Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
An unpleasant return of winter this week…replete with cold and snow. Back and forth…typical of this time of year. To buoy my hopes and spirits, I bought seed potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower sets this week. At least to begin pondering the garden puts the weather (and my mood) in a better light…it won’t be long now!
 
I should also mention it was 100-years ago this week Ottawa Memorial Auditorium was opened as a tribute to the local soldiers who served in WWI, the auditorium has been significant in the life of Ottawa for 100-years! I bring this up here just to note last weekend, the auditorium had a complete sellout!! The performance was by local band, Sons of Sterling (who will perform at Legacy Square on August 12 this summer) and Aaron Watson, a rising star in the country music genre. This was the first sellout of the auditorium since back in the 1980’s when then the performer was none other than Johnny Cash…pretty impressive!! Congrats to Tiffany Evans, Director of OMA and her board!! It’s good to see after 100-years the commemorative WWI building still playing a significant role in the life of the community!! 
 
Home COVID Tests:
 
Of course the continuing saga and almost “non-story” is COVID-19…now with a new variant, Deltacorn (combination of Delta and Omicron strains). Reported so far to be not as virulent and to date, only in a few European countries. I characterize COVID as a “non-story” only because the War in Ukraine has moved the 2-year lead story off the headlines. I watched the entire ABC World News a couple of times this week and absolutely no mention of COVID. Locally there were only 13 new cases in the last week and no hospitalizations (here is a weekly update for those interested). COVID has been such a moving target recently, I don’t even know what quarantining protocols are currently…if you suspect you are infected, I suggest calling Franklin County Health Department to get the most updated information (785.229.3530). 
 
I also want to mention, we have free testing kits available in the Chamber office…Ottawa Family Physicians provided the Chamber with a generous amount of the kits to give away. If you have a need or know someone who does, just ask and we will give you one. We are definitely moving to a more endemic environment…a world in which we fully understand how to live with and beside this dangerous virus. If you are not vaccinated, it still pays to be careful. 
 
War in Ukraine:
 
 The Ukraine story continues to boggle the minds of most Americans… and not getting better. Last Wednesday evening, Ottawa University hosted an educational town meeting. Dr. Steven Foulke, Ottawa University Professor of History who holds his doctorate in Cultural Geography from the University of Kansas, has been at OU since 2004. Dr. Foulke has extensive global experience with teaching stints at universities in Germany and Paraguay, and in 2007 and 2013 his Fulbright Teaching Awards took him to North Macedonia (located in eastern Europe, close to Ukraine). Dr. Steven has a great working knowledge of the area and spoke extensively of Russian politics dating back to December 26, 1991…the day the United Soviet States of Russia collapsed – described by Dr. Foulke as the worst day of Vladimir Putin’s life. He was a young man and had risen high in the KGB (the main security agency for the Soviet states…comparable to our CIA). He characterized to listeners on life in both Russia and the Ukraine prior to the collapse of the USSR, after the fall of the Soviet States and now, since the invasion. His hour-long lecture included economics, daily life and helped participants to grasp the mindset of Russian President Putin. While in the US we will never totally get it, the webinar at least educated me as to Putin’s motivations…albeit greatly distorted. You can watch the complete webinar here…I recommend it. This story will dominate world headlines for months and history forever! Thank you to OU for your continued efforts to enlighten local citizens!!         
 
Chamber Blue of Kansas:
 
I’m excited to announce the launching of this new program!! For the first time, because of a change in state laws in recent years, the Ottawa Chamber will be able to offer our Chamber members, a health insurance group plan which can be provided/offered to your employees. The Ottawa Chamber is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Kansas (CCEKS)…an organization of over 30 Chambers of Commerce in towns across Kansas. CCEKS has partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas to create Chamber Blue of Kansas, a large group for health insurance purposes, of Kansas Chamber members (list of Kansas Chamber currently considering participating).  If you are providing (or might consider) offering insurance to your employees, you should be interested in reviewing this new product. Chamber Blue is group medical health insurance for Kansas Chambers that allows Kansas businesses to access the health insurance savings associated with large group medical coverage…hopefully resulting in lower price quotes of medical insurance plans. We can offer this new product to Chamber members only!!
 
This new insurance option is being rolled out now and will begin coverage in January 2023. If you have even passing interest I encourage you to get more information…to be eligible for the original rates which will be offered, you must complete the BCBS information form (click here to get started). This in no way obligates you…it only allows your employees to be considered as part of the original group for assessing rates. If after the original surveys are complete and the rates are quoted, you determine this is not for you…you don’t need to go any further. For additional information, you can also contact the Chamber (785.242.1000) or call BCBS of Kansas directly…here are contacts and numbers.  
 
The Sun Does Shine:
 
Most will recognize this at the title of this year’s O-Town Reads book…the annual reading program sponsored by the Ottawa Library to encourage all Ottawa citizens to read the same book. Launched every fall, the library hosts a series of panels and study sessions during the year to dive deeper into the relevance of the work. This year’s author, Anthony Ray Hinton, was wrongfully incriminated and placed on death row in Alabama for 30-years…unbelievable!! I read The Sun Does Shine, and was completely amazed at Mr. Hinton’s ability to offer grace to his incarcerators and the completely deficient trial process…it’s an amazing story and worth your while (you can still check the book out at the Ottawa Library…which has also given away over 800 free copies).  
 
Mr. Hinton (a few pictures of Mr. Hinton) spoke directly to Ottawa citizens last Monday evening at OU. I listened to him personally tell the story in disbelief as he described his 30-years imprisonment…then his following reintegration into a society which now included computers, cell phones, the internet, texting, and GPS. All these stories are included in his book…but to hear him tell them personally was revealing of his perseverance and grace. In the end he confessed he forgave his captors not because he believed their innocence, but he realized in order to be free, in order to sleep peacefully, you must forgive. His is a transformational story…guarantee you will be moved!
 
Night Out with Mom:
 
Last Sunday evening, my brother, my sisters and Cherry and I took mom to the New Restaurant and Dinner Theater in Kansas City to see the production “Don’t Get Dressed for Dinner”…a comical and entertaining performance (picture here of my brother, sisters and mom).
 
Later in the week, we had a chance to keep Patton John for a day…a vivacious 1-year old. He began walking before his first birthday and has never looked back…(couple pictures here). Since all my kid’s families have grown, it’s rare we get to keep the baby by themselves…made a fun day!!
 
Sounds like spring again next week!! Talk to you then…
 
Onward ~ John
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000