Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Activities and businesses are slowly restarting as we begin to learn to live with COVID. I continue to have anecdotal conversations with downtown businesses and they report activity is picking up and shoppers are slowly returning. Most people are still very cautious which is good…it’s not time to open wide open – just get started. 
 
Grants:
 
I’m beginning to feel a little like a broken record…but we still have money to GRANT to local businesses. Everyone from single proprietors to large companies are eligible. 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 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. 
 
Single proprietors are allowed to count themselves as an employee…and in many cases, their spouse. You still need to apply for these funds through the City’s Community Development Department (email here) or call 785.229.3620. Here are the links to the CDBG funds and the American Eagle Outfitters Foundation fund. Additionally the federal Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) funds are still available too…contact your local banker on accessing and apply for these dollars. 
 
We have approved grants for home-based businesses to large companies with many employees. These times are unprecedented in many, many ways. I agree with many pundits… we don’t know the path to economic recovery or what it will look like exactly…but in the short run there is little reason to not take advantage of these dollars – it definitely has the effect of injecting cash into our local economy.
 
Senator Jerry Moran:
 
Senator Moran spoke to the local Rotary Club this week…here is a Zoom picture. It is always interesting to hear from leaders in Washington and their prospective. I get a strong sense the Senator is doing an excellent job representing our interests. He self-quarantined for a period after a COVID exposure and is still isolating as much as is possible. Moran reminded our local group the original strategy for social distancing, isolation and quarantining was to “lower the curve”…a term we have become all too familiar with over the course of this pandemic…and, to allow our healthcare facilities to mobilize and be better prepared with PPE and respiratory equipment. By and large this is happening. This is not to say another outbreak will not occur in the fall or we should let down our guard…but as a nation we should be better prepared to handle the next wave. Additional ways to better prepare as a nation is to become more self-sufficient in regards to producing both the former and latter. Undoubtedly the fact China was the leading manufacture of both respirators and PPE worldwide slowed the possible responses for all nations.  The Senator confirms for the most part as a nation, this is happening. Re-patronage of the nation’s labor force must be one of the essentials to restoring economic vitality. Hopefully, this is a lesson learned…cheap labor isn’t necessarily the best alternative. 
 
AdventHealth Ottawa: 
 
Our hospital is beginning to see a return to a more typical pattern of admissions. During the height of the pandemic, non-essential surgeries and procedures were delayed…the schedule is slowly starting to fill-up. Radiology and X-rays are gearing up the quickest, but the surgery schedule is once again at a more normal pace too…another sign we are starting to re-enter our lives. CEO Dallas Purkeypile told the board a great local story. As with all healthcare facilities, our local hospital was scrambling for facemasks. Local restaurateur Elvin Liu, owner of Nagoya Sushi Restaurant learned of the shortage from one of his local employees. Mr. Liu’s father is a doctor in China and had strong contacts there with a facemask supplier. Our local hospital was able to source 2,000 facemasks directly from China through this local contact. Another clear example it’s not who you are…it’s who you know. Thanks to Mr. Liu for his local investment and also for his willingness to do his part for the community during the COVID pandemic!!
 
Also…you should notice the signage beginning to change at the hospital. It has been a long process…here are a few pictures. We officially affiliated with AdventHealth after a 3-year period of vetting and negotiation. When the affiliation become official on May 1, 2019, it was during a period of time when the entire Advent organization was going through a re-brand. Now…nationwide, Advent is in the process of upgrading the signs on all Advent hospitals. I think it looks pretty good…be sure to take a look as you drive down South Main or go to the hospital.
 
Memorial Weekend:
 
Always the “official” start to summer…our family had a great weekend get-together. It was the first time many of us had seen each other in months (here are a few pictures). Some didn’t come because they are still isolating, and we all used caution and commonsense…but in the end it felt reassuring to let a little normal slip back into our lives. Here are some grandkid pictures too
 
I encourage you to seek ways to reengage safely into your life. I began by saying we are learning to live with COVID…none of us are certain yet how this looks specifically. One thing for sure…we need to be cognizant of everyone’s needs and concerns as we use our judgement to manage our own reentry into our life’s expectations and respectful of everyone else’s.
 
Be safe…talk to you next week.         
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000