Dear Chamber Supporter:
 
I imagine most of you, like me, still feel stuffed yet today. Twenty-seven of our family members gathered to enjoy the standard fare of turkey and all the trimmings (a few pictures here)…the guys watched football, the kids played and the women enjoyed catching up with the lives of everyone’s family. I expect I’m describing (not all) but a good percentage of what your own family gatherings resembled.
 
Our own kids started arriving on Wednesday afternoon and the grandkids all had a slumber party at our house…not that there was much slumbering going on. It is enjoyable to watch the cousins play together…the oldest three are 4 and 5-years old and the gang leaders…the younger ones all follow their mischievousness. At times it becomes pure bedlam…but we really don’t want it any other way. By Thursday evening all had left for home, the house was a disaster and the fridge full of leftovers…Cherry and I sat in our chairs recollecting and pondering all we have to be thankful for…our blessings are bountiful.    
 
Performing Arts Center:
 
WOW!! This was a grand unveiling…and long-awaited too. But I dare say it was well worth the wait. Last Friday we cut the ribbon (pictures here) on the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Ottawa High School and judging by the number attending the event many were anxious to see the inside of the new theater. The opening of the PAC is really the final piece of the $63.5 million bond issue passed in the spring of 2015 by USD 290 voters. The venue will seat 865 and can be used in a variety of ways…including using it on a grand scale or making it smaller and more intimate for smaller shows or exhibitions (here are some pictures from the inside). Dr. Cobbs described the space as way more than a theater or auditorium…it will be space that draws the community together.  I agree with him…and more than a performance center the space is also great teaching and learning space. It creates another career pathway our local students can pursue in learning life-skills.       
 
Hoganville Family Farms:
 
I stopped by North Main this week to see the new sauerkraut business…Hoganville Family Farms located in the former Ramsey Printing building. I loved the smell of the sauerkraut as it is being bottled and prepared for shipping. Here are some pictures. This is a tremendous use for this building…and the family is happy to have found this new space and hopes eventually to consolidate their multiple operations. The Rome family owns and operates Hoganville Family Farms and the sauerkraut is made from an old family recipe brought to the U.S. with their great-grandfather when he emigrated from Germany in 1890. Seventeen members of the family are involved in the processing and packaging. I met dad, Ray Rome and brothers Tracie and Jeff Rome gave me a tour of the plant. 
 
The process is really nothing more than fermenting cabbage and then canning it in a hot water bath and putting labels on the jars. Tracie explained they are busy trying to get this current batch completed, moved into the building and everything situated in this new location. Eventually they hope to sell their product out of the North Main location, but until they are prepared to do this you can buy some of the local sauerkraut just across the street at Front Porch Antiques. It’s good…I recommend it!!  
 
Ernest-Spencer:
 
Wynndee Lee, Richard Nienstedt, Paul Bean and I traveled to Meriden, Kansas earlier this week to meet with Neal Spencer, President/CEO of Ernest-Spencer Companies…one of their manufacturing plants is located in our North Ottawa Industrial Park but we have not had much contact with their management down through the years. Here are some pictures of their plant in Meriden. We wanted to become more familiar with the company and find ways to help them more involve themselves in the life of our community…we were all greatly impressed with the company and their commitment to quality. E-S has a long history of long-tenured employees and attention to detail of their final product…their mission is “Our Best Work. Every Day.” While there we got a strong sense this is a longstanding family business with a lot of pride…the company was started by Neal’s great-grandfather in 1922. For nearly a century the Ernest-Spencer companies have been combining traditional American craftsmanship with advanced manufacturing technology to support business, industry and agriculture.   Locally they employ 45 workers but their entire workforce is closer to 250 for all their companies…we are lucky to have a manufacturer such as E-S here in Ottawa.
 
Blessings to all of you:
 
It was a short week this week…I hope all you had a relaxing holiday and took a moment to reflect on your thanksgivings too. As a community we have many blessings to be thankful for…one of my many joys is I get to go to work every day and advocate for our hometown. I’m looking forward to a very festive holiday season and can’t wait to see what all happens in 2020. 
 
Cherry and I both send our blessings to you and your family…we are thankful for you and this community.        
 
Happy Thanksgiving…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
john@ottawakansas.org
785-242-1000