Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
First official day of spring was last Sunday…also known as the vernal equinox. The equinox is the day the sun is located directly on the equator causing the hours of sunlight to be equal in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. And of course conversely, fall began for our neighbors to the south. Cherry and I planted our broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach, and cauliflower last weekend…we held off on potatoes – the ground seems too cold yet (at least to me). I’m sure some already have their potatoes planted…good for you if you do! Mowing the lawn is just around the corner…I never mind mowing beginning in the spring – it’s a good way, for me at least, to relax.
 
New Community Planning Director:
 
Michael (Mike) Hall (picture here) began work this week as the City of Ottawa’s new Community Planning and Development Director…most recently having held a similar position with the City of Topeka, Kansas. Mike was officially introduced to the City Commission Monday…his official start day as the new planning director. This opportunity became available when Wynndee Lee, former director, took a new position at Ottawa University. Local contractors will most likely have the earliest opportunity to meet Mike…anyone within the City limits who is involved in a remodel, new build or zoning issue begins the process in this department. First to get the approval of the plan and projects but also to have projects inspected for quality construction as the build progresses. The Planning Department is charged with providing orderly growth, planning, appropriate land use, the preservation of resources for the future, and enforcement of code…also they are instrumental in helping new businesses and industries which want to locate in Ottawa. Welcome to Ottawa Mike…we look forward to sustained and quality growth here in Ottawa. You will have plenty of work!!
 
2022 Annual Day on the Job:
 
The annual high school Day on the Job (DOJ) looked completely different this year. Every year, the Franklin County Development Council stages the event for Ottawa High School seniors. Mostly to focus on allowing seniors to hear from local employers to broaden their knowledge of what jobs and employment are available locally…and also to encourage our hometown youth to seek these sustainable employment opportunities either after high school or college. Since DOJ’s origin, the focus has always been the idea that a homegrown workforce is very desirable. In years past, the OHS seniors were shuttled about town to different businesses and industries to hear and see multiple opportunities for careers and employment. Now having taken a 2-year COVID hiatus and under new direction with FCDC Director, Paul Bean, the refreshed event allows employers to visit the high school…and also included OHS Juniors and area Franklin County schools (pictures here). Over 600 Franklin County students visited with 60 (mostly local) employers to learn of available internships, training needed to move toward the career they desire and also to make great contacts (both on the part of students and employers). Most agreed this was a much better event and process…not only because it involved more careers and businesses, but also involved area schools and the juniors creating a larger student pool to meet employers. For the most part, students begin contemplating and making future plans for post-high school when they are juniors (or even before)…good to give them this chance to visit with employers. FCDC has organized this local workforce building day since 2013…always difficult to know exactly what fruit it bears with local job opportunities…but at the very least, it is a great day to encourage students and let them know their community supports them…and also of all the great opportunities locally for those who want to continue to live in Ottawa. 
 
Franklin County Farm Bureau Association:
 
Every year during National Agricultural Week, our Franklin County Farm Bureau Association invites community members to a Chamber coffee (pictures here) to remind everyone of the importance of agriculture production to all citizens…not just locally but worldwide. Our local Farm Bureau also realizes our Midwestern community’s roots began and are still in agriculture. Today, one in every five Kansas jobs…even in urban areas, is directly related back to agriculture. The future of agriculture rests on the shoulders of youth who embrace it and also the greater community to understand the critical symbiotic relationship of urban and rural ways of life. This week, designated nationally, is specifically to recognize the unique and irreplaceable value that farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards have contributed to our Nation’s past and present. More importantly, America’s agriculture sector safeguards our Nation’s lands through sustainable management; ensures the health and safety of animals, plants, and people; provides a safe and abundant food supply; and facilitates opportunities for prosperity and economic development in rural America. It is worth taking time to remember and honor agriculture…without food, we literally have no future! 
 
Chamber Board Strategic Planning:
 
Thursday this week, Chamber board members gave a day to consider directions and future planning of your local Chamber of Commerce…realizing immediately a post-COVID society is a changed world and new strategies are needed to continue to survive and thrive. Kudos to the Chamber board for giving time to strategically plan for the years ahead (pictures here). Major topics discussed were how to use the Chamber building, our largest asset, more efficiently; programs and programing needed or lacking in Ottawa; how best for the staff to prioritize and spend their time; and, maybe most importantly, how the Chamber will be funded going forward. These are all in-depth and multifaceted challenges which involve conscientious and intentional thought. Here is a current list of your board of directors…be sure and thank them for the time they spend serving your community.       
 
MidAmerica Nutrition (Meals on Wheels):
 
The East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging (ECKAAA) offers local services to Franklin County citizens, most notably Meals on Wheels (MOW) for individuals unable to drive, get out of their homes or need help with meal planning and preparation. In addition to Franklin County, they serve the five surrounding counties…including Anderson, Coffey, Linn, Miami, and Osage. Their focus is to help their clients maintain their health, independence, and dignity. MOW began in 1972 and in 2022, is now celebrating their 50-year anniversary in the community with ECKAAA.  This program allows a well-balanced diet to be delivered to a shut-in’s home…without them having to leave. Wednesday this week, MOW celebrated 50-years by inviting community members to a meal at their kitchens in all the six counties they serve. Join me both in congratulating and thanking them for this fantastic milestone, and our good fortune to have them here in Ottawa… thank you ECKAA workers and MOW’s kitchen staff and drivers for all you do! 
 
Annual Honor’s Banquet:
 
I hope I see you at the Chamber’s Annual Awards Banquet next week…our community’s highest awards and honors will be presented next Thursday evening at Ottawa University’s Schendel Conference Center. RSVPs have closed today but a big crowd is expected. I’ll have the award winners highlighted in next week’s newsletter.
 
 Talk to you then…
 
Onward ~ John 
 
John Coen
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000