Dear Chamber Supporter:
The Christmas season is completely upon us…I even have my Christmas shopping done and there are still 12 days left to purchase gifts. I got sped up this year because our kids and all their families will be at our house this weekend for our family Christmas celebration. Ottawa will be especially festive Saturday morning…the Christmas parade will start at 11:00 a.m. Ottawa Main Street Association (OMSA) organized the parade and they report over 30 entries…one of the largest parades in the last several years. The Chamber and the Library will be serving Christmas cookies and hot chocolate at Haley Park…be sure to stop by…get some refreshment and say Merry Christmas.
OMSA also had managed the decorating of downtown corners (pictures here). This is new this year and really adds to the holiday festiveness and atmosphere. Following the parade all come to Legacy Square for the drawing of the 2019 Chevy Silverado pickup and other prizes…the $1,000.00 cash prize, the gun and gun safe, barbeque grill, and a Yeti cooler. It’s going to be a Merry Christmas for several Ottawa citizens…we appreciate everyone participating in the community raffle.
Here are pictures of the Chamber/FCDC holiday gathering just today…if you read this and haven’t stopped by yet we’ll be here until 2:00 with pulled pork sandwiches and holiday cheer. Please come on by!
Neosho County Community College Gala:
There have been many Christmas celebrations in the last week…last Saturday Cherry and I (plus Ryland from the office) attended the NCCC Gala…always a merry and joyful event. Here are a few pictures (not great shots because it was dark). Unique about this celebration is the dueling pianos…these guys are fabulous and highly entertaining. I don’t think you can stump them with any song from any genre…they inspired people to dance and sing…really a fun time. The purpose of the gala is to raise scholarship dollars for students…Claudia Christiansen, NCCC Director of Marketing reported over $12,000.00 was raised to help students further their education. Good job!! NCCC is an extremely important community partner with a very modern campus here in Franklin County.   
Ottawa LifeCare Center:  
The Ottawa LifeCare Center received an early Christmas present…a brand new mobile ultrasound and pregnancy testing van this week (pictures here). LifeCare is the Chamber’s neighbor, just a couple doors down here on 2nd Street…they came in excited this week wanting us to see their new ride. Leah Wray, the director of LifeCare, told me over $136,000.00 was raised to purchase the vehicle…the van and the effort are impressive – I know how challenging fundraising can be. Good job to Leah and her board and staff…they provide great service to our community. Their undertaking is working with young women who are pregnant and don’t know all their options or even next steps once they find themselves expecting. This new mobile unit will allow them to serve a larger area and help many who don’t have transportation to come to Ottawa.  They also collect baby clothes and children’s items which many new mothers or young parents don’t have. Leah leads a strong Christian mission and does a fabulous job…thanks LifeCare!
Coalition of Kansas Chambers of Commerce:
I traveled to Emporia this week to participate in our state’s Local Chamber Coalition which advocates (mostly to our governor and state legislature) for favorable strong business-based policy. We agreed on 3 important bullet points which benefit all Kansans and Kansas businesses. 
·        Workforce development – which entails more focused attention and resources to higher education and career and technical training and stronger partnerships with the United School Districts which provide public education in our state.
·        Transportation – recognizes the importance of a quality, well-maintained highway system with dedicated funding steams used only for transportation.
·        Economic Development – to facilitate job growth, we strongly encourage the development and implementation of a statewide economic development plan and recognizes the Kansas Department of Commerce as the lead state agency for economic development.
Developing favorable state policies which support any of the 3 above bullet points is good for all communities in Kansas…including Ottawa and Franklin County. It was a good afternoon of discussions and also learning what other Chambers are doing. The Kansas Legislature begins its 2020 Legislative Session on January 13…our first local Chamber Legislative Coffee is January 25 at 10:00 a.m. in City Hall (just in case you want to mark your calendars).
Ottawa Memorial Auditorium: 
Tiffany Evans, Director of Ottawa Memorial Auditorium (OMA) gave an update to City Commissioner’s this week…she has been in this position nearly 2 years now. Tiffany has done an amazing job resurrecting back to life this old and grand community resource. Many know the auditorium was built as a memorial to WWI veterans who served in that war from Franklin County…the edifice has been serving our community since 1919. In 2016 (before Tiffany was director) the patron attendance at OMA was 10,587…after a couple years under her leadership, total patron attendance could exceed 30,000 patrons. The number of events in 2016 was 52 and this year there have been 234 events. Tiffany and I have had early discussions about how Legacy Square and the Auditorium can partner together to increase the number and frequency of local events. Great job Tiffany!!! Thanks for your efforts and service…and for breathing into the exceptional community asset.  
Sunflower Foundation:
Cherry went with me this week to the Sunflower Foundation holiday celebration in Topeka…I serve on the Community Action Council for this state board. Always a fun time to gather with people from across the entire state and enjoy holiday cheer and great conversation (pictures here). We are not one state…our differences are huge from the metropolitan areas of Eastern Kansas to the wide vast, lowly populated areas of the west and Southeast Kansas which is beginning to experience poverty and great population reductions. We have many advantages here in Ottawa which sometimes we fail to recognize or appreciate. Sunflower Foundation is a health foundation concerned about creating healthier environments and higher standards of living for all Kansans. Every year at our Christmas gathering the staff works to provide a panel which creates high-level and in-depth conversation regarding a topic which affects the health of Kansas communities. This year the topic was “The evolving roles of community libraries in today’s society”.  Healthcare and health issues are one of the top reasons citizens contact libraries…additionally community libraries provide a leveling effect for families who don’t have computers or internet access. Changing roles include programming such as summer lunches for children, socializing events (as opposed to social media) and programming for our aging population. Coincidentally the Chamber Coffee this week was hosted by our own Ottawa Library…I’ll continue this discussion regarding libraries as I talk about the Ottawa Library.
Ottawa Library: 
The Ottawa Library hosted Chamber members this morning to reveal the next Community Read book…the book: No Other Home by Matt Besler, a KCK soccer player (pictures here). Here is a save the date: Matt Besler will be in town January 15 at OMA to speak to the community about the book. Terry Chartier and her staff always do a great job selecting a book which creates compelling community discussion. I just finished describing my evening at the Sunflower Foundation and our discussion on libraries which included each of us describing our own library in our home communities. It made me quite proud of the work our Ottawa Library is doing compared to other communities. All were fascinated with our O-Town Community Read program…implemented by Terry 5-years years ago, O-Town Reads is a program which strives to engage as many community members as possible to read the same book and then have programming which creates conversation regarding the issues in the story. All were impressed how proactive we are in Ottawa regarding social issues and challenging topics…compared with most Kansas communities which tend to be reactive or don’t address tough issues at all. Tremendous job Terry…thanks for being a great leader which challenges norms in Franklin County!!
Got to run now…time to clean up from our Chamber/FCDC holiday open house. As I mentioned, our family gathers this week for our family Christmas…I’m sure to have pictures for you next week!
Talk to you next week…
Onward ~ John
John Coen
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce