Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
I mentioned last week I was headed to Washington D.C…I arrived early Monday morning and have been attending the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) since then. I am the chair of District 2 for Kansas (also known as Heartland Works), and we have several from our district 2 board attending…as well as a nice contingency from the other KansasWorks districts across Kansas too. I think most 50 states are represented here at the D.C. conference…there are nearly 1,400 in attendance – the largest conference I’ve participated in post-COVID. These pictures will try to capture some of the magnitude and size of the group. The Kansas delegation gathered for dinner Tuesday evening (pictures here) and ate Brazilian food at the “Grill from Ipanema”…to be fair, it is easy to find any nationality or unique tastes available here in D.C. Cherry is joining me for the weekend so I’m sure we’ll try another foreign/different distinctive food choice before making it home to hamburgers and fried chicken!! I’ll keep you posted!
 
I have a few things I wanted to mention but will rely on Sherri and Ryland to fill in the more local offerings in today’s eNews. 
 
NAWB:
 
The weather has been extremely beautiful here in Washington with temps around 85 degrees every afternoon…for what little good it does us attending a conference with meetings inside all day. Still…Cherry and I plan to spend the rest of the long weekend in the city and are looking forward to the cherry blossoms and spring breezes. I’ll admit we both love D.C. and have been here many times…our first trip after we were married was here in 1982. At that time, there was little to no security…you could enter the Capitol from any door and roam the halls as you pleased. It was the same for all the federal buildings except the White House…we lived in a simpler time and yes…I miss it. 
 
A notable speaker this week at NAWB was Dr. David Altig, Executive Vice President and Director of Research for the Federal Reserve Bank at Atlanta, Georgia, and was our keynote speaker. He and his team have specifically been researching and diving deep into the labor issue which is plaguing American manufacturing and distribution currently. While most have long since identified the issue of lack of workers, there are idiosyncrasies of the issue which we have not understood or correctly identified.
  • The Baby Boomer generation retired in spades accounting for over 52 percent of the missing workforce after the pandemic…
  • and in like fashion, greater than 30 percent of the foreign population workforce has not returned – mostly due to immigration policy and work visas. Very few of either of these 2 groups will return because of age and current U.S. policies.
  • Employers have indeed raised the pay scales to incent workers to take jobs, but when viewed graphically, the wage increase has fallen below the rate of inflation. Said differently…it takes more money post-pandemic than before to live the same lifestyle.
  • The next generation coming into the workforce has differing attitudes and mores regarding jobs and work…they don’t value having money the same as we did at their age.
  • Not only the younger generation, but everyone has decided there are more important incentives than dollars in the salary structures…including working from home, time off and very flexible schedules (working 8:00-5:00 is becoming obsolete in some positions). In the last survey, 54 percent of those interviewed insisted on working from home, or they were not interested in the job. Employment packages will need to look different going forward.
Some make the argument COVID caused all this…but Dr. Altig makes the point this was all coming regardless. The aging out of the workforce and U.S. policy were pretty set prior to the pandemic…he recommends we begin changing our thoughts and attitudes toward what pay structures and workplaces will look like and will evolve into the next 10-years, if a business fully expects to survive. I thought this was all very perceptive and informing…many of us have identified all these same issues as Dr. Altig did, but different…we blamed COVID as the culprit which caused it all. When you look through his lens, we would have been right here regardless.
 
Interesting or Thought-provoking Excerpts:
 
A few other random quotes and thoughts I picked up during this workforce conference.
  • Prior to COVID, Zoom had 3-million users per day…today it averages 10-million users per day.
  • Social media posts are viewed for 8-seconds
  • The youth and young adult social and mental states are reaching pandemic levels in terms of a crisis. This includes depression, anxiety, addictions, general trauma, and behavior disorder.
  • One year of global pandemic has advanced our society 10-years of technological growth.
 
I will probably have a few more thoughts by next week after I reflect and process all we heard…I’m going to let Sherri and Ryland take over for local happenings now.
 
BASE Grant Award:
 
The news from Ottawa via Washington D.C. was good this week…the City of Ottawa was awarded $5 million for a Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) Grant for continued improvements at Proximity Park including a natural gas line, which was the one utility which was absent up to now (full press release here). City Manager, Richard Nienstedt lead the grant writing task force with help from his administration team and additionally from Paul Bean, FCDC Director, Derek Brown, Franklin County Administrator, Blaine Finch, City Attorney, Wayne Duderstadt, Kansas State Bank and me. This is good news for all of Franklin County to have another $5 million injected into our economy in a work project which would have needed completed at some point. Good job Richard!!
 
Chamber Virtual Auction
 
If you didn’t get your bids placed in time you’ll have to wait till next year… another Chamber annual auction is in the books! With over 90 participating bidders, we couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout. There cannot be an auction without donations, so we deeply thank all 61 businesses who donated items to make this past week possible (list of individuals and businesses who donated here). Ryland and Sherri were at PrimeTime Grille/Fusion Alley helping with item pickup today from 11-1, here are a couple of pictures of some winners and their items. If you were one of the winners and forgot to stop by PrimeTime Grille/Fusion Alley today, we haven’t thrown out your item… yet. Just shoot the office and email at [email protected] and we can set up a time next week, or stop by during our office hours and we’ll get you settled.
 
Rock Creek Care Home
 
Chamber members gathered at 27 E Rockwood Dr this morning (pictures here), the new location for Rock Creek Care Home and formally the Ottawa location for Morningstar Care Homes. Scott Schultz and Morningstar still have four locations, two in Baldwin, one in Fredonia, and one in Neodesha… but when they chose to downsize, Rock Creek of Ottawa was able to purchase and continue to use this building for its most recent purpose, senior housing. Katie Aguirre (the Rock Creek employee who will be overseeing this Care Home), Courtney Taylor (Community Liaison), and Stephanie Anderson (Executive Director) were able to share how this home serves specific clients, those with dementia/Alzheimer’s who will have more success in a homelike environment (picture of these three speaking here). Ten individuals will be able to utilize this service at a time, allowing for an incredibly individualized approach to senior care. These approaches include things like resident’s rooms can be pre-furnished for specific needs or can allow the new tenant to bring in their own furniture to help make the space that much homier and breakfast times/meals can be customized to match prior routines. The home is beautiful, cozy, and ready for new occupants (check out the inside of the house here). This kind of care is a great resource for the community and Rock Creek of Ottawa is primed and ready to knock it out of the park… We’re all rooting for you!
 
Flea Junk and Trunk
 
The Chamber’s next largest event is our Annual Flea, Junk & Trunk/Craft Fair. This is on Saturday, May 21st from 9-3 pm and is being held in Legacy Square under the large pavilion. We currently have vendors registered to fill the 40 spaces under the pavilion but there is still plenty of space in the venue for more. If you or if you know of someone that is interested in being a vendor they can fill out and turn in this form here, if you have any questions please give us a call or email me at [email protected] and I’m happy to help. Don’t forget to mark your calendar and plan to attend this annual event, a great day of shopping, eating, and soaking up Ottawa’s quality of life. Our goal with community events like this is to bring people in from surrounding communities, create foot traffic, and allow an opportunity for new customers to enter businesses’ doors to ultimately become regular patrons. 
 
Egypt Trip 2022
 
When I was told that EGYPT was currently the #1 travel destination, my thought was really? I’ve come to learn that this was a true statement! We are so excited to share that we currently have 78 registered guests that will be traveling with us to Egypt in November of this year. The Early Bird Deadline (which is a savings of $100 per person) ends today, April 15th. However, there’s still room for you and your family and friends to join us! Give me a call at 785-242-1000 or send me an email at [email protected] and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have (Egypt brochure here).
 
Back to John: 
 
As I mentioned…I’m getting ready to relax for a few days now. It will be good to see everyone back in Ottawa next week. I need to get home and see if my potatoes are up yet…
 
Talk to you next week…
 
Onward, John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000