Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
I continue to be impressed with the community and our citizens’ efforts not only to help one another but also to stay positive…it is not easy! Hope House reports that while need has increased so have donations…several downtown businesses confirm good foot-traffic and support from the community. Last Saturday Wal-Mart, HomeBase and Orscheln’s parking lots were fuller than the previous 5 weeks. All this is antidotal, but there is no doubt pent up energy amongst the community ready to burst forth…social distancing is getting harder.
 
I’ve had a couple of conversations with Travis Marvin recently in the process of rescheduling his concert in Legacy Square…now to be held on August 14. We both hope the gathering can be an outbreak from the pandemic rather than the pandemic outbreak of which we are all tired…some have suggested a “masquerade” event in which we reward the best/most decorative face mask!! We’ll see…I just hope we are able to gather in larger groups by then. I think we are ready for some kind of celebration.
 
American Eagle Outfitters:
 
American Eagle (AEO) has stepped up as an enormous community supporter during the COVID outbreak. First, AEO provided $50,000.00 which is being used for loans to local businesses to help finances through this crisis. The dollars are being awarded interest-free and can be used for normal expenses such as rent and payroll (application here). Coupled with the Community Business Development Grant money we have to loan (application here) there are several hundreds of thousands of dollars we have the ability to inject into the local economy. You might notice signs around town encouraging businesses to call the City of Ottawa’s Community Development Department (785.229.3620) for assistance or applications. Please don’t hesitate to apply for this money…it’s meant to be a bridge to get to the other side of this crisis. We want every one of our local businesses to not only survive but thrive after this is over (here is the full press release).
 
This week AEO called the Chamber and ordered $29,000.00 of Chamber Currency…WOW!! This is money they are giving to their employees to spend in local stores and businesses. That’s a $29,000.00 injection of cash into local stores! This is HUGE! If you are not familiar with our Chamber Currency program, you can buy the currency at the Chamber…we make nothing on it. If you purchase $20.00 you pay $20.00 and have $20.00 in your hand. Present the currency at any participating business and it spends like cash. If you purchase $15.00 of items with your $20.00, the business will give you $5.00 change…they in turn, will bring all their chamber currency to the Chamber and we write them a check for the face value of the currency.  Here is the back of the currency naming all the participating businesses in the program. If your business isn’t currently taking part in this local spending effort…or, if you would like to purchase chamber currency for a graduation gift or your employees, call the Chamber (785.242.1000) and we will get you set up. Thanks to American Eagle for being a FANTASTIC corporate community citizen…this is the definition of “together” we will get through this!!   
 
2019 Community Crown City Award:
 
Here is more GREAT news…Ottawa is (once again) recognized nationally! Ottawa, along with five other communities in the nation has been honored with a 2019 Crown Community Award. Every year, American City and County Magazine recognizes a few communities for executing innovative and impactful projects…there is a strong emphasis on public and private cooperation and participation.  This year the six communities honored are Orange County, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Marietta, Georgia; West Sacramento, California; Ormond Beach, Florida…and Ottawa, Kansas!! Ottawa was specifically recognized for our public/private initiative to develop and build Legacy Square. Here is the full article in American City and County magazine. There is no denying we have a great leadership team at City Hall right now with strong administration and strong commissioners. The partnership of the City and the Chamber to build the community outdoor event space using private funds with public cooperation caught the eye of the judges this year. Great job everyone…this was one of the largest community team efforts I’ve ever experienced. Now we just need to bring the full force of the space to fruition when we can once again gather and hold events!!
 
AdventHealth Ottawa:
 
Wednesday this week was National Nurses Day…a time set aside to remember and recognize the importance of nurses in our society. It always coincides with the week of Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This year more than ever we need to remember our nurses and all caregivers…all those on the front lines of the COVID battle and all the first responders too. While (so far) the crisis has not broken out into an uncontrollable contagion in Franklin County, AdventHealth prepared and was ready for a worst-case scenario. It stresses everyone from doctors to every worker in the hospital.
 
The Advent announced this week the facility is reopening to accommodate those who postponed care while sheltering at home. New safeguards have been implemented for patients and caregivers. Dallas Purkeypile, CEO of AdventHealth Ottawa said the hospital is once again ready to start caring for the entire community…whole person care remains the number one goal of the hospital. You can read the full press release here.       
 
COVID Effect on Small Business:
 
The U.S. Chamber and MetLife released a Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll this week which examined how small businesses nationwide are adapting their operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other key insights, the most recent poll (taken on April 21), finds that to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic:
  • 27% of small businesses have shortened their hours;
  • 26% of small businesses have asked customers for support or started a crowdfunding campaign;
  • 19% of small businesses have adjusted employee salaries or hours; and
  • 19% of small businesses have applied for a working capital loan, an almost five-fold increase since last month.
You can read the full article here…suffice to say, small businesses and entrepreneurs are survivors. They didn’t get into business without taking risks and will fight for the survival of their business.  I hope we are willing as a community and consumers to return to supporting our local stores and specifically Main Street vendors to allow the vibrancy of the area to return!!
 
Bert’s:
 
In the midst of the pandemic a new store open in the county this week. Last Sunday we drove to Wellsville and on KS Highway 33 just south of Wellsville the new Bert’s Truck Stop (pictures here) was open…really surprised me! As it turns out it was their first day. You can see the truck stop and truck wash from I-35…most have been watching the progress of the project. It just caught me off guard when there were cars and trucks in the drive. There is also a truck scales available at the location. Here is the link to their webpage if you want to see more about the new company…welcome to Franklin County.
 
Storm:
 
That was quite a storm that blew through last Monday…it was dark as night in the middle of the day. I was on a Zoom meeting at the time and thought it might be time for me to zoom into the basement!! We ended up with no damage…just our lawn furniture rearranged. Others weren’t as lucky…down in the southern part of the county they experienced large hail…many had trees uprooted. If you have limbs down to be picked up here is the City’s neighbor pickup schedule starting next Monday.  
 
Reopening:
 
It’s nice to see businesses and restaurants on Main Street and in South Ottawa beginning to open this week (with of course, COVID restrictions in place)…it’s going to take a minute for consumers to regain confidence and once again start re-entering life. Probably best to take it slow while the virus is still at large and (until there is a vaccine) uncontrolled. We will all have to learn to live unafraid. 
 
Please continue to use judgment and take care of yourself…talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000