
 
Stay dry – talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000