Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
Sounds like, after a warmer than normal winter temps this week, we are in for a cold weekend… a good time to stay home and hug your valentine. Don’t forget…Monday is Valentine’s Day. I always feel, if you make it to the middle of February, there will not be much more winter until spring…albeit we have really not had too much winter yet this year – so we’ll see! Do you remember the “freezer” we were suffering through a year ago…temps below zero with blistering cold winds? We certainly don’t need another of those snaps.
 
For Christmas, our kids gave us tickets to the Kansas City Symphony rendition of Star Wars which is this weekend…have to admit, I’d rather be making Super Bowl plans, but this is a good alternative balm to divert my attention. It will make a nice valentine’s weekend for us.
 
Braves Athletic Performing Center (BAPC):
 
Ottawa University did a “soft” opening of their new training facility this week…which is to say it was opened for students. The official ribbon cutting will come in June when donors will be asked to be present for the ceremony and the facility will be shown to the public…and let me say it is a great space (pictures here). Donald Anderson, Dean of Student Life, gave me a quick tour this week. This project is part of several phases of athletic facility upgrades on the OU campus…which began with the sport fields on East Eleventh Street, including the football field, new press box and the Brave Hall of Fame. Now the BAPC is complete, the final phase is a remodel of the Mabee Center (which badly needs an upgrade). The Mabee facility is used for student recreation, and is primarily the location for the sports teams to practice during winter and inclement weather…it gets a lot of rough use and abuse. 
 
This new weight room is state-of-the-art equipment and is available for all the local OU athletes…all teams are scheduled at different times to allow workouts as a team. This facility will also allow the university to host powerlifting competitions…something we haven’t been able to do previously. Most understand this upgrade is to help our local school remain competitive with other universities and greatly enhances coaches’ efforts in recruitment of students and athletes. The growth of the local student population in the last couple of years additionally indicates the need for this new facility. We will let you know when the official ribbon cutting is next June. I should mention the Hull Center remains available to the entire student body for lifting and workouts.
 
Leadership Franklin County (LFC) to Topeka:
 
Every year the Leadership Class spends a day in Topeka at the Kansas Capitol hearing and learning state legislative processes from our local elected officials (pictures of this year’s group). The class ate lunch with Senator Tyson and Representative Mark Samsel and met individually with Ottawa’s Speaker Pro Tem, Blaine Finch…they also got to see Blaine address the entire House from the Well. The class really picked an interesting day to be in the Capitol…two big issues – the override of Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of the state redistricting map for the Kansas U.S. Congressional representatives and the passage of the “mega” economic development bill. Vetoes don’t happen that often…and the latter has been much anticipated and reportedly puts our state in the running for a very large firm to come to Kansas. So far it has only been described as a $4 billion, 3 million square foot facility which will employ 4,000 workers at $50,000.00 annual salary. Sound like quite a catch if it comes to fruition. Now the class gets to see how this plays out in real-time…there is still a lot of work to do to officially attract this company…and realistically, the override only sends the redistricting bill to a court challenge. The wheels of justice/legislation turn very slow…good lesson to understand!!
 
Molly McGrath:
 
We have a new person in the office this spring…OHS student and Chamber intern, Molly McGrath (picture here). Molly is a senior this year and after graduation this spring, plans to attend Kansas State University in the fall and major in Business and Marketing. We have her working on some marketing projects for us…she’s developing social media campaigns for our summer concerts and also the annual Flea, Junk and Trunk coming up on May 21. These internships help relieve our workload and additionally give students hands-on practice and experience of being in a work environment. Stella Tharp is the contact at OHS who works to place interns…if you have work which would benefit a student and free you for extra time, contact the High School (785.229.8020) and ask for Stella – she will be happy to find a student right for your environment and tasks needed. Besides her school and Chamber work, Molly is a very involved student, also participating in volleyball, basketball, Student Council, Renaissance, National Honor Society, O-Club, Key Club, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes…we look forward to watching her grow her life as she moves from high school to college to a career. I can tell she will be a great person to watch – good luck Molly!!
 
Historical Society to use Visitors’ Center:
 
Something which has been discussed and finally coming to fruition this summer is moving the stored artifacts of the Franklin County Historical Society (FCHS) from their facilities on West Seventh Street Terrace to the Visitors’ Center on K-68. This seems like a logical consolidation of resources. The former Crestview Nursing home is aging, is expensive to maintain and really not a good building to continue to store the precious history of our past. The move is planned for June 1…for now the storage shed in the back, which holds larger items and future displays, will continue to house those artifacts for the time being. The Visitors’ Center will be a much more modern facility for individuals doing research on genealogy or other historical facts. Another plus is the historical society will be able to create displays for people traveling on the interstate to enjoy and learn about the history of Franklin County. This all seems like a win-win to me. By the way…currently on display at the Old Depot Museum (which is not changing it’s modem of operation), are Jack Bremer (a former OHS student) photos, horsepower displays emphasizing the transition from buggies to automation, and Sanborn maps, which through the 19th and into the 20th century were created for insurance companies to assess risk before issuing fire insurance.
 
Sledding:
 
With the warm weather this week, it is hard to recall the snowy weather from a week ago…these are pictures from last Friday. All our grandkids came last weekend and couldn’t resist the hill and snow in our backyard. On Saturday, we had a birthday party at Fusion Alley for 1-year-old Patton, 5-year-old Newt and 4-year-old Jase (pictures here). It was a festive weekend, and I was pooped on Monday morning. 
 
 Remember your Valentine on Monday…don’t know if I’ll watch the Super Bowl or not. Seems it’s just a little “too soon” for me…the wound is still fresh! We’ll see what my mood is come Sunday.
 
Have a great weekend…talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000