Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Once again we say goodbye to September…and welcome in October. All-in-all September was pretty normal (if normal exists)…both a combination of hot and cool, a little dry, but, for the most part, a typical transition to autumn. Chiefs fans find themselves in a place they haven’t been in several years…at the bottom of the league and 2 September losses…I don’t think anyone is pushing the panic button yet. Better to lose in September and win in December (and January)…Andy Reid will get it figured out!!
 
Bad Astra Bike Race:
 
September has been a great month for Ottawa…fantastic antique tractor and River Run Car shows. Entries were down…but attendance up at both events (I’ve said before…people are ready to get out). Last weekend the Bad Astra 100-mile bike race was phenomenal. On a beautiful fall morning, I went to Legacy Square before 6:00 a.m. last Saturday…what a sight!! One hundred forty-three bikers preparing their steeds and readying for competition (here are a few pictures). At 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday, parking in the lots and side streets was full and Legacy Square was bustling. At 7:00 (the start time), dawn had broken, the bell sounded, and all the racers headed north on Walnut to 1st Street, north on Main and into north Franklin County for the first 50-miles. Coming back from the north in late morning, the pack (which had greatly separated itself by now), continued south into the southern regions for another quick 50-miles. It’s a devoted group. In the afternoon, as support teams and families waited for their biker to finish, downtown Ottawa was bustling…hardly a parking spot to be found. This is what events do for the community…bring people to town to spend money and enjoy our local ambiance. 
 
All 3 of our big September events pumped both dollars and hope into our local lives. We can’t thank the organizers of these events enough!! The River Run is organized by the Over the Road Gang; the antique tractor displays and demonstrations by the Power of the Past club…and our new event, the Bad Astra, by Josh Giambalvo and Jeremiah Walters. It was awesome to have beautiful weekends and successful events…September was better than normal!! It was awesome!!
 
Local Economy:
 
And while events such as I’ve just described help pump dollars into the local economy…they don’t sustain it or propel the community. The Ottawa/Franklin County economy continues to churn at a strong pace. Some of this is evidenced by new home builds, but the indicator I like the most is sales tax collections. Each month when the City Commissioners review local spending tax reports, the collections remain at or above the same month the previous year. 2021 is currently running almost $200,000 ahead of 2020 which was better than 2019 which was better than 2018. It seems unstainable…which Commissioner Blake Jorgensen noted, but introspectively recanted saying, maybe it can (here is the August report).  The numbers the commission reviews lag 3-months behind collections…so the August report more accurately reflects purchases made in the May timeframe. Some of the increase is more people shopping at home because of COVID…but this can’t be all of it. Large ticket items drive the tax collections…home builds, cars, luxury items. Whatever is moving the needle…keep doing it. These represent dollars spent here and collected here at home…and work for Ottawa here at home!
 
Here is a link to the complete monthly City report the commission reviews…if you want to know what goes on in Ottawa – read through this!
 
Ottawa Herald Sold:
 
I really don’t have much information regarding this news…but wanted to make you aware. It was announced yesterday, that as of today (October 1), the CherryRoad Media group now owns several Kansas newspapers…including the Ottawa Herald, Hays Daily News, the Garden City Telegram, the Leavenworth Times, the St. John News, the Kiowa County Signal, the Dodge City Daily Globe, the McPherson Sentinel, the Butler County Times-Gazette, the Wellington Daily News, the Newton Kansan, the Pratt Tribune and the Penny Press in Hiawatha. All bought from the USA Today network. Remaining with the Gannett network are The Topeka Capital-Journal, Hutchinson News and Salina Journal. It’s too early to know what this means…but the statement from CherryNews indicated they want to invest in community newspapers to provide a quality print and online news source. We’ll keep watching this!
 
Wall of Honor:
 
Always an amazing, inspiring event, this year did not disappoint and was possibly even more memorable. Attenders received a twofer! Because of COVID last year’s event was canceled (ever hear this before?)…so the 2020 Class and the 2021 Class were inducted on the same evening (pictures here). This year was special to me for 2 reasons…the first being I had some association with all the inductees (here are pictures and biographies of all inductees). I didn’t know all personally but in the case of Claude Wilson-’21, I knew his older brother Dr. John Leod Wilson (in the first class of wall inductees in 1996). In my young life (my 20s) John was the organist at our church…I was always awe inspired from my conversations with him and what he had accomplished. I serve on the Ottawa University Board with Kathleen Green, wife of inductee Jim Green-‘65. Both of these 2 wall recipients were honored posthumously. Troy Greisen’s-‘79 brother, Steve, was in my high school class, and of course…the other (and the biggest) reason this year was special – is because Dr. Ryan Cobbs-‘95, Blaine Finch, J.D.-‘95, and Josh Walker-‘98 are all close friends of mine and (what I still consider to be) young leaders currently working to make Ottawa amazing!
 
All recipients represented themselves or their nominees with motivational remarks…I want to highlight our 3 local leaders. All began by recognizing family support from parents, spouses, children and friends. Ryan emphasized his success revolved around learning to build a community and a support network. No one succeeds or survives without a team behind you. While playing baseball for 2 years in Antwerp, Belgium, he couldn’t speak the language or even open a bank account. For the first time, he had to create his own network. From this experience he learned that once you have developed your network, you have a responsibility to help build a bigger community and support network to benefit those still coming and still growing. Blaine gave credit to teachers, mentors and friends who play integral roles at significant times in his life…explaining what seemed meaningless and simple while in the moment – later realize were significant moments and life learning lessons. Josh made a simple comment which stuck in my mind… “What we do here matters!” He emphasized we are building on the work of our predecessors…we have a responsibility to continue the work from former leaders, in order to hand it off to the next generation in a better place than we found it. 
 
All-in-all, it was a very pleasant evening…the meal was served by my wife’s culinary students (it was awesome!), the new Performing Arts Center is beautiful, and Stella Tharp had the evening organized to the last degree! This was the 25th year of the Wall of Honor ceremony…on which there are now 78 inductees. I am humbled to be included on the wall and a member of this inspiring group!! It is also amazing to realize all the great leaders which have been cloistered, sequestered and educated here in Ottawa by our local community…and through this fundamental and commonsense Midwest erudition, have gone on to do (and continue doing) great things.  
 
Ladies’ Night Out:
 
Quick reminder…if you are reading on Friday, it’s not too late to come downtown and participate in LNO (going on until 7:00). I’ll have pictures and a full report for you next week.
 
Cherry and I had a quiet weekend last week…a 2-year-old birthday party (always fun)…here are a few pictures. And we dug sweet potatoes. It is quite a crop this year…maybe our best ever. Not sure what caused this. Here is a picture of 3 hills worth of potatoes.
 
I am usually up before 4:30 to write this diatribe…my only support at this time of day is Tommy, our cat (picture here). Thought you might get a kick out of it…you can see he doesn’t stress too much but at least adds moral support for the early morning.
 
Enjoy your weekend…I’ll talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000