Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
It’s hard/impossible to predict how historians will quantify the year 2020…and bear in mind the year is not yet half over. Regionally we started by winning the Super Bowl, then slipped into a national pandemic with shelter in place orders which none of us have ever experienced. Racial prejudices and systemic discrimination boiled to the top in May causing riots and protests with a nationwide intensity and fervor of which we haven’t experienced on an ongoing basis since the 1960s. 
 
On a personal note, Cherry and I moved from our home of 36 years…and now my back has denigrated to a point where I can barely walk. I will report this week I’ve made good improvements and will hopefully be able to avoid surgery at least in the near future (for the time-being at least). Under the topic of some things never change…I looked back a year ago to see what was going on and I reported Cherry and I finally had gotten our garden planted. In fact…this last week we did exactly the same and finally got all our garden planted for the summer of 2020. 
 
With gardening it’s always a “time will tell” on the weather, produce and outcome…so it is with all the events of 2020.
 
Continued COVID Concerns:
 
I’ll admit I was surprised to learn of 14 new COVID cases this week in Franklin County…we are far from this thing being over. Here locally we have had a total of 49 positive cases…32 which have recovered. There have been 1,298 negative tests conducted. Here are the complete numbers. While not 100% what we would call normal routines yet…life is beginning to pick up pace. At the Chamber we are beginning to schedule coffees and ribbon cuttings. We are also learning what our limitations will be to provide candidate forums and other community events. Feeling our way forward is the best way to describe it. We want to be safe and at the same time continue to get our local economy and way of life churning vibrantly…we will keep you posted. 
 
The Class of 2020:
 
Ottawa High School officially got the Class of 2020 graduated last weekend…pictures here. It was a “drive-up” graduation and an all-day event. Students with names ending in A-L in the morning and M-Z in the afternoon…students were allowed 2 cars for family members to ride in with them, get out and take pictures of their student receiving their diploma. Teachers and staff provided the cheering gallery and KOFO broadcast the event live. Certainly not your normal graduation but this group of students deserved to be celebrated. They are heading into a different world/future than most…of course they’re not ready – but neither were we.
 
Bridge in Legacy Square:
 
Continuing on the topic of what was going on last year at this time…we were full-bore into building Legacy Square. This week the final piece was placed with the installation of the footbridge just to the north of the restrooms…pictures here. City Crews built and installed the bridge…mostly under the direction of Rocky Evans. I went to see the bridge in my invalid state and think it looks great. Now if we can just get things up and running in Legacy Square. We’ve had a number of inquires about events there…but the answer is always predicated around what will be allowed because of gathering sizes and what type of event is planned. We are preparing to host the Farmer’s Market in the Square on June 29…poster here. We will do all we can/are allowed to make this a festive event. Mark your calendars. 
 
Local CDBG Grants:
 
To date we have granted $325,000.00 to local businesses to aid in the recovery of the COVID pandemic…and still have money left to give. I will keep mentioning this until we’ve exhausted the fund…it does no good sitting in an account somewhere collecting dust. We are lucky to have this fund available and now is the time to put these dollars into action. Here are the links to the CDBG funds and the American Eagle Outfitters Foundation fund. You still need to apply for these funds through the City’s Community Development Department (email here) or call 785.229.3620. Additionally the federal Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) funds are still available too…contact your local banker on accessing and apply for these dollars.
 
Black Lives Matter:
 
A Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in Ottawa is currently in the early planning stages…set to happen from 8:00-10:00 on Friday, June 19. The initial plans are to gather at Legacy Square and march down Main Street to City Park and gather at the band gazebo. The group is working with City Hall and the Ottawa Police Department and is planning for a peaceful march…I’ll keep you posted as information becomes available. I support this…protests and objecting to oppressions and unfairness is how we earned our freedom from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Women’s Rights, the Civil Rights in the 60s – protests are an essential part of democracy and how we affect change when all else fails. Unfortunately sometimes riots are a product of protests…certainly I remember bigger riots in the 60s than we have seen recently (at least so far). I don’t think anyone is thinking a riot will happen here but a peaceful march to object to systemic racism is a good thing.
 
Grandkids:
 
I’ve had grandkids checking in on me these last couple of weeks…mostly Facetime but a few visits too. Here is a princess who came to see me and grant me 3 wishes…and also Jase who left that face mask on for all of 2 seconds!!
 
It’s the middle of June and summer is most definitely here…stay cool this week ahead. I’ll talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John  
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000