Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
This has been a challenging week. I’ve been flat on my back with a pinched nerve…I am getting an MRI as you read this. In my life I have had broken ribs twice, a broken sternum and a pelvic bone…this is extremely painful. What causes this to be more painful is the discomfort is constant – and it seems impossible to find a comfortable position. With broken ribs the pain would subside if you just didn’t move (or cough). Hopefully the doctor can figure something out today.  
 
On Monday I could still walk and get to my chair…by Wednesday I stayed in bed all day. When you become bedfast if gives you a great appreciation for those who love and give you care. I would not make it if it were not for Cherry…she’s a champion. Really can’t say more than that!! 
 
I have been able to participate in Zoom meetings this week…albeit from bed since Wednesday. It makes me feel like I’m staying in touch. Also a big shout out to Sherri and Ryland…they have kept the office fires burning. We are a great team and this week the team certainly held up my end of things…thanks to them too!!
 
Black Lives Matter:
 
It seems we slipped from one pandemic to the next in this country this week…albeit racism and prejudice has been around for years…it has just once again moved to the forefront. The killing of George Floyd is tragic and disturbing and a sign of much deeper issues of prejudice and racism. We need to acknowledge our share of the blame here in Franklin County…even though we feel more cloistered here than the rest of the country! Former Mayor Richard Jackson, Dr. Reggies Wenyeka, OU president and City Manager Richard Nienstedt are strategizing ways to begin and conduct the conversation locally…the Chamber will participate. No longer are any excuses allowable…we simply must do better. 
 
Grants:
 
Last week I let you know the local loans were changing from loans to grants…to date we have granted approximately $110,000.00 to local businesses with approximately another $150,000.00 still available. The fantastic news this week is Ottawa now has an additional $132,000.00 and this is on top of the fact that now Franklin County has $132,000 to grant as well. Prior to this announcement businesses had to be located in the city limits of Ottawa…we now have dollars for businesses in the greater community and smaller municipalities.
 
All types of businesses are applying for these grants…from large to very small businesses. These are funds which will not need to be repaid if you qualify your workforce as a majority of low-to-moderate income. The restrictions have been greatly reduced on the federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds…this is as close to free money as it will ever get.
 
If you have been hesitant because of taking on new debt you should reexamine this opportunity. You must supply invoices showing the expenses that occurred during the pandemic…rent, inventory, payroll, insurance, mortgage payments – all qualify. There is a $35,000.00 cap and the long-running requirement of CDBG is having an employee base which is low-to-moderate income and retaining those jobs…this requirement still applies. Most businesses can make the numbers work…especially if they’ve had to reduce payroll by layoffs or enact a reduction of wages. 
 
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.
 
Payroll Protection Plan (PPP):
 
Speaking of PPP loans, Congress has passed legislation loosening the rules and extending the deadlines for the Paycheck Protection Program, which gives forgivable loans to small businesses to keep people on payrolls. It now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature…which is expected.
 
The legislation is designed to smooth out a number of kinks in the program that businesses complained about. Initially, Paycheck Protection loans would only be forgiven if a business spent 75% of the loan money on payroll. The new bill lowers that to 60%. Businesses also have more time to spend the money — six months instead of two. That’s in response to businesses that complained that they couldn’t spend their loan money in such a short time frame when their workers didn’t have much to do, because they were still closed.
 
Without the new bill, the first businesses to receive Paycheck Protection loans would have to start paying them back next week. The legislation also defers payroll taxes for businesses getting the loans, and it gives them more time to repay any part of a loan that isn’t forgiven.
 
Legacy Square Farmers Market:
 
After conversations with the local Ottawa Farmer’s Market I am pleased to announce that on June 29 Legacy Square will host a downtown farmers market…view the poster here. This event will come with collaboration between the Ottawa Main Street Association, the Chamber and of course the Ottawa Farmer’s Market. The crowd that this market brings will benefit the whole downtown in a fun night of entertainment and shopping. In addition to this event we will plan a couple more Farmer’s Markets this summer. We are trying to get a feel for how well they will be received and how the space will work. June 29 will be the first and should correspond with the beginning of sweet corn…mark your calendars!!
 
Industry Appreciation Month:
 
You may or may not know June is Industry Appreciation Month…here in Ottawa and Franklin County we have a lot to be thankful for as we are supported by some amazing industries. These organizations provide our area with quality jobs, pay taxes, make incredible investments in our community, and provide tremendous philanthropic support. Let us all take a moment to recognize how influential our local industries are. The City of Ottawa and Franklin County have already given special recognition each issuing a proclamation recognizing these contributions. You can view both of these proclamations here.
 
Carla Bienhoff:
 
Speaking of recognition… Carla Bienhoff will be retiring from COF Training Services at the end of June after completing 15 ½ years of service. More than this Carla is longserving as a Chamber volunteer…I have found directories from back in the 80’s when Carla was chairing committees and volunteering. More recently she served on the Chamber’s Board for five+ years…including serving as Chair in 2018. Carla’s leadership and service has not gone unnoticed but will be missed. To show appreciation to all she has done in our community COF is requesting/hosting a card shower on her behalf…cards can be mailed to her attention in care of COF Training Services, Inc., 1516 N Davis Avenue, Ottawa, KS 66067. Thank you Carla…enjoy your retirement!!
 
Here’s hoping I’m able to get up and around next week…I miss seeing everyone now that activity is beginning to resume a more normal pace. Continue to be safe…talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John  
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000