Dear Chamber Supporters:
This week summer had the feeling of winding down with fall just around the corner…not sure why. Maybe is all the talk of starting school, fighting crabgrass in the lawn, heavy dew in the evenings and mornings, having tomatoes and corn on the cob which is starting to come to an end. At any rate…we are in the middle of August of one of the strangest summers I can recall. And we all know the reason for this – COVID!!
Franklin County had 38 new COVID cases in the last week (complete report here)…that makes our total positive cases 210 – 144 have recovered and 1 death. There are currently 65 active cases. Potentially I believed we could have seen higher numbers this week with OU students returning and being tested. Only 9 positive tests out of approximately 750 students…I’d say that’s pretty good. Those 9 students have been quarantined, each with their own private room in a location away from campus…and the 9 students are for the most part asymptomatic. Not one of them suspected they had the disease before being tested. 
SPARK Funding:
A whole new round of relief funding became available late yesterday afternoon. The federal CARES Act is providing millions of dollars to all states to help recover from the unprecedented financial crisis caused by the COVID pandemic…in turn, Kansas formed the SPARK (Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas) Task Force to oversee the passing of the federal dollars to the Kansas economy. Here is the link to Coronavirus Relief page which just went live at 4:00 on Thursday afternoon. No applications will be received until noon on August 19 (which means the webpage will probably crash at 12:05 on that day, knowing how government works!). You can read about the different grants available, view and fill the applications out and prepare them for submission next Wednesday.
Kansas is focusing CARES funding efforts on four broad areas: Health, Education, Economic Development, and Connectivity. This second round of SPARK funding is $130 million and is the economic development and connectivity portion of the grant funding.    
Here is a boiled-down version of who is eligible for these dollars:
  • Businesses must have fewer than 500 employees.
  • For profit and nonprofit businesses are eligible…including 501c3 and 501c6 organizations.
  • For the grants providing working capital coverage, the applicant must have received less than $350,000 from all federal and local resources combined. This includes PPP and EIDL assistance. The business must have also suffered a 25% loss in revenue due to COVID.
  • Working capital grants will be available for a full array of businesses including arts and entertainment professional services, marketing, grocery, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, personal services, retail and restaurants.
  • In addition to working capital, there will be funds offered specifically related to foodservice and companies that produce PPE. Those allocations do not require that the firm had a negative impact. It could be that things are booming, and the business needs help with cash flow to keep up.
  • Businesses can request assistance with implementing new safety protocols or for obtaining necessary PPE.
  • Each of these categories will require separate applications from the business. Each of them also will have different maximum allocations.
I encourage each business to look at these opportunities very carefully…they will be different than the local dollars we were able to provide in relief earlier – but just as effective. Please let us know at the Chamber office if we can be a resource for you in filling these applications. Good luck…you all have some reading now for the weekend!
Hope House:
Hope House was the beneficiary of a great Eagle Scout project by Aaron Quillen of local Troup #77…here are pictures. Aaron built a donation shed which will allow people to drop off clothing and non-perishable items any time…Mary Lois said the donation center has been needing this for some time. In addition to the nice donation drop, Aaron also worked with local contractors to fix the sidewalk along Hope House…it was cracked and greatly deteriorated. Hope House does amazing work in our community…with their numerous volunteers, they collect donations and then provide those items to families in need. With the pandemic in full throttle and many out of work, this organization has been a Godsend to many local families. Hope House couldn’t provide the relief without the donations community members make…and now with the donation shed it is even easier. A big shoutout to Aaron Quillen!! Thank you to this young community member who is learning the lessons of donating, volunteering and helping others!
Kalmar Truck:
Another local magnanimous gesture recently…Kalmar Truck donated a terminal tractor to Franklin County to be used at the landfill. Public Works Director David Lee said it is a very timely gift…he was in the process of trying to figure how to find funds to replace the old truck when Kalmar called with their gracious and opportune contribution (full press release here). Your Chamber was able to help facilitate the exchange by actually receiving the gift of the truck through our Chamber Foundation and then passing the gift on to Franklin County. I’m glad we have our Foundation…we’ve helped many organizations with very similar “pass-throughs”. This makes accounting paperwork easier and more efficient for the donating organization to make the donation to a Foundation. Thanks Alan Wilson (manager of the Ottawa facility) and Kalmar for this amazing gift!!
Barbeque Grill & “Mask”erade:
The Onward Ottawa board is doing a small fundraiser this summer for Legacy Square…they are raffling a Blackstone barbeque grill and will draw the winner at a “mask”erade event at Legacy Square on September 22. Here are pictures of the grill and the details of the raffle. Ticket prices are: 1 for $103 for $25, and 7 for $50…you can buy them in the Chamber office or from Onward Ottawa board members. The details and rules of the mask-erade are still a little sketchy yet…we thought it might be fun to give a few prizes to the best decorated and the most imaginative face masks. We will post the rules as soon as we have them so you can get started on your unique mask!   We are trying to make light of our inevitable position…in other words – we just as well laugh because it hurts too much to cry!!
2nd Summer Farmer’s Market:
Next Monday, August 17 is our second of three summer farmer’s markets in Legacy Square. To make the evening more eventful, we are having food trucks and live music. Sara Morgan will be the performing artist…KOFO’s Brad Howard describes her as “an up and coming Country star”. It should be an enjoyable evening to buy fresh vegetables…watermelon are good this year – and cantaloupe too. There will be fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and sweet corn at the market as well as fresh flowers, local honey and other choices. Following your fruit and vegetable selections, get a meal and enjoy the music and evening…I’d suggest bringing lawn chairs. The event will begin at 4:00 and winddown about 7:30 – we will also be giving away free Chamber currency which will only be good at the Farmer’s Market this Monday. I hope you can join in the fun…see you in the Square Monday evening!!
Speaking of garden…Cherry’s and my garden (pictures here) has done well this summer. Here are pictures of our sweet corn crop and the family enjoying a big fresh garden meal of corn on the cob, green beans, okra in a big pot of jambalaya, stir-fry squash, watermelon and fresh peach cobbler for dessert. It was good…and a fun day!
Please continue to stay safe with all the COVID issues and protocols…eventually we will get to the other side of this thing – I’m sure of it. Talk to you next week…
Onward ~ John
John Coen
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce