Dear Chamber Supporters:
This weekend always signifies the “unofficial” end of summer…when cultural summer ends with no more swimming, camping and vacations, and the fall activities of sports, school, and regular family routine once again begin in earnest…albeit school has been going on now for about 2 weeks. The heat mitigated a little this week too…no complaints on this. We will still have some hot weather, and the calendar won’t flip over to autumn for another 3 weeks…but we will slowly begin to sense fall in the air. I think most are ready…it’s our normal cycle and whether we are ready or not, the calendar pushes forward! 
Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education:
Education was a top topic in Ottawa this week when the Kansas Education Commissioner, Randy Watson came to town along with Chief Deputy, Brad Neuenswander (pictures here). Randy’s a longtime friend of mine…I can think of no one more suited to lead education in our state…and lead he does! He took the position about 6-years ago with the goal of making Kansas schools the best in the world. He established lofty benchmarks such as 95 percent high school graduation rates and having a child ready for the workforce or postsecondary education when they graduate. While the numbers over the last 6-years have trended in the direction he wants to go…they are still just under 90 percent statewide graduation rates. 
When he took the Commissioner position, he conducted listening tours to ask Kansans, what needs to change with our schools and how do we make them better. He heard early on that standardized testing wasn’t preparing our kids for the world…only measuring what they retained from the classroom. He established benchmarks by which kids should be measured:
  • Social-emotional growth
  • Kindergarten readiness
  • Individual plans of study based on career goals
  • Civic engagement
  • Academically prepared for postsecondary
  • High school graduation
  • Postsecondary success
All subjects, I think most recognize, as essential life skills to succeed. Thursday, Dr. Watson was back on tour…going back to Kansans to continue to hone the process. City and business leaders gathered with teachers and a few students to participate in some small group introspection and then respond with our own personal opinions of our thoughts regarding the current status of education…and what direction does it need to be headed. Once he’s completed the statewide tour, they will compile the data and continue to develop a plan for the future.
Some of the conversations locally focused on teaching and learning styles…something which became evident during COVID and new styles for both were developed. Some kids thrived and others struggled with learning remotely from home…it highlighted the point all teachers don’t teach the same and all kids don’t learn the same. I’m glad Randy’s at the helm of Kansas Education…our kids and their futures are in very capable hands. For those who like to do a deep dive into the Kansas Vision for Education click here.
Monoflo is a company in our Northeast Industrial Park which most people don’t know about…they manufacture the bins which are primarily used in distribution centers, such as Amazon, Walmart and American Eagle Outfitters. Last Friday they invited me out for a tour…I wasn’t able to take pictures inside the plant because the process is proprietary; but here is a picture of the plant and the bin manufactured. Let me tell you…it is really impressive. I had not been in the plant in about 9-years…at that time, it was approximately 30 individuals working on an assembly belt line, assembling, and stacking the manufactured bins. Today, the assembly and manufacturing are 100 percent automated…with actual robots doing the work. Skid steer operators are still moving and stacking product…and the workers on the floor are technical support for the automation. The local company employs 30-35 people and pays a very fair living wage. Monoflo is also one of the few local companies which have a rail spur which they use to bring product in to manufacture the plastic bins…it was the biggest reason they chose Ottawa 9-years ago because it was an existing building with a rail spur. Monoflo is the primary source of all distribution bins for Amazon. Amazon specifically wants yellow and there are stacks and stacks of yellow bins waiting for shipment. Sometimes we don’t realize all that is produced locally in our rural Kansas community.
Leadership Franklin County:
The Leadership class got off and running officially last week (pictures here). Thursday was a fun day getting to know one another as they all participated in the leadership activity course at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg. After lunch they had several speakers and then traveled to Hope House’s new location on West 17th Street to help with some of the organization of the new location. Friday, they spent the day doing local tours and learning leadership styles taught by Dr. Marie Gardner at Neosho County Community College. I’m confident they will take a lot from the class as well as develop a whole new network of friends. Providing leadership education is one of the biggest benefits your Chamber offers to support the community…I venture to say all of the members of this class will move forward with leadership within the community in one manner or another!
Ottawa University:
The college officially announced that on opening day, there were 877 students enrolled on the local campus…the largest enrollment in 20-years. You have to go back to Dr. Peter Armacost days to see numbers this large on the Ottawa campus. In addition to this, the new campus at Surprise, Arizona enrolled 923. This is not only big news…it’s great news for our Ottawa community. I’ve explained before the University is one of our largest economic engines in town…when they are thriving, the whole community benefits.
This is a reminder…now the calendar has flipped to September – we have 3 major events on consecutive weekends, beginning next weekend. The Antique Tractor Show is September 11-12; the Ol’ Maries River Run (Ottawa’s single biggest event) is September 17-19; and, the last weekend, September 24 & 25 will be the 1st annual Bad Astra Bike Ride which encompasses a 100-mile, a 50-mile and 25-mile dirt road bike races. Spruce up your place a little to look good for company…let’s make sure the town looks it best for all the visitors which will be in town over the next month. And be sure to partake of all the events happening this month…Ottawa will be a real showcase of multiple and various events…we might not think of our hometown as being a destination – but others do!! Be a good host!!
Last Days of Summer:
I’m trying to get as many Royals games in as I can before September ends…won’t be any October ball this year.  Wednesday night I got to go with my son Todd (pictures here)…last night with my bride (picture here).  
We’re headed to Cedar Vale this weekend to attend the rodeo and celebrate a 2-year old birthday…Codie’s last days of receiving all the attention before her new baby sister arrives in a couple of months. And let me say this too…rodeos in Southeast Kansas are fun. Real cowboys and they take it seriously. It will be a good weekend.
I hope you get the end of summer celebrated, relax and just get some rest. I’m afraid we all will have a few inconveniences and inevitabilities to endure this fall as we continue as a society to struggle with COVID.
If you need to get vaccinated, call 785.229.3530 for an appointment.
Talk to you next week…
Onward ~ John 
John Coen
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce