Made it home this week without too many defugalties…got held up in Dallas overnight because of storms on the east coast not allowing us to take off from D.C. at the right time. I swear…flying now is so frustrating. It meant getting a hotel room and transportation at 11:00 at night. Finally got to our room at midnight…so home one day late. I had Royals tickets for Sunday afternoon…luckily the game was cancelled! After a week of 70 and 80-degree temps in Washington…we can home to 44, rain, north wind and a few snow flurries. Cherry and I were both glad not to have to sit through an afternoon of miserable weather!!
 
COVID & Such:
 
The pandemic at this point is becoming more of a non-issue. Last week I was at the workforce conference in D.C. with 1,400 attendees…some wore masks by choice. I would estimate maybe 10 percent (but this is just a guess). Face masks were still required on the plane…but that changed the day after we got home. A judge in Florida ruled the federal travel mask mandate to be unconstitutional…no one is required to wear masks on planes now! Kansas City news stations are reporting no COVID hospitalizations in the metropolitan area…Franklin County is reporting 2 hospitalizations and 2 COVID deaths in the last week (here are the Franklin County numbers from this week)…I know from being on the local hospital board, even if there are 2 today, it has gone to zero many times in the last month. It gives me a good feeling inside to drive home in the evenings and see the Orlis Cox ballfields all lit with kids running everywhere. We won’t get our “normal” lives back in a heartbeat…but needless to say…this craziness for the last 2 years is trending the right way now.
 
Local Unemployment:
 
Last week, I reported on the workforce conference in Washington…upon arriving home this week, I saw the unemployment numbers for Kansas and Franklin County for February (here is the state, the region and also county by county). Given our unemployment numbers locally are 2.7 percent…and that every major employer locally reports they are needing more laborers, I think we can conclude our local labor force is down – which is exactly what I described from the conference last week from Washington. With less than 3 percent unemployment, it means not that many people are looking for work. It is impossible to have zero unemployment because of illnesses, injuries and other factors which keep a certain percentage from working even though they would prefer to be employed. It is truly a job seeker’s market right now. 
 
Good news for Kansas this week from the Department of Commerce…Governor Laura Kelly is in Manhattan this week to announce a $650 million biomanufacturing facility to be built in Manhattan by Scorpion Biological Services, a subsidiary of the major national drug manufacturing company Heat Biologics, Inc. She said the drug manufacturing/research facility will be in a new 500,000 square-foot building and create 500 new jobs – the biggest eco devo project of her term as governor. I was in a meeting this week with someone from the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce…he told me the project is located in Pottawatomie County but will be annexed into the Manhattan city limits. The company will employ 30 percent PhDs, and the average wage of the new jobs will be around $100,000.00. The Manhattan Commerce also said they had an advantage because of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Research Facility (NBAF) being built across from the K-State Football stadium. This is fantastic news for the whole state. 
 
The Manhattan project is not related to the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion Act (APEX), which was approved by the Kansas Legislature in February. That eco devo program offers up to $1 billion in tax and other inducements for a giant but unidentified business to move to Kansas with a $4 billion investment, building a 3 million square foot facility and hiring at least 4,000 workers. No word on that business which would take advantage of the APEX program yet…could be more good news to come!!
 
Governor Candidate:
 
Attorney General Derek Schmidt (also candidate for the Republican nomination for Kansas Governor) visited Ottawa Wednesday evening (few pictures here). Derek didn’t do any formal speeches…mostly just shook hands and visited with about 40 local voters over the course of the evening. He talked about life on the campaign trail…which we all know is gruesome. God Bless anyone who is willing to step up and serve in these leadership positions in this current political environment. Candidate Derek would still like to see some form of sales tax relief from the Kansas Legislature…given the current robust surplus in the Kansas general fund. Revenue numbers are predicted to end at an all-time high for our state winding up some $340 million above the predicted budget numbers and potentially $1.7 billion in the state general fund at the end of the 2023 fiscal year.  The Kansas Legislature will go back to work next Monday, April 25 to complete their work and the remainder of the budget…Senate and House conferees started meeting this week for the budget bill to have something ready for both houses to consider next week. I’ll keep you posted on all the “goings-on” at the state level.
 
Author Patti Grant: 
   
Chamber member and Author Patti Grant (webpage) was at the Ottawa Library this morning hosting Chamber members and talking about her latest book, Footloose & Sugar Free (pictures here). In a perfect world, people could eat dessert and never worry about weight gain or their sugar skyrocketing. There are many delicious desserts such as brownies, red velvet cake, and more that are healthy for you and satisfy your sweet tooth. In Footloose and Sugar Free, Patti helps people who desire to eat more healthy foods and still be able to have delicious healthy desserts. Her work for sugar-free deserts began when her husband was diagnosed as a diabetic…with her help he has been completely sugar-free for 6-years.
 
Here is the good news:
  • You can have desserts such as Peanut Butter Fudge, Monkey Cinnamon Bread, Never-Fail Chocolate Pie, and many more if they are made with healthy ingredients such as God’s perfect no-calorie natural sugar.
  • You can maintain your weight or even lose weight by eating healthy desserts.
  • You can serve these sugar-free desserts at any event, and no one will be able to detect they are sugar-free.
 
I ended up buying a copy…I already have a great cook at home – she always appreciates a book about cooking and foods!
 
     
Washington D.C. wrap-up & Easter:
 
I already described our travel frustrations earlier…but that said, we did have a fantastic few days of R&R in the nation’s Capital before returning home. Here are a few pictures of our tours around D.C. We attended a play at the Kennedy Center, ate in a very nice restaurant at the wharf, went to several of the Smithsonian’s which we had never visited…the Native American and the African American museums…along with a few old favorites such as the American History Museum.   And…even though we’ve been to all the memorials, we went again. I’m a real sucker for the Lincoln Memorial…I get chills and tears every time I read his Gettysburg Address. A memorial which is new and neither of us had seen, is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial (pictures here). Built next to the new Department of Education building (the department which he began) it sits on a large area and is enjoyed because of its huge stainless steel tapestry representing the White Cliffs at Normandy. The memorial pays a nice tribute to Kansas’ favorite son, supreme commander of the allied forces in WWII, and the 34th President of the United States.
 
We got home Easter morning…much too late for sunrise services, but time enough for a beautiful Easter dinner at the Brown house in Shawnee, Kansas. Here are a few Easter morning pictures…and here is all the families dressed to go to church Easter morning.  
 
Got another busy day…I’m sure you do too – talk to you next week…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000