Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Week 2 of a scenario none of us could have predicted and with which we are all learning to live. I hope the sunshine for a couple of days made everyone feel a little better…it did me – at least we know spring is coming and so is a return to more normal lives at some point. At home, Cherry is preparing lesson plans for online and learning to teach remotely. I’m learning new tricks too as I become familiar with Skype and Zoom…two ways to conduct/attend meetings (along with conference calls) while having…but not physically going to the meeting. We are all becoming more savvy as we experience social distancing and separation becomes part of our temporary way of life.
 
2nd COVID-19 Case in Franklin County:
 
On Thursday Franklin County announced our 2nd citizen testing positive for the Coronavirus…this time an employee of American Eagle Outfitters Distribution. You can read the full press release here. Our Health Department is in the process of investigating the case, determining the number of close contacts this individual made in the last 14 days. As a precaution the AEO Distribution Center employees have been sent home while a thorough investigation takes place.  There are many considerations in play in this scenario…first and foremost the health and safety of workers but secondly the flow of goods nationwide. Distribution centers are an essential part of the logistics system which allows us to receive the goods we consume. Franklin County officials are in contact with AEO management to determine the nature of the contamination and whether the “stay at home” order is applicable in this situation. If you have questions or concerns pertaining to Essential vs. Non-Essential businesses, please contact Kaci Brady of Franklin County for answers. 
 
AdventHealth-Ottawa:
 
Dallas Purkeypile, the CEO of AdventHealth-Ottawa gave the board an update from our local hospital this week…via conference call. While our hospital is (not at this time) overrun with COVID patients, all the concerns which affect healthcare workers nationwide also face our local caregivers every day when they go on shift. The national AdventHealth System has established a command center for the Coronavirus response…additionally there are division and region command centers to ensure a coordinated implementation and communication of important issues across the company. Leadership of the local team is currently rotated between Stacy Steiner, Chief Nursing Officer and Doug Rich, Vice President of Operations.     
 
The same worries of having enough personal protection equipment (PPE) concerns our local team just as it does the nation. Dallas explained prior to this outbreak the largest worldwide supply of PPE was manufactured in Wuhan, China, the virtual epicenter of the pandemic…this is why shortages exist around the globe. We are lucky locally to have joined a large corporate team working 24/7 on procurement of PPE for our team members…and to provide the support we need to be prepared and also endure this challenge. The COVID situation changes not only daily but at times hourly…our hospital is ready for whatever the situation presents to take care of Franklin County citizens. Thanks to our healthcare workers everywhere!!
 
GOOD NEWS!!:
 
At a time when good news is scarce it is great to see new business open on Main Street this week. BlueSky Liquor opened it’s gas service station at 9th and Main Streets this week…pictures here. I visited with Kirby Snider inside…the opening has been long awaited and is not happening like he envisioned. His grand opening, like many celebrations, will be put on hold until a time when we can do a proper ribbon cutting and we can acknowledge the new service with the proper festivities…for now you have a new place to get gas and grocery items. Kirby is transitioning the store into more of a convenience store to allow for food selections…he says milk and eggs have been very popular since he has opened the new service. Be sure to stop in and see the new business and top off your tank…we will celebrate this new opening properly once we get to the other side of crazy!!
 
2020 Census:
 
Something else you can do while sheltering in place is complete your 2020 Census…Cherry and I have ours done. While the count date is officially April 1, once you receive your notice in the mail you can go online to answer the questions…it doesn’t even take 10 minutes. If internet is an issue for you right now there is also a call-in option. Locally Wynndee Lee is chair of our hometown count…she reported to the committee this week that Franklin County is running slightly ahead of the statewide self-respondents. To date statewide 30.4% have self-reported while in Fr. Co. our numbers are running at 32.6%. Keep up the good work…it means a lot of dollars in a multifaceted amount of local services over the next 10-years. 
 
We’re Not Alone:
 
I’ve participated in several statewide calls this week…two noteworthy were (1) with Senator Pat Robert’s office in Washington D.C. and (2) with Chamber Executives from across the State of Kansas. From those calls I can attest every Kansas community is feeling the crunch of this epidemic. The call to Senator Roberts was regarding the effect this is having on workforce regionally (and locally)…I made sure the Senator also realized the effect this is having on small business and Main Street stores. Federal labor statistics showed our state had almost 23,700 initial claims for unemployment for the week ending last Saturday. That is an increase of 1,250% over the previous week’s claims of less than 1,800.
 
Federal Legislation:
 
Robert’s office discussed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) legislation passed in the U.S. Senate Wednesday evening. It still must be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives but here is the bill in it’s current form.
 
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published its first round of implementation guidance pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  The guidance addresses critical questions and available in three-parts:
 
In my call with other Chamber Execs, all small business in Kansas is hurting now…every day I talk with some local business owner with tragic numbers.  Last week a popular local downtown business reported a drop of 81% in revenue (this is typical of all local business)…this was before the shelter in place order and essentially most staying home. 
 
This is important: without naming names…there is an out-of-town food truck stationing in South Ottawa on a daily basis. Before patronizing this business, please remember who is paying taxes locally and how we all need to hang together to help our community get through this tragedy. I can’t stress enough the importance of giving as much carry-out and drive-thru business to our local restaurants as you feel safe and capable of doing during this time. You can learn what all our local restaurants are doing during this time by clicking here
 
Social Distancing:
 
What a crazy heretofore unknown term and practice…a month ago we would probably have defined this as unfriending someone on Facebook!! We now have a whole new concept. Here are a couple of Ottawa leaders practicing social distancing while doing a management meeting on a nice day! 
 
And here is my granddaughter deciding to social distance by doing school work and eating lunch in a tree…she called it her nest! 
 
Continue to be safe and well…I’ll talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000