Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Good rainy Friday afternoon…after what’s been a beautiful week. Maybe a little chilly…Cherry and I jumped in about 10-days ago and planted a few tomatoes and peppers (probably a little early). Therefore, we’ve been covering plants every night this week. Things are growing good so far…now if we can get them alive through this little cold snap. 
 
I hope all have enjoyed the Redbuds, Bradford Pears, and Crabapple Trees this spring…they have been beautiful. The tulips planted on Main Street are blooming too…if you haven’t noticed them, here are a few pictures.  
 
It is always a joy to see spring break forth…and we’ve had plenty of rain to make the countryside beautiful. We haven’t seen the full show yet…stay tuned – it’s always glorious.
 
COVID Update: 
 
In certain states nationwide, this aggressive opponent still has a devastating grip…but in Kansas things are going better. Currently, Kansas has the lowest rate of spread of any state in the nation…Franklin County is beginning to feel safe too. I’m not suggesting we can begin letting our guards down…but it feels like we are now running instead of crawling to the light at the other end of the tunnel. In a conversation with Franklin County Communications Director, Kaci Brady, she related they are having to make more calls to get the numbers they need to keep vaccinations going at a good pace…she can get you in on Tuesday next week. She admits some of the issue is multiple outlets to receive the inoculation…meaning many on their list have found other locations to get their shot. She also stressed locally, no vaccine has been wasted. All this is great news…but we must keep this going. Please advocate for your family and friends to get their shots…we simply must keep this ball rolling.
 
Franklin County numbers are up just a tick this week to 10 current active cases…up from 6 a week ago. There are no hospitalizations, but still one more death this week bringing the county fatality total up to 42 who have lost their lives from this devastating pandemic (here is the update for April 14). The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports Kansas is now 35% vaccinated (with at least one shot)…which represents over 1 million people. This is good, but we must get closer to 75% to establish herd immunity. Let’s continue to advance this progress…call 785.229.3531 to get on the list.  
 
CDBG Loans:
 
Locally, we still have a little bit of relief money to lend…and the federal government does too since the implementation of the third relief package. I hate to see this money not get into the hands of businesses which can use it…here is the application for our local fund. We have used these dollars to help a plethora of local businesses – from home-based businesses to large companies with larger workforces. These dollars not only help a local business keep going, but they also infuse a boost of energy into our Franklin County economy. The federal programs can be accessed here…the most popular are the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). But there are several other options too. If you need help with the applications, the Chamber is available as is the Community Development office at the City of Ottawa. Call with your questions…I hate to see this money sitting in a bank account when it can be put to use helping us recover. 
 
The Red Door Home Group:  
 
It was good to join other Chamber members in welcoming a new member this morning, the Red Door Home Group…(pictures here). Tanya Turner and Mallory Hull have broken off from their previous realty companies to start a new real estate company. They describe themselves as realtors who think outside the box…their vision is to be the real estate team of choice for buyers, sellers, realtors and highly talented professionals who value relationships over transactions, integrity, ethics and community. On a side-note, Malory has been on the Chamber board of directors for several years and is now on the Executive Committee…she will be your Chamber Board Chair beginning next January. Good job to both of these women…they would welcome you to stop by and see their new business at 117 South Main Street.
 
A couple of additional things…it was so awesome to see friends and welcome them in person! This was the largest indoor Chamber gathering we’ve had in over a year…approximately 40 people.  Our lives have been missing this…our gathering this morning was cathartic. Great to look into people’s eyes and ask how are you doing and have it have more meaning than a passing incidental or insignificant “just being polite” greeting. We are all really wondering how everyone is doing…many conversations begin with, “how have you been and how has COVID affected your family?” Just to let you know…we’ve had 9 new members since January 1 – we are behind on ribbon cuttings and Chamber coffees. When this breaks free we are going to be busy!!
 
Also…it was a little deja-vu walking into the building at 117 North Main this morning…the structure has been vacant for years. Formally…and I mean years ago – it was Waymire Grocery and a very booming business in downtown Ottawa. Started by Ole Waymire and later his son Don (former County Commissioner – and grandfather of current County Commissioner, Colton Waymire), it was moved to the south end of town sometime in the late 1970s. I can’t remember another business at this location since then. Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, while our mom did the family grocery shopping, my brother and I would sit at the riverside and watch the bulldozers build the levies which now protect Ottawa from flooding. My grandfather, John Kelsey, Ottawa’s longtime official weather observer, in retirement worked for Ole and Don as a stocker and bagger on Fridays and Saturdays. If Ole, usually in his office where he could see the whole store, saw us when we came in, he would always have something for us. Many times, it was a dime…which would translate into a box of Cracker Jacks…but I digress – good times!!
 
Ottawa University Chancellor:
 
My week has been extremely busy. The OU Board is in the process of interviewing candidates to take over as the Chancellor at the University. Kevin Eichner has announced his retirement for July 2022…the board wants to get someone on the job as soon as we can for them to have opportunity to understand the position completely before Kevin sits back to rest…this job is enormous – with 2 campuses halfway across the county from one another. It takes the right person to keep their fingers on all the buttons! Financially, higher education is in its most challenging times nationwide. Our Board has visited with 3 very qualified and talented individuals…and yes, for those who are concerned, one of them is Dr. Reggies. It will be a very tough and challenging decision on the succession…but one in which we are selecting from a deep candidate pool. The board is using prayer and discernment to make the selection…there will be an announcement soon. 
 
Many don’t realize how important and the size of the economic engine OU is for our community. Currently it brings in 830+ students which live, spend and involve themselves in the life of our community. This doesn’t even mention the payroll and the involvement of faculty and staff! I will be anxious to introduce you to the new Chancellor at the appropriate time…right now the prayers of the community are coveted for wisdom and judgment in making the choice.
 
Can you believe our family had another 6-year old birthday party!! Here are a couple pictures. I think this gets them all celebrated for a couple of months…albeit the parties are great family and cousin time.
 
Continue to stay safe Ottawa…if you can’t mow this weekend you had better sharpen your lawnmower blades! I have a feeling we are going to need them!!
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000