Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
I hope all you dads had a good Father’s Day last Sunday…mine was great! Our family had fried chicken and mashed potatoes…my favorite meal! The kids got me a great gift too…picture here.
 
Many ask about my back…I’m still moving very slow but have made good progress. I go to physical therapy twice a week and am usually the sorest after going there. I’m just thrilled I’m going to avoid surgery…at least for the moment.
 
Black Lives Matter Protest:
 
I went to the BLM peaceful protest in City Park last Friday evening…the event was well organized (pictures here). The Ottawa Police Department estimated 400 or so people gathered to participate in the park. Another group of approximately 20-30 gathered at the Veteran’s War Memorial in front of the Courthouse for an anti-protest. Additionally 12-15 four-wheel-drive trucks were circling the park with the U.S. Flags flying on their vehicles. All in all everyone who felt inspired to make a peaceful statement regarding their feelings on a decaying national scenario was able to do so.
 
The 2 high school girls, Natalie Maxhimer-Rodriguez and Lillian Durrie were the organizers of the BLM Protest…they emphasized their goals were to bring everyone together and help people understand a little better what racism looks like. After they spoke a couple of familiar faces addressed the crowd. Police Chief Adam Weingarten and former Ottawa Mayor Richard Jackson spoke regarding the need for change. The evening was concluded with former Ottawa residents and Ottawa University speakers inspiring the attenders to make a difference in the fight to end systematic racism. 
 
Ottawa Police Department:
 
This past week I had a couple of opportunities to listen to Police Chief Adam Weingarten speak…to the City Commission and to Rotary (few pictures here). In both instances he gave much praise to Ottawa citizens for conducting a peaceful protest and mostly for raising awareness of the national racism conversation…and getting the conversation started in the Ottawa community. He also spoke about the Ottawa Police policy and procedure. The OPD had been CALEA Accredited for about 7 years now…CALEA stands for Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. This means chokeholds and many of the disturbing arrest scenes we’ve seen on the news have been banned in our police department for years. Too…the OPD officers have car cams and body cams which record and upload to the department’s mainframe almost instantly. I really commend Adam and his force for their leadership in the community and for the challenging times they have faced with this pandemic. No OPD officers have contacted COVID and have remained ready to serve at all times. Thanks OPD!!! Really appreciated.
 
Ottawa Main Street Association Director:
 
The Ottawa Main Street Association hired a new director this week…to begin work July 1. Kelsie Eads (picture here) grew up in Ottawa and has been a lifelong resident. Her new office will be in the Chamber…we are looking forward to her getting settled in and joining efforts to work for continued growth and improvement in downtown Ottawa. In her interview she said she enjoys volunteering and organizing events in her home community. Another interesting note…at age 16 she started her own business – The Blue Giraffe Art Studio which focused on teaching art and helping young artists grow into their creativity. You can reach Kelsie by emailing [email protected] or calling the office at 785.242.1000. Welcome to the team Kelsie…we are all looking forward to working with you at the Chamber!
 
Welcome to Downtown:
 
Continuing on with the theme of welcoming, the downtown, and Ottawa Main Street…have you seen this new sign at 1st and Main Streets…picture here. I was surprised when I saw it the first time…really a nice addition. I called Steve Geiss (he and Sharon are organizing the corners this summer) to find out how or who placed the rock. Steve said it was Angie Arnett’s idea (owner of Salon 101)…and her brother made the entry marker…but Ottawa Main Street Association purchased the welcome sign. It looks good…they are considering buying another for the corner of 5th and Main Streets on the south entrance to downtown. 
 
AdventHealth Ottawa:
 
Our hospital made a big announcement this week…on Tuesday they launched a Tele-ICU initiative in association with Advanced ICU Care, the nation’s leading provider of high-acuity telemedicine (full press release here). Stacie Steiner, the Chief Clinical Officer, told board members this week the Tele-ICU initiative is something she has been pursuing and investigating for a while with the plan to go live this fall or winter…however the COVID crisis sped up the timeline and this week the service was implemented. This is a big deal…now in the Ottawa ICU we have access to doctors who are trained in high acuity cases. Telemedicine is the wave of the future in healthcare…we are already using it locally. AdventHealth is a great partner…we made the move to affiliate at just the right moment. Thanks to them for their leadership in making Franklin County a safer and healthier environment extending the best healthcare available.
 
Heartland Works – Area Workforce Board:
 
I’ve mentioned before I’m chair of the Area II workforce board – Heartland Works. The area includes Ottawa, Lawrence, Manhattan, and Junction City just to name the larger communities. We met for 2 hours this week in a Zoom meeting (ugh!! I am so tired of Zoom meetings!)…the meeting was with the Department of Commerce and included the chairs of all 5 of the area workforce boards. It’s good to get a state perspective every now and then again…we are one state…but with challenges which vary from region to region. It was reported there are 80,000 currently unemployed in Kansas but 30,000 open job postings…several ways of interpreting this. Primarily it is getting the people with the right training to the jobs which fit their skillset. This is what Heartland Works does… connects job seekers to employers and provides training to help job seekers qualify for higher-paying jobs. 
 
Another stark reality…with the airlines shuttering and people reticent to travel, the hospitality industry and manufacturing as it relates to aviation will be years recovering. This is challenging for South Central Kansas…which ultimately affects the whole state.  Perplexing times and challenges will continue for a while! We certainly are not for a lack of monumental tasks on which to work. 
 
Playground as Legacy Square:
 
Work began on the playground at Legacy Square this week…once upon a time we would have had a groundbreaking and more fanfare (pictures here). We are excited to complete this final phase of this project…and to start scheduling more events in our outdoor venue. We do have several events coming up:
 
  • On Monday, June 29 the Chamber and Ottawa Main Street Association are hosting a Farmer’s Market at Legacy Square from 4:00-7:00. KOFO will broadcast live, we will have free ice cream for anyone stopping by, Not Lost Brewing will be providing tasting samples of some of their popular brews…and maybe the biggest incentive to come – the first 40 families get $10.00 of market currency which has to be spent at the Farmer’s Market on this evening. Hope to see you there!!
 
  • On Friday, July 17 at dusk, the Chamber, Ottawa Library, Ottawa Memorial Auditorium and the Ottawa Recreation Commission are sponsoring an outdoor movie night on a large screen at the Square. The Disney show, “Abominable” will be the feature and popcorn will be free. This will be a great event to bring your families and enjoy the evening.
 
  • On Tuesday, July 21 from 6:00-8:00) the Chamber, AT&T and Franklin County Farm Bureau will host a candidate forum for local candidates with contested races in the primary. There hasn’t been a time in recent memory when understanding and knowing what candidates represent is more important. We chose Legacy Square because we felt an outdoor event will be safer and the attenders can more easily socially distance.
 
6-Year Old Birthday party:
 
What made my Father’s Day even more special is I got to share it with my 6-year old granddaughter, Evelyn (pictures here). Evie is our oldest granddaughter of 8. Pretty fun times!!
 
Got to run now…see you Monday evening at the Farmer’s Market. Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John  
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000