Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Happy Friday to everyone…and to my blushing bride of 38-years Happy Anniversary. We were married on this day, a very mild and warm day, in November 1982…here is the before and after look!! It’s hard to believe where all those years went…certainly many, many good memories!!
 
I will say that in all those years, I don’t think we experienced quite the debacle we are living through today…pandemic, vitriolic politics, an economy in the lurch. I will never say it can’t get worse…as soon as you say it – it does!!
 
COVID Update:
 
There’s a lot to get to this week with the pandemic…numbers are on the rise everywhere – including Franklin County. From last Wednesday, locally we are up 141 new positive cases…people still continue to heal from the disease. The active caseload is up only 1 to 229 active cases. Tragically there have been 5 deaths bringing the fatality number to 13 for Franklin County. Last weekend there were 10 total deaths in Kansas…5 were in Franklin County – rather sobering. Our positivity rate has soared in November to an all-time high of 24.15%  Here is the county report for Wednesday, November 18. Another piece of trivia…the highest per capita COVID death rate for all U.S. Counties is Gove County, Kansas (county seat, Gove City…largest town Quinter).
 
AdventHealth Ottawa:
 
Our local hospital is in good shape and stands at the ready…there are currently 5 COVID hospitalizations locally. Administration continues to monitor the numbers in metropolitan hospitals…it’s conceivable as they fill, we could start seeing admissions from the City. We have plenty of ventilators on hand and a strategic plan to handle a surge. There are also tactical plans ready to receive, handle and distribute vaccine when it becomes available…not soon enough for me!! CEO Dallas Purkeypile reports that different from the first potential surge, our hospital has plenty of ventilators and plenty of personal protective equipment on hand. It gives me a safe feeling knowing we have a fabulous care center in our community…and ready to go to keep us safe and help us heal.
 
Mask-up…Economy Strong:
 
This is the mantra for the State of Kansas’ new promotion campaign to encourage everyone to follow the new state mandate: use good hygiene, when inside in public spaces, wear a mask…and whenever you cannot maintain six-feet of separation between people. Lastly, keep group sizes below 10 people (here are the graphic for the campaign). Commerce Secretary, David Toland addressed all Kansas Chamber and Economic Development directors Thursday…his first words were, “I’m addressing you today because of concerns over the health of our economy.” He shared all the charts and numbers we see on the news nightly but then introduced the promotion campaign to encourage citizens to “mask up”. 
 
He absolutely does not want another State shutdown…Commerce is partnering with the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Leadership Center and the Kansas Hospital Association to lead this preemptive charge. He ended by pointing out the current uncontrollable spread is having the effect of shutting the economy down…consumer confidence is low and citizens are staying inside – he is right. We need to support our economy by wearing masks. If anyone wants any of the graphics or signs for your store of place of business they are readily available.  
 
Congratulations Sherri:
 
I sure don’t want anyone to think the news is all gloom and doom or COVID related…our Chamber received a nice honor this week when our own Sherri Lund was featured in a national traveler magazine, “Select Traveler”…you can read the entire article here. A writer for the magazine met Sherri at a travel conference last summer and engaged her regarding our international travel program…fascinated, she asked to interview Sherri and this is the result. Sometimes we don’t realize or recognize the opportunities we have right here in our own community! Sherri is working to expand the Chamber’s worldly excursions…presently, only to be frustrated by COVID. But when we are on the other side of this, she has plans for multiple trips including sorties here in our own county. Next spring she has travelers destine for France and next fall the Chamber is scheduling a trip to Ireland. If you feel safe and are ready to travel…call Sherri. 
 
Another Community Honor:
 
Local City Commissioner, Sara Caylor was elected to be Chair of the League of Kansas Municipalities. The League is a membership organization which advocates on behalf of Kansas cities and also offers guidance and assistance to local elected and administrative leaders. City Manager, Richard Nienstedt reports he has known 3 previous Ottawa leaders to serve on the state board: Richard Jackson, Blake Jorgensen and Sara Caylor…but Sara is only the second Ottawa Commissioner to serve as Chair. Previously Richard Jackson was honored in this capacity. It demonstrates we have great leadership locally…and now state leaders see this too!! Job well done Sara…you will represent this community very well…THANKS!!
 
Mayor’s Lighting Ceremony:  
 
The countdown to Christmas is on…T-minus 35 days and counting. We will throw the switch on the downtown shopping season Thursday, November 28 at 5:30 when we light the town for the holidays. The event will begin at 5:00 with Christmas cookies to decorate…this year the cookies, frosting and sprinkles will be bagged to take home to decorate. The Spotlight Dance Academy (the Spotlight Sparklers) will be performing…and Phil Messenger will read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Also worthy to note…Arvest Bank is giving away 2 bicycles to local children – a boy and a girl. All this is happening at the intersection of 2nd and Main Streets. There will be a DJ playing Christmas music and several other events going on. The Ottawa Coop and Trendel Lumber are sponsoring this event…thanks to them we will be handing out free chamber currency to be spent for Christmas shopping. As I said – the lights go on at 5:30 and we ARE expecting Santa to make an appearance…he will be at the Roasted Cafe at 123 E. 2nd Street following the lighting ceremony.
 
We will be shutting Main Street down from 1st to 3rd Streets to create more room to spread-out during this pandemic time…feel free to stand up and down Main Street to experience this Holiday Celebration. If you deem this spread-out outdoor event is safe come on down and get the holidays started. We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to celebrate this year…put on your best Christmas mask and join us a week from this Saturday. Hope to see you there!! 
 
4th of July at Christmas:
 
I mentioned last week the Chautauqua Festival Committee is having a couple raffles to raise money to purchase fireworks for our local Independence Day Celebration in 2021. The prizes are a $500.00 Price Chopper gift card or 1 case of CCI Blazer 9mm ammo…you can buy tickets for one or the other (or both). Here is the link to do just that…1 – ticket for $10.00 or 3 – tickets for $25.00. Additionally you can find this link on our webpage or you can buy tickets at the Chamber, The Gun Guys or Memorial Auditorium.
 
Merry Christmas:
 
I know we are not quite to thanksgiving but it’s time to get in the Holiday Spirit!! I don’t get on ladders and put up Christmas Lights anymore…but we have a friend who does. Lewis Verdouw is an Ottawa University grad student and is here from Australia…he is mostly earning money to pay for his college expenses. He has a seasonal business installing Christmas lights…I hired Lewis to put lights on our house and even got him to clean my gutters!! Here is his phone number: 785.248.4598 – I highly recommend him!!
 
Please have a very safe and blessed Thanksgiving…I thank God for all of you and this community every day – and the opportunity I have to be your Chamber Director. Ottawa and the Chamber are certainly among my most treasured blessings!!
 
Let’s Mask-up and Keep the Economy Strong Ottawa…we simply cannot afford another shutdown. 
 
Talk to you next week…if I’m not too full to write!!
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000