Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Life and our lifestyles continue to be complicated…we are feeling our way in at the Chamber office too. Officially we are in Phase 3 of the reopening plan…which allows for gatherings up to 45 people. We are beginning to schedule Chamber coffees and ribbon cuttings again…albeit cautiously as we examine how we bring people together. 
 
This being an election year…and a critical time in the life of our community, state and nation…it is essential voters have the opportunity to become familiar with candidates leading up to the primary election on August 4. We have scheduled a candidate forum for the evening of July 21 at Legacy Square…our thoughts being an outdoor event will be safer and allow people attending the ability to distance from others.
 
At the Chamber we want as badly as anyone does to get our lives and the community churning at a rate similar to before the pandemic…it will take time. The last thing we want is a setback or worse yet another shutdown. Please continue to be careful.
 
Juneteenth: 
 
Many are familiar with this term…some are not. Juneteenth is actually today…June 19 which represents the final day slavery existed in the United States. On this day in 1865 slavery was officially ended in the last state – Texas. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863…and General Lee officially surrendered in April of 1865. However, Texas pretty much ignored all of that…it wasn’t until Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 that the last slaves were freed ridding our entire country of slavery. 
 
In the United States, only South Dakota and Hawaii do not recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or a day of observance…Kansas officially recognized June 19 in 2007. Given this time of national unrest it is important we all know why this day is significant in our nation’s history and acknowledge the role slavery played in causing the systemic discrimination which is still causing turmoil and discontent today. 
 
Black Lives Matter (BLM):
 
The fact today is Juneteenth even makes the BLM peaceful protest scheduled for this evening (June 19) from 6:00-8:00 in City Park even more significant. Here is a flier made by the group organizing the protest…it does a good job of describing what the event is and what it is not. I have met the organizers…a couple of high school students with whom I am very impressed. They presented before the City Commission and walked Main Street giving fliers to all business and answering questions regarding the scheduled protest. It doesn’t surprise me some local citizens are worried about this event given what we are seeing nightly in the news and the conflict the legacy of slavery has left woven in the fabric of our society. Still…this protest will be a good thing. Consider coming to the park this evening and listening to the speakers and support getting rid of racism in our lives once and for all!!    
 
Payroll Protection Program:
 
The federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP) continues to evolve…here is an updated U.S. Chamber Guide to PPP Loan Forgiveness. The recent changes made by Congress and the administration to the PPP program are substantive and made to provide borrowers with more flexibility. These changes include:
  • Extending the time to spend PPP funds from 8 weeks to 24 weeks;
  • Lowering the amount that must be spent on payroll from 75% to 60%;
  • Extending the deadline to restore FTEs and payroll from June 30, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020; and
  • Setting the repayment term for loans made after June 4, 2020 at five years.
 
To qualify for the forgiveness program you need to apply through the lender which processed your loan. It is possible there will be more changes in the future…I’ll try to keep you updated. 
 
Leadership Franklin County (LFC):
 
Congratulations to the latest and just graduated LFC class…graduation was Thursday this week…a month late because of the COVID quarantine. The graduation was conducted via ZOOM…as most meetings and gatherings are these days. Since I couldn’t take pictures of the graduation, here is the picture of the class from their introduction last August…and here is the complete list of graduates.  I listened to each class member’s final presentation…all said the class was a fantastic experience. A big part of the experience is the friendships/relationships which are built meeting together, discussing hard topics and completing class challenges. Certainly we always need new blood in leadership positions…perhaps now more than ever. I look forward to these new voices in the local conversations! By the way…as I said graduation was late this year – the LFC board is already into planning for next year. Here is the application to the 2020/21 LFC class if you have someone in your organization which can benefit from the class.  
 
Sales Tax:
 
Here is some good news on the economic front…nationally sales tax collections are up (read article here). Nationwide the country saw the largest one-month gain in collections from April to May – up 17%. Some of this of course indicates how much sales fell off in April…but it also implies once stores opened consumers returned. Franklin County saw strong sales tax revenue in April…the fact April is up is not the full story…the reporting of sales receipts in Franklin County from Kansas back to the community lags 90-days from the actual collection date. Still…to date 2020 sales tax locally is strong. Additionally the local April collections were $50,000.00 greater than April a year ago and 2020 collections are ahead of total collections through April 2019. The next couple of months will add to this story…I’ll keep you posted. 
 
Main Street Corners:
 
The Ottawa Main Street Association has put on a big push getting the Main Street corners landscaped (pictures here)…they are looking really spruced up. These beautified corners represent hours of volunteering for the community. They also planted the flowerpots in front of the Chamber…thank you to OMSA for your efforts to make Ottawa downtown more beautiful and appealing – really appreciated!!
 
Here is a picture of our little 9-month old enjoying the wading pool on a hot summer day. Hope to see you this evening at City Park. Talk to you next week…     
 
Onward ~ John  
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000