Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
It was very relaxing to be gone last week…now it is good to be home, swamped with emails, etc. and back in the groove – and we had a very busy week in the Chamber. Oh…and before I forget, thank you to Ryland and Sherri for pinch-hitting for me last week. Pretty exciting news about Sherri’s baby granddaughter and Ryland graduating with his MBA!!
 
Sherri mentioned last week the Flea, Junk and Trunk taking place on May 15…we have 40+ vendors scheduled to participate at Legacy Square and the analytics on Facebook indicate we have 800 people say they are planning or hope to come. I’m excited for this day…we will have a bunch of visitors in town, there will be several food trucks plus our downtown restaurants participating. And…every type of merchandise you can imagine will be sold – hence the name Flea, Junk and Trunk!! In addition to outside vendors at Legacy Square, our Main Street businesses will all be open and offering good deals too…it will be a fun day.
 
Annual Honors Ceremony:
 
Also in the planning stages (for May 20) is the annual Honor’s Banquet…when we recognize the top 5 percent of all students from the classes of the grades 6th – 12th. This was another event which took a COVID hit last year but returns slightly different. We are still unable to hold a banquet for the students before the ceremony…and each student is only allowed 4 people to attend the event – but, at least are able to formally honor our high achieving scholars and congratulate their stellar efforts. This is always a very popular event because it involves so many people from the community at large. Co-sponsored by the Chamber, Neosho County Community College, Ottawa University and USD 290…very enjoyable about the evening is having the 6th-grade students in the same ceremony with the high school Seniors…it is fun to see how much they change in 6-years – and it also inspires the younger student to continue to work hard. 
 
2020 Community Awards Recognitions:
 
And while I’m still mentioning events in the planning stages…we are preparing to hold our community awards recognition for the 2020 year on May 26. In past years, we always presented the awards at the Chamber’s annual banquet…this year we were unable to honor those individuals who stepped up as community leaders – especially in a trying year in which we had so many new challenges of which no one had any prior experience in dealing. Many stepped up above and beyond. Our community’s highest award is the Russel Crites Award…we also recognize Community Builder, Horizon Award, Entrepreneur of the Year, and the Favorite Smile Award. Here are the nomination forms (due a week from today, May 14)…if you know someone who should be recognized, please nominate them. Also…you can reserve your spot to attend the luncheon by clicking here. Levi Meyer at the Ottawa Recreation Commission is allowing us to use the gym at the Goppert Center…but seating is limited to 90.
 
New Ottawa University President/CEO:
 
Also announced last week (while I was gone…but I still want to share how excited I am) Dr. William (Bill) Tsutsui (soot-SUE-ee) and his wife of 31-years, Dr. Marjorie Swann will join the life of Ottawa University as the new President/CEO of OU. Dr. Tsutsui has a very distinguished career of which 17-years were spent at the University of Kansas as Acting Director of East Asian Studies. Most recently, he has led Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas as President and Professor of History…you can read his complete biography here. Dr. Tsutsui and his wife will move into the Granger House and begin his leadership on July 1…Chancellor Kevin Eichner and wife Marylin are retiring – but Kevin will remain as Chancellor Emeritus in an advisory role until June 30, 2022. I’m anxious for you all to meet Bill…I had the opportunity to be a part of the interview team following the original nationwide search. It was a very tough choice…with 3 very distinguished candidates. He will be an exciting leader and will bring new ideas and energy. He and Reggies will make a fantastic team leading our local university…on the Surprise Campus in Arizona, Bill will be partnering with Dr. Dennis Tyner…now president of the new campus but still a favorite locally.
 
Kevin will be missed…the University has experienced unprecedented growth during his 13-year tenure. Congratulations to Kevin for slowing down…and welcome to Bill Tsutsui!!
 
Leadership Franklin County:
 
Also returning this year after a COVID hiatus is the Leadership Class…this is more good news. The Leadership board has been meeting and planning a robust syllabus for the upcoming program…applications are being accepted now (click here for class application). Deadline to apply is midnight on June 20. Donna Ferguson, Kalmar Industries, is Chair of the Leadership Franklin County Board…she and her team of 12 have been anxiously awaiting the go-ahead to restart the class again. 
 
This Leadership opportunity has been a huge benefit to the life of our community…providing leaders who have gone on to be state legislators, city and county commissioners, presidents/CEO of many different organizations, school board members, and great leaders in many organizations such as churches, PTAs, civic clubs and community in general. Several years ago, LFC teamed with Neosho County Community College to help provide the leadership studies for the class…they mostly use the Kansas Leadership Center material for the basis of training. The LFC board adds additional benefit and worth by immersing the students in Franklin County history and organizations which make up the entirety of our community. If you have a potential leader in your organization, please suggest they fill out the application…only 20 participants will be selected. 
 
Luigi’s: 
 
What a great story this is…closed after a fire in the kitchen last October, during COVID, the local favorite restaurant was forced to close with no plans of re-opening. Kristen Randell, then manager of the facility, was able to purchase the restaurant, remodeled it and reopened with a new look but the same favorite menu selections!! We cut the ribbon on the new/old favorite eatery this morning (pictures here). There were near 40 in attendance to support Kristen in her new adventure. She has much more planned for the future…including “Same-day-Savings” where you receive a discount at participating local businesses for purchases the same day…and at some point having scheduled performers in the SpeakEasy. Cherry and I ate dinner there the first week she opened…the food is GREAT. Thanks Kristen for your efforts and supporting Ottawa…stop by to see her and the restaurant soon!!
 
Continue the Legacy:
 
This week, the Onward Ottawa board began a new capital campaign…”Continue the Legacy”. Still with a funding gap, the goal is to fill the gap and raise enough for amenities which had to be eliminated in the original build of Legacy Square. We were able to construct Legacy Square in one year by executing a loan. The loan is being repaid by our many community members honoring their pledges made in the original campaign drive. But as with many projects, there were features we had to leave out (such as speaker system, wayfinding kiosk, movie screen)…and we are still a little short of total funding needed to pay off the project. Our goal this time is to raise a half million dollars ($500,000.00)…a “drop in the bucket” compared to the $4.1 million raised in 2018. I hope when asked you will consider a (or another) donation…if you are paying a pledge, maybe you would consider extending your pledge by paying one or two extra years. I’ll keep you posted.
 
Few Last Beach Pictures:
 
Most know last week we vacationed with our daughter Whitney and son-in-law Joe on the beach on Anna Marie Island in Florida. It was a very relaxing trip…here are just a few last pictures of granddaughters, Anna, Lucy and Heidi from the beach!
 
Hope you are vaccinated!! We have so many exciting things coming back to life in our community…we need everyone to participate in vaccinations to make it completely safe to be in groups and around people. There is no waiting line if you have not gotten your shot…and believe me – it is simple and easy…and no – you will not get COVID-19 or be sick (maybe not feel well for 12-24-hours). Please help us to create a safer environment…call 785.229.3530 to get on the schedule or go to your doctor’s office or pharmacy.   
 
Great spring weather ahead!! Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000