Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
I am still smiling from last Sunday when the Chiefs beat the Bills!! I’m going to admit…I’ve been a little “FAN”atical this week. I’ve re-watched the complete game twice and the last 2-minutes several more times than that!! Having lost in the same fashion as the Bills in previous years (2018 to be specific) Chiefs’ fans can certainly feel their very real pain. In fact…Chiefs fans in recognition of our great win have donated to John R. Oishel Children’s Hospital in Buffalo over $300,000.00 in $13.00 increments acknowledging the 13-seconds which it took Patrick Mahomes to drive the Chiefs for the tying field goal which allowed the home team to win in overtime. If you are of the same mind, you can donate your “boost your spirits dollars” by clicking here. I’ll admit it is a very classy way to recognize, what in their minds is an unbelievable loss, for us to graciously acknowledge an absolutely fabulous win!
 
My daughter and son-in-law, Joe and Whitney, were lucky enough to have tickets fall their way last week…here is their picture at the game. Their seats were in the endzone where Travis Kelsey scored the winning TD…Joe captured this end-of-game video. It’s short and it can’t help but make you smile! Now…it’s on to the Cincinnati Bengals.
 
Bike Across Kansas (BAK):
 
The biggest announcement for local interests came last Saturday when the annual BAK announced its 2022 route which includes an overnight in Ottawa (here is the complete route). Many remember Ottawa was planning on hosting in 2020 when the ride was cancelled (and also in 2021). Now BAK preparing for their first ride across our state in 2-years, we are honored to be asked to host again. In terms of what it does for us…approximately 800 riders and their support teams will be in town the evening of Friday, June 17. This is a big influx of people who will spend dollars here and probably notice amenities which might bring them back when they have more time to shop and look around. 
 
USD 290 and the City of Ottawa have already partnered with the Chamber in helping make plans…BAK participants by and large will stay at Ottawa High School using the 2 gyms for sleeping or tents outside for camping. Some however will use hotel rooms and yet others will have a support team with campers or RVs. The Chamber has already engaged Travis Marvin for a concert on the evening of June 17…additionally we will plan for some food trucks to be at the event. Several local organizations have already reached out – USD 290 will provide bus shuttles from the high school to the downtown; Bad Astra (the 100-mile gravel road race around Franklin County) has volunteered to help with bike repairs and have a booth/station set up at Legacy Square; Diana Staresinic-Deane has offered to keep the Old Depot Museum open into the evening; Levi Meyer has volunteered ORC to help or plan activities in the downtown; the FCCLA Student group at Ottawa High School will make plans to provide breakfast Saturday morning June 18 before the riders head out to Louisburg. All this has really only happened organically by organizations volunteering…we are putting a steering committee together to hone the weekend so Ottawa can be a great host.
 
If you are interested in being a rider, you can click here to register. Registration will go live tomorrow, Saturday, January 29, when the registration begins officially…which is by no coincidence, Kansas Day.
 
2022 Legislative Coffees:
 
Participating with AT&T and Franklin County Farm Bureau, the Chamber hosted the first Legislative Coffee of 2022 (pictures here)…I should note, Senator Caryn Tyson was unable to participate because of a death in the family. Held annually during the Kansas Legislative Session, we normally gather local interested legislative watchers at City Hall. But out of an abundance of caution because of the crazy high COVID number right now, opted for the more spacious Ottawa Memorial Auditorium (OMA). Only about 25 attended in person (compared to a usual of 50-70)…but many took advantage of Facebook live to view the event. You can still see the question/answer exchange here. Representatives Blaine Finch and Mark Samsel took questions for over an hour ranging from the redistricting of Kansas voting districts to removal of sales tax for grocery purchases…you can see examples of most of the questions legislators were asked to respond to here.  Next opportunity to hear directly from our elected Topeka representatives will be Saturday, February 26 at 10:00 a.m. – location to be announced (watch our Thursday newsletters). 
 
Bike Share Program to Ottawa:
 
Most know, have heard or experienced a community with a bike-share program…where anyone can borrow/rent a bicycle to traverse locally by simply scanning a credit card. When you are done with the bike, you return it to the station. There are different versions of this share program…some are sophisticated enough to allow leaving the bike anywhere and the next person just accesses it where it is left. I’m not sure I can describe all the different parameters, but this is the thrust of the popular community programs. Many have long since wanted to bring a similar program to Ottawa…well it’s finally happening. Wednesday morning, our first bike share program was launched at Ottawa University…a few pictures here. This is made possible once again by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Pathways for a healthier Kansas grant! Franklin County has benefited in so many ways from this amazing program…easily more than $500,000.00 in benefits and programing have been brought to all our different county communities from this BCBS contribution. For now, only available for OU students, but expected to expand into the greater community going forward…you have to start somewhere! I’m so glad we are making headway on this amazing opportunity, not only emphasizing healthier travel, but providing transportation to some who otherwise have none or limited options. Many thanks to BCBS and the committee who works to bring these opportunities to local citizens!!
 
Ottawa Herald:
 
For longsuffering Herald readers there could be good news on the horizon. Erica Green, the new Herald Account Executive, stopped by the office this week to say the sale of the local paper was complete on January 1 this year and they now they have complete control over content and stories. We hear often from disgruntled locals who feel there are not enough opportunities to get local news. Erica hopes everyone will go to the Herald website and look for themselves (which of course we did in the office). Admittedly things look better. The paper has been purchased by Cherry Road Media which, described to us, is mainly supported by a philanthropist who is concerned about losing local news sources in the United States. I agree, without reliable sources, people turn to social media, which is news…but far from reliable. More power to them…with all my heart I wish them success and I’m glad they choose Ottawa as one of their locations. Erica admits it will take time to build trust with readers again…but this all sounds very positive.   
 
COVID Update:
 
This is becoming a tired and broken record…and a disease in which we are learning how to cope and live with. Numbers continue up locally (this week’s update here). This week, with an increase of almost 500 new positive cases, we have near 850 infected in Franklin County…10 are hospitalized and deaths continue (2 this week). I can’t help but think many individuals are suspicious of infection but are simply quarantining and don’t get tested…making it likely our numbers are higher than reported. Here are the guidelines which Franklin County Health Department posted this week for self-reporting and quarantining. Nationally, and even in the Kansas City metropolitan area, officials feel the peak of the Omicron variant has been reached and the trends are beginning to indicate fewer infections…this based on testing effluent from large-population wastewater treatment plants. We can only hope so! Already a new variant has been identified…called BA-2. I still believe the best advice is for everyone to be vaccinated and boosted. And, no…this doesn’t prevent you from catching COVID…but it is proven it greatly reduces the symptoms and you are safer in the long run. Not to mention friends and family around you (call 785.229.3530 to schedule a vaccination appointment).
 
Activity in South Ottawa:
 
There is much new news in South Ottawa…growth remains strong albeit not all completely visible yet. Most have seen the new OakStar Bank which is making plans for a new building on 23rd Street. Also coming on the same street on the east side of Main Street is a new car dealership. The current Victory Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM dealership is actually moving, expanding and promising another new dealership…they are currently dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” with the City Planning and also City Commissioners. A new Starbucks is slated to be built between McDonalds and Nagoya restaurants. And Domino’s Pizza has acquired a space in the 16th block of South Main Street and announced they are hoping to be open by late spring/early summer. This area remains really hot for growth and new potential. I let you know all this now in case you are experiencing winter doldrums and looking for a pick-me-up…something to watch and look forward to. It’s fun and exciting to watch the community grow!!
 
I have a few grandkid pics for this weekend…hard to believe how fast they are growing. Also, a picture of Son Todd who traveled to Hawaii last week for a mid-January get away with high school friends to participate in the wedding of classmate Jacob Siple…it’s hard to believe they are all so big too!! Many will recognize and remember when they were all 7-years-old as well!!
 
Fingers crossed…looking forward to Sunday and a Chiefs victory…then on to a Super Bowl!! I don’t want to jinx it but it should be fun…GO CHIEFS!!  
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000