Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Another crazy week…where to begin? I guess I’ll start by wishing you all Happy May Day…May 1st a rarely celebrated holiday – originally the Festival of Spring. This year because of social distancing there will be no dancing around Maypoles or delivering of the May baskets…but it has been an enjoyable spring as far as weather goes. Very few storms and the weather has been…well – spring-like. It has allowed us all, as we distance from each other, to get outdoors and exercise and at least wave at one another.
 
Travis Marvin:
 
It was a beautiful spring evening last night (Thursday) in the parking lot of PrimeTime Grille…organizers estimated as many as 150 cars over the course of the evening for the first-ever concert-in-your-car (pictures here). Travis Marvin performed on a trailer next to the building and the cars were parked at double-space to allow everyone the proper distance…parking was full from HomeBase clear to the Dollar Store. Car Hops walked the aisles taking orders and families sat in and behind cars in tailgate fashion enjoying the beautiful weather, good food and great music…it was a very pleasant evening.  Travis was to perform at Legacy Square next Friday…now rescheduled to August 14. Organizers of the Legacy Square concert hope we are able to promote the event as a post-pandemic celebration. I hope so too…thanks to PrimeTime for a relaxing respite we all needed.   
 
Governor Laura Kelley:
 
The long-awaited Governor’s speech last evening gave us few answers and even less change…at least for the next couple of weeks. We no longer must stay-at-home, but still social distancing and groups no larger than 10 allowed. Some businesses are able to reopen with restrictions…but still others such as barbershops, salons, fitness centers must remain closed. You can read the brief synopsis of her Ad Astra Plan to reopen Kansas here. The Governor referred to the next 2 weeks as Phase 1 of 3 Phases…with each phase becoming less stringent. She hopes to return to “normalcy” with the removal of all pandemic constraints by the middle of June…all this predicated on continued improved conditions regarding the spread of the infection. Governor Kelley qualified her remarks by adding that until we have a vaccine…we will not be entirely safe.
 
Her plan is based on 4-main tenants:
  • More rapid testing to determine the speed and the extent of the spread of the virus.
  • Protecting our healthcare infrastructure and the safety of caregivers.
  • Establishing safer places to quarantine the sick and those with COVID.
  • A robust retracing program…to determine with whom an infected person has had contact.
 
 I will say this about Laura…she is a good friend – I last visited with her in Topeka in the fall long before this pandemic broke. By nature she is not a political person – she is a servant. I think she is doing a fabulous job in the face of extremely challenging circumstances. I can guarantee you she is outside her comfort zone but remains strong and in charge…the true sign of a leader. Her truest statement last night was, “going forward, forever we will refer to life as before COVID and after COVID”…sadly she’s right.
 
This morning meeting via Zoom, the Franklin County Commission blessed the plan of the governor…they had little choice. They could make local restrictions more stringent…but not less. The Franklin County Health Officer, Dr. Bud Ransom added he will be surprised if we are able to move from Phase 1 at the end of 2-weeks…time will tell.
 
Local Loans Available:
 
We still have local money to lend to small businesses struggling with business expenses because of forced COVID closings by the government. With up to $20,000.00 available per business, this is not conventional borrowing. The loans will be interest-free for 6-months and 2% following that…and because this is all local money we have flexibility should conditions not improve. These available dollars are in 3 different funds. The Community Block Development Grant money, usually under stringent state restrictions, has been made available at greatly reduced requirements. American Eagle Outfitters, one of our largest local employers established a local foundation for dollars to be used by local businesses in our community. And Ottawa Main Street Association is reducing the restrictions on their IWW loans to get the money into Main Street businesses. Here are links to the applications for each…or you can call the City of Ottawa Community Planning and Development Department at 785.229.3620.
 
 
If you have any questions or need help with these applications you can call the Chamber at 785.242.1000 for assistance. This money is not doing you or the community any good sitting idle in the respective funds…we need to get it into the hands of our local businesses.
 
Haley Park:
 
Another sure sign of spring is the planting of flowers in Haley Park…pictures here. This summer, The Grass Man Lawn Service is providing the maintenance and upkeep for the park. Chris Hooper, his wife Angela and their son Garrett all worked at trimming bushes, cleaning up the last year’s debris and planting flowers…Chris and Angela also own The Roasted Café. You can see in the pictures Haley Park will also have a Fairy Garden this year…my grandkids love Fairy Gardens!! My impression is the diminutive ornaments were mostly Angela’s doing and not as much Chris and Garrett’s…I’m sure all kids will approve. Thanks to the Hoopers for their community service. 
 
Congressman Steve Watkins:
 
Last Friday, Congressman Watkins met (via Zoom) with 11 local leaders and businessmen (here is a picture if you are wondering what Zoom meetings look like). Most of the conversation was local concerns (which also are reflective of concerns nationwide) regarding shortfalls in the government’s CARES act…meant to get funding to struggling businesses. As with any program there are always situations which don’t fit the parameters of the rules or slip through the cracks. As you can imagine local businesses are struggling to pay rent, payrolls, loans and inventory costs…some expenses trudge on regardless of whether a business is open or not. I appreciated the Congressman taking time to visit with our local citizens specifically and addressing their concerns…if Congress doesn’t know what the problems are they can’t fix them in subsequent legislation.
 
Farm Clean-up:
 
It has been a herculean effort getting barns cleaned out, ridding ourselves of 38 years of junk and moving what (at least for the moment) seems relevant…and then finding a space for it at our new home!! Probably against current conventional wisdom the family gathered at the farm one last day for a “clean-up” and mostly reminiscing event (here are pictures). We debated the optics and logistics of gathering…but we have all been socially distancing for 3-weeks and none had fevers. For our children they couldn’t let their childhood memories go without one last gathering at the farm…it was a good and very tiring day. 
 
As with all things (be it pandemics or life changes)…life rolls on! Make sure you get outside and enjoy the spring weather…we’ve all been inside too much.
 
Stay safe and take care of yourselves…talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000