Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
What a tempest last Tuesday evening…storms of this magnitude only happen rarely (albeit it seems they are happening more often now than once). I found myself caught in the middle of it. Cherry and I and 2 of our grandsons, Max and Newt, were planning to gather at our daughter Jessica’s house in Overbrook, 5 miles north of Globe. Cherry went to Lawrence to pick up Papa Murphy’s pizza…I left from work to head to Jessica’s home. I was heading west on KS Hwy 56 and saw the storm coming. These are pictures from 41 News…but are exactly what was in front of me Tuesday evening. Cars were turning around…semis were pulling off the road. I decided turning around was in my best interest too!! By phone, Cherry told me she got the pizza and went to Menards in Lawrence to ride out the storm with Max and Newt. I had a choice to go home away from the storm but knew how scared Max and Newt become in bad weather…I decided to head to Menards to help Cherry. It turned out to be pretty intense heading into Lawrence. I got to Menards just as the storm hit…as I crossed 35th Street, ambulance, fire and sheriff cars were all headed south at full tilt – sirens blasting. I’m telling you it was just behind me.
 
In the end the storm crossed just south of Jessica and Mark’s house…2 homes south of them were completely destroyed. I drove back to Lawrence Wednesday evening and could see the exact path the tornado took…there is a lot of destruction. I was lucky to have gotten through the storm path just ahead of the mayhem!
 
KCADC:
 
Last week when I closed my newsletter Wynndee Lee and I were getting ready to head to Union Station in downtown KC to meet with colleagues at the Kansas City Area Development Council.  KCADC approaches economic development from a regional viewpoint…so they work with the entire metropolitan area – including Franklin County. Locally we get a lot of leads from them of potential companies looking to relocate in this area…business and industries contact KCADC and then the regional development partner disperse the subsequent requests for information (RFIs) to their member partners. In addition to providing the RFIs they are very helpful in assisting to put together the official responses. In so much that Franklin County Development Council concerns itself with job and work development in Franklin County…KCADC has the same mission for the entire metropolitan area. Landing a company anywhere in the region is a win for them.
 
Our conversation with the regional developers was good…we provided them with information regarding our workforce and Proximity Park. We also shared anecdotal information about our community…such as our new schools and the Career and Tech Center, Legacy Square and the work we are doing to revitalize our downtown and the new affiliation of our hospital and Advent Health. They were very interested and agreed to visit in person sometime this summer to see firsthand. The more they know and understand our community the more effective they can be in assisting us.
 
Leaving Union Station I snapped a couple of pictures of the lawn art I have been seeing on the evening news. It’s interesting…it takes on different shapes and forms (and even colors as the reflections change). Also the T-Rex got moved outside to make room for the Stonehenge display…I’m kind of anxious to see and learn about the ancient rock formation which has intrigued and mystified societies for years. 
 
Legacy Square: 
 
Good progress this week…notwithstanding having to accommodate a couple of rain events. Here are pictures of the progress on the large pavilion and restroom. The structural steel is complete in the center and south ends; the builders are now assembling the north end. Soon work will begin on the smaller covered shelters on the north side of the square. The exterior work of the restroom is nearing completion so the interior finishing can begin. 
 
We finally progressed on the storm drainage work this week…here are pictures of what contractors dug up. When they located the drainpipe it was in a different location from where they expected…and it is also bigger (specs showed a 20” pipe…it turned out to be 30”). It also wasn’t as deep as it was supposed to be…and lastly they were expecting a concrete drain line and it was cast iron. Notice in the pictures the walls of the drainpipe are 1” thick…I think we can say officially they don’t mak’em like that anymore! All this causes the need for the whole drain box design to be re-engineered in order to accommodate all the differences from what was expected. This is our oldest part of town and hasn’t seen the light of day in years…documentation is “close to correct” at best.   
 
Milling of the alley began this morning and the overlay will start Monday…fingers crossed – the alley could be open as early as Wednesday next week if no further delays or surprises present themselves. 
 
Gayla Wilkins:
 
Congratulations to Gayla Wilkins, longtime HR Director for Franklin County who officially retired this week. There was a huge turnout for her retirement celebration…here are the pictures. Gayla says she plans to become more involved in community work now retired. Good for her!! She previously has served on several Chamber committees…most recently the Leadership Franklin County board. Gayla is a tireless worker and when she commits to an organization or project…she obligates herself to see it become successful. I’m sure we can find places to fit Gayla into in order to help her fill her well-deserved retirement time. Great job Gayla…once again – well done!
 
Chautauqua Festival:
 
Planning is in the final stages for the local 2019 Chautauqua Festival to be held on the 4th of July in Forest Park. Tiffany Evans and Tim Van Leiden have chaired a very hardworking committee to provide an awesome Independence Day celebration. Here’s the schedule of events for the day. As you can see they have everything planned from a home run derby and bike rodeo to turtle races and a street dance…it looks to be a fun-packed day. You can still contribute to this community Freedom Day festival…we initially raised money last November in order to be able to purchase fireworks in January. Now closer to July 4th we are doing another round of fundraising…ideally we would raise enough money this year to have funds in the bank to stage next year’s show. It doesn’t make sense to raise money at Thanksgiving for a 4th of July fireworks show…if you would like to donate you can do so by clicking here. Thanks to all who have supported the Chautauqua Festival to get it up and going…mark your calendars to be in Forest Part to join the festivities.
 
City Award: 
 
Here is a shout-out to Mat Simonson, Multi-Media Specialist for the City of Ottawa. Recently Mat was honored with multiple awards at the Alliance in Community Media Midwest Region. Here is a link to the complete story. Specifically the videos awarded were “Donate to Legacy Square“, “Ottawa Police Department D.A.R.E. Camp – 2018“, and “Ripples of Change“. Locally we have always realized Mat’s talent…now he has officially and ceremoniously and been recognized for his work. Mat and the entire City IT Department were integral in helping us produce videos to promote fundraising for Legacy Square. Paul Sommer is the IT Director for the City…here at the Chamber we really appreciate the close working relationship we have with this department and the entire staff City Hall.
 
Memorial Day Weekend:
 
I hope you had a chance to relax over the Memorial Day Weekend and recharge your battery some. The weekend in my mind is always the “official” beginning of summer (maybe not on the calendar…but in my mind). My extended family had a reunion…on Sunday we gathered at the farm for fellowship and memories…here are a couple pictures. The next day as many of my immediate family that was willing and available went to Gieringer’s Family Orchard in southeast Douglas County to pick strawberries. The kids were pretty much a muddy and sticky mess…but they had a great time (here are pictures). Most headed home Monday afternoon, but daughter Chelsy and husband Marc left Max and Newt to play with grandpa and grandma a couple more days…pictures here. Needless to say…grandma and grandpa were about pooped by Wednesday evening when we returned them to their parents. I can definitely confirm parenting is for the young!!
 
Got to run…a busy day ahead. Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000