Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
A slow week about town in the way of actives, primarily because of the winter storm on Wednesday…everyone pretty much shut down (including the Chamber) on the forecast. Once again it seems the storm blew across Franklin County at about half force from what was predicted by meteorologists in terms of the amount of snow…to be clear – it did get plenty cold enough!! And I suppose it is only coincidence the first big storm of this winter happened on the day looked to annually to foresee the forecast the next six weeks – “Groundhog Day”. I had a hard time poking my nose out the door Wednesday to see my shadow…I expect the weather-predicting rodent did too!
 
A more significant day this past week, Kansas turned 161-years old. Kansas is one of the few states in which people born here, usually know our state’s birthday…it is recognized every year when in grade school. The reason we don’t forget is because of the trials and tribulation it took those early Kansas settlers at the time to attain the honor of statehood…it is where the terms border wars, Bloody Kansas, Jayhawker and Border Ruffians were all breathed into our lingo. It is also a time which produced John Brown, Burning Lawrence and was the case of the first voter fraud in the United States (6-times it took to certify the vote for Kansas to officially attain statehood). It might be why some today are still sensitive to voter fraud…it’s in our genes. 
 
To be clear…the first battles of the Civil War were engaged on Kansas soil and fought for a full 10-years before the rest of the states joined the skirmish. All this history is the reason we remember and honor our statehood…maybe more importantly our independence and democracy. George W. Bush wasn’t the first to say, “we will never forget”…Kansas has been saying this for 161-years!!
 
Who you going to Call:
 
Speaking of storms and emergencies…everyone wants to know who to call when the lights go out. The City of Ottawa contracts with a 24-hour service called Daupler to help manage emergencies. If you live in the City and you have a power outage, water main break or sewer backup the numbers to call are: 785.229.3750 or 785.229.3750…Daupler will then immediately dispatch City workers to the problem. You might want to write these numbers down and keep them handy…they are also on the City’s Utility Webpage…but if the electricity is out or the broadband carrier is not live, the web is not an option.   
 
Speaking of City workers…a huge kudos to the men and women who worked through the storm (all night) so our streets were navigable and safe by Thursday!! We many times forget what it takes to keep a community moving. While most of us were hunkered down, street crews were clearing, shoveling and moving snow by trucks to give us passage the next day! Thanks seem hardly enough…but THANK YOU!!
 
Unemployment in Kansas:
 
At our quarterly workforce board meeting in Topeka (via Zoom) this week we were presented with the results of a study in which Wichita State University was commissioned by the KS Department of Commerce to conduct a survey regarding the experience/satisfaction of both job seekers and employer experience as well what each expects when working with the workforce center/staff. The response was significant…over 1000 Kansas workers and 800 employers completed the survey. Unemployment in Kansas is currently 3.3 percent…but buried in these statistics is 25 percent of this number are people not even seeking employment. The study revealed many, which have reached the age of 55, are not looking to go into a post-COVID workforce and are simply retiring. This fact reduces the number of individuals seeking employment (from ages 25-54) to 18,000. Also revealed, many families are now choosing to be a single-income family with one spouse remaining home, primarily to care for children.
 
This reinforces what seemed intuitive but now substantiated…our post-pandemic workforce is going to look different. Other interesting tidbits from the survey:
  • Occupations in demand continue to be healthcare, technical IT, HVAC, transportation
  • Food manufacturing fared well over the pandemic
  • Continue to see the need for CDL (truck drivers) – in Kansas as well as nationwide
 
Anecdotally I know every major employer in Franklin County is having a hard time finding enough employees. I feel this will be an issue we continue to seek solutions for the next several years.
 
COVID Update:
 
Two big items on this front this week…number of positive cases is trending down (in Franklin County and nationwide)…and children ages 6-months to 4-years are very close to receiving approval for vaccination. Both of these facts are great news!! Down from 850 the week before, this last week only 493 active cases (complete report here). This is a positive trend, but still very high numbers. Regarding vaccinations, in all likelihood, it will be several months before the youngest of our population will be approved to receive the vaccine…but data is now being submitted on the test results for children. Different from other populations segments, the early numbers indicate children of this youngest age will require 3-shots to be fully protected…and they do not show much if any reaction to any of the doses. The FDA is expected to fast-track this data (so sometime this summer), but the early results are encouraging for parents who want their whole family protected…stay tuned.
 
Historic Post Office (HPO):
 
A couple of weeks ago I let you in on the news the HPO received a very nice national recognition, naming the event facility as the 2022 winner of the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards. WeddingWire is a leading vendor marketplace and this is a very prestigious award. This morning the HPO hosted Chamber members to give us more details and, for those who haven’t had the opportunity to see inside the magnificent building, a tour (pictures here). Brooke Arellano, the event venue Wedding Coordinator, explained most brides look online to identify their venues and vendors such as florists, photographers, etc…this is what makes this national designation significant. Because of this designation, as brides search for venues, The Historic Post Office comes up preferred. I continue to feel proud this building has been restored…easily one of the more beautiful buildings in our downtown. Having it sit at 2nd & Hickory Streets in all her glory is great for the community. It also brings many individuals to town who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to visit Ottawa. Just Tuesday this week the HPO hosted venue managers from the Greater Metropolitan Area in Ottawa to see the post office and also hear from other wedding vendors. Thanks to the entire HPO staff and ownership for your presence and investment in Ottawa…what a great facility!! 
 
One-Year-Old Birthday Party:
 
Last year, Patton John Flory was born on Kansas Day…this year we celebrated his first birthday (few pictures here). It never ceases to amaze how much a child changes in the first year…already walking, he has developed his own “individual character” and is beginning to have very strong opinions on things!!
 
This weekend all the grandkids are coming to celebrate several cousin birthdays and also to go sledding. Don’t worry…I’m not sledding – I’ll stay in and watch the youngest babies while the parents and older children freeze. Should be a busy weekend…
 
I can’t end today without saying I’m still in mourning from the Chiefs game…ugh!! I know many Chiefs fans are too…for those who are newer fans of supporting the Chiefs, let me say this…these are the glory years. In the last 4-years, we have watched some great football…and I firmly believe we still will. As they say – there is always next year…just hard to see that opportunity pass through our fingers!!
 
Hope you have plans to stay warm…talk to you next week!
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000