Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
This has been another relatively slow week with local actives…primarily because of the winter storm which blew through Thursday…most are saying 8 inches. In full bono fides, I’m not in Ottawa…I’m in Surprise, Arizona where temps are in the 60s, the sun is shining, and spring is breaking forth on the desert. OU board meetings are this week…I wish I could give you a full report from the Royals training facility, but MLB currently remains in full lockdown as a result of labor disputes. The training facility remains closed.
 
Here are a few pictures from the OU sister campus in Surprise…it is a beautiful university grounds. No more so than our own Ottawa campus in Ottawa…both are unique and really are amazing reflections of the two very different communities they represent. The Southwest architecture and landscaping are omnipresent in the buildings and grounds here in Surprise.
 
There are several important items on the agenda for the meeting this spring…not the least of which is recognizing Chancellor Kevin Eichner for the 12 plus years of service he has given the University through his unique leadership. Chancellor Eichner retired this year and new President/CEO Dr. Bill Tsutsui took the reins. Kevin was absolutely the man perfectly suited for this job at the time. Our local university was struggling financially…and with enrollment figures, when he took the helm in 2008. Kevin led in pioneering the formulation of online adult learning for non-traditional learners to receive degrees, right-sizing OU for the times faced, and maybe most importantly, formation of multiple campus locations including this campus in Surprise.
 
I came on the board in 2013 when the Surprise campus was only a dream…this facility literally sits where there was originally nothing but desert. His efforts forged a partnership with the City leaders here in Surprise and the results are mind-blowing. Life literally sprung forth from the barren land…amazing! To officially commemorate Kevin the City Commissions in both Ottawa and Surprise did a joint resolution honoring his leadership in both communities…very appropriate!
 
Another important task is strategic planning for the next 10-years. Now led by Dr. Bill, the problems are once again different for post-COVID post-secondary education…not just at OU but across the country. Bill is an amazing leader and will lead both OU campuses into the future. This is extremely important for Ottawa citizens…the university is easily one of the largest economic engines in our community. It thriving is important to our town…we’ve got the right man at the helm – I guarantee it!!
 
Snowstorm:
 
Even though I’m in Arizona, I didn’t miss out completely on the storm of Winter 2022. My flight was to leave at 5:00 Thursday morning…I didn’t have any problems arriving at KCI. I mostly drove in rain, and it was only beginning to snow when I walked into the terminal. Everything was on time…went through security, boarded, they shut the door of the plane cabin and pulled on the tarmac where the plane was de-iced. By now it is snowing with a vengeance. As we arrived at the runway, the captain announced the snowfall was too deep, too fast and we had to pull back to the terminal. After a 2-hour delay our flight was one of only 3 flights to leave Kansas City Thursday morning! Once our plane left, flights were cancelled into the afternoon when the airport again reopened. How fun was it to land in Phoenix and the temps are 65 degrees and everyone in full spring mode…
 
I’m hearing mostly about 8 inches for Ottawa…more to the north. It is the first time in about 10-years the City has had to implement the emergency snow plan for downtown (full release here). Basically in the “6 inches or more phase”, it means no parking in the downtown during the night to allow crews to pile, load and remove the snow…even though I wasn’t there, I have no problem imagining City crews worked most of the night returning streets to safe and navigable. Much kudos to those utility workers which make our lives safer…and easier!! Already back at it this morning, the snow plan still remains in effect as crews continue working to clean side streets.
 
Parks Department:
 
Coincidently this week, the City of Ottawa hosted local elected officials at the new Parks Department building on West Keokuk Street for lunch (picture here). Once a month, County Commissioners, City Commissioners and USD 290 School Board members meet to keep each other apprised about issues and challenges facing each separate leadership group. This collaboration makes Ottawa unique in the way elected officials communicate directly to one another. Many times it saves the community from “reinventing the wheel” so to speak and allows in certain cases, a sharing of resources. When you consider the “resource” is our tax dollars, it makes their efforts even more significant!!    
 
City leaders had the chance to purchase this building last summer. A former auction barn, it was a great opportunity for the Parks Department. Previously they were storing all their mowers and equipment in the small building on the northeast corner of Forest Park…from the pictures you can see the amount of space acquired. Additionally, they share some of the new space with public utilities and the police department. What a great find…and great use of tax dollars!!
 
Valentine’s Day:
 
I hope you had a great day of love last Monday…Cherry and I took advantage of the weekend to celebrate on Saturday. We had lunch at Crown Center and strolled around the area watching the ice skaters and all the kids having a winter blast! That evening we had tickets to the Kansas City Symphony’s rendition of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. To be fair, I wasn’t looking forward to the symphony…just not my thing. But it was an amazing experience. The KC orchestra played the entire soundtrack of the production while the movie played on a large screen in the background (pictures here). It was a really fun experience…and as you can see, many live actors portrayed their favorite Star Wars character in the lobby before, during intermission and to wish everyone a safe trip home and “may the force be with you!” 
 
The Kauffman Center is a true gem in the Midwest…where would Kansas City be without Muriel and Ewing Kauffman who were such community-minded and magnanimous with their fortune. Be sure to take advantage of a show there if you haven’t. The fact we have professional sports and arts both available in the metropolitan area makes our Midwest community unique…what great people!
 
Here are a couple of pictures of our “Little Valentines”! They all are such blessings!!
 
Ottawa University board meetings all day today…even though it is 65 degrees outside, I’ll be inside. Coming home Saturday…back to reality! I’m sure to have to clean the driveway when I get home…ugh!!
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000