Dear Chamber Supporters:
Another wet cool week – not great for farmers trying to get crops in the ground…or for construction projects either for that matter. Not a lot new this week on Legacy Square…we are lucky the bricklayers have been able to work this week. Also the components were delivered for the drainage work which will be under 1st Street…here are pictures of the restroom and the drainage box. The restroom has been the most visible progress…but today construction went vertical on the large pavilion (here are pictures of 1st beam going up). Chamber members watched construction while enjoying coffee at Mug Shot this morning!
First Friday Forum:
I wasn’t able to attend last week’s FFF but have heard great reports regarding Leslie Bjork’s comments at the forum. Here are a few pictures. Leslie is the director of the Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance which serves both Miami and Franklin Counties. Mental and substance abuse disorders are recognized as the leading cause of disability worldwide with about 20% of all children having some form of mental illness. Part of the problem in our society is that there is a huge inequity in the distribution of services and resources available to diagnose and treat mental illness…which includes financial resources.
The mission at ELC to is to provide timely, effective and comprehensive behavioral health services in order to improve the quality of life and recovery for families and citizens living in Franklin and Miami Counties.  ELC strives to live out their mission by partnering in treatment plans with clients and families allowing them to deliver treatment which preserves human dignity and, most importantly, ending the stigma of mental illness. Anecdotally I can tell you Leslie and her staff also do a great job partnering with local law enforcement and healthcare facilities to improve the quality of life for all in need. Their life calling is tough work…thanks to all at ELC for making our community saner and raising our level of awareness.
Kalmar Ottawa: 
I want to share a video which Robbin Kerth shared with me earlier this week…not sure where Robbin found it. It tells the history of Kalmar Ottawa…or said differently Ottawa Truck and is an amazing testimony as to how this company got started and the commitment to Ottawa and their employees. It is also marvelous proof regarding the resiliency of Ottawa and its citizens. I’ll warn you it’s a 25 minute video…so watch it when you have time. If you don’t think you can watch the whole 25 minutes – watch the first 5 minutes…you will be duly impressed. Here is the video:
Kalmar Ottawa continues to be a great Ottawa corporate citizen. The company was an early donor to Legacy Square and their donation includes an Ottawa Truck which will (coincidentally) sit on the location where the company originally started in the 1940s, at 1st and Walnut Streets. The donated truck will be manufactured to be integral to our playground area for kids (and probably some adults too) to climb into and play on. Thanks you Kalmar for your longtime commitment and investment to the Ottawa community!!
Another Grant Award:
Wynndee Lee received good news on another grant award this week…here is the complete news release.  This grant is from the Federal Highway Administration and is a $75,280.00 Recreational Trail Program grant to make improvements to the Flint Hills Trail through Ottawa from Hickory to Walnut Streets…adjacent to Legacy Square and the Prairie Spirit Trail.  The grant funds will focus on trail enhancements and in particular, signage for local users and tourists.  The signage will include 25 directional signs, 6 interpretive signs and two kiosks along with 25 trail signs and 12 traffic signs. The enhancements will include some benches and trees in a few locations and a new sidewalk on the north side of 1st Street. This will all be a great upgrade all in the vicinity of Legacy Square.
Plaza Cinema:
Our local theater was featured in the most recent edition of Kansas Magazine…the full article is protected online, but here is a picture from the magazine of downtown Ottawa. The article talks about the Cinema being the oldest continually run movie theater in the world and how this was discovered and verified. Scott Zaremba, the Plaza Cinema owner is quoted as saying, “we’re the oldest because we didn’t burn down.” Scott goes on to explain theaters were once highly vulnerable to fire because early projectors created an open arc of electricity causing many of the community entertainment venues to catch fire and burn. We’re glad it didn’t and thank you Scott for your investment in Ottawa. Stop in and choose between 2 show selections and take time to stroll through the Memorabilia Museum. Sometimes we take local attractions like the Plaza Cinema for granted…but it’s a valuable addition to our downtown Ottawa…Kansas Magazine thinks so too! (we have a copy of the magazine in the Chamber if you want to stop by to see the full article)
Chamber Board Retreat:
Your Chamber board took time from their busy schedules to meet for a full afternoon this week and evaluate where the Chamber is as an organization and strategize about directions and challenges to address going forward. Here are a few pictures. It struck me we had 4 generations in the conversation…which is very healthy for our community organization. Baby Boomers and Gen Z were the minority and Gen X and the Millennials were the strong majority…but that’s just as it should be. It made for diverse conversation and perspectives.  Much of the discussion centered on strategy and planning for the future of Legacy Square to ensure its success as a community venue once completed; also discussed was the larger topic…what is next for the Chamber to concentrate its efforts? For the last 3 years we have poured heart and soul into Legacy Square – but there is no time to sit back and rest.
Also time was devoted to how best to serve a community to get as much bang for our dollars…said differently – how and who should we partner with to use our limited resources most effectively. Lyle Butler a longtime President/CEO of several Kansas Chambers (most recently Manhattan, Kansas for 20 years) led the discussions and facilitated the strategic planning. It was good to have his experience and viewpoints.  I’ll continue to share more on this in the weeks ahead as we unpack all the conversations and more specifically set goals for the next several years.
Chamber Staff:
For the first time in several months I feel we are becoming full staff in our office. Starting Monday, Sydney Coleman (who has been working 2 full days a week since January) will be working full-time as Membership Director. Her main responsibilities will be membership recruitment and retention with a strong emphasis on member services. Sydney sends the member newsletter on Thursdays and does the vast majority of our social media.
Also starting Monday in a more full-time position will be Ryland Miller. Ryland has served as our Ottawa University intern the last semester…and we have shared him with Tiffany Evans at Memorial Auditorium. Going forward the Chamber and Ottawa University are partnering on a Graduate Assistant position which we will call our Community Liaison. While working on his MBA, Ryland will have major responsibilities integrating the life of the university and the life of the community…and he will also have responsibilities which will include member services, event planning and management and attending to our webpage and keeping it current.
Sherri and I will keep doing what we are doing…but with more help which should allow us to be more attentive to member needs and hopefully as a team of 4 deliver superior community service. Thanks too for all our AMAZINGvolunteers without which we would not be a successful organization. The hours spent by the Events and Promotions Committee, Ambassadors, Legislative Action Committee, Franklin Co. Leadership Board and the Agri-Business Committee are what makes the Ottawa Chamber a success! This doesn’t even address all the local citizens which worked on Onward Ottawa causing Legacy Square to become a reality. We are truly blessed in this community with loyal and dedicated citizens which are willing to invest sweat equity to make Ottawa great!! Thanks to all of you.
Cherry’s mom passed this morning…it has been a 5 week ordeal and a long digression. Dying is never an event and always a process.  Cherry is worn from traveling back and forth and being at her mother’s side as she failed. Thanks to all who have had us in your prayers.
Time to go…all our kids are home this weekend for Mother’s Day. I’m sure I’ll have grandkid pictures for you next week. Also it’s a big weekend for OHS Seniors who graduate on Saturday…congrats to all the students stepping out of high school and on to their next adventure. Remember there will always be a home for you here in Ottawa.
Here’s hoping for drier days ahead to allow for construction on Legacy Square to pick up speed. Talk to you next week…
Onward ~ John
John Coen
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce