Dear Chamber Supporters:
Another week of plentiful rain…this June is/has been extremely wet. Farmers still have a lot of planting to complete. One of these weeks it will dry up…I’m hoping for good weather next weekend when the Bike Across Kansas riders will be in town. This will be my last reminder to mark your calendar and come down to the 200 block of Main Street on Friday afternoon (June 17) from 2:00-5:00 and stay for the evening Travis Marvin concert in Legacy Square beginning at 6:00. In the afternoon, Not Lost Brewery is hosting an outdoor beer garden, ORC will have games downtown, cornhole among others, the Frisbee Golf Club will have a frisbee golf challenge called the “Ring of Fire”…no I don’t know – but it sounds interesting!! Here is our Facebook event page for the concert to see the evening events…here are the goings on Main Street during the afternoon. Hope to see you next Friday downtown and at Legacy Square!!
Speaking of Legacy Square…this week, the Ottawa Police Department informed me someone stole the POW flag from the northwest corner of Legacy Square. City crews first noticed it was gone. Last week, the same thing happened at the Ottawa Post Office…in that instance, the American flag and POW flag were on the same pole; they cut the lines, took the POW flag and left the American flag on the ground. In Legacy Square, the flags are on separate poles…they didn’t bother the U.S. Flag. Again, they cut the ropes and took the ropes and the POW flag. If anyone noticed anything or even knows what’s motivating these senseless acts, call OPD or the Chamber…mostly so we can get it stopped!
Kalmar announced this week big expansion plans for the local Ottawa plant. Alan Wilson, the Director of Operations in the Ottawa plant, made the announcement to all the employees and local dignitaries on Monday (pictures here)…the announcement was made in Finland (home base of the corporate office) at 10:00 our time Tuesday morning. The $21 million investment in the Ottawa plant will both upgrade and expand the local facility (here is the full press release). An extension will be added to the present factory to help manage an increased flow of incoming materials and additionally minimize the use of forklifts in the production area. The existing line will be converted to a high-speed line for “rapid build” distribution terminal tractors…technology will be added to enable high-volume production of a fully electric and high-end terminal tractor model. The plans are to open the new plant in 2023 making it the largest terminal tractor manufacturing facility in North America by a far margin…once opened, Kalmar will have built a completely “smart factory” with a fully digitalized assembly process. Kalmar has a long history here in Ottawa…having begun in the 1930s by 3 friends and now growing into a very large international company it is today. The yard truck which is produced is still referred to as “the Ottawa Truck”. Alan told attenders the company is excited to continue Kalmar’s growth in this community. A great big thank you to Kalmar for this local investment…it is hard to beat news like this!!
Kristin Randall and her staff closed the restaurant for a couple of weeks…primarily because of staffing issues – no illnesses, but a marriage and a new baby. Beginning this week, the local Italian restaurant (and a personal favorite) is now open 7-days a week…this is a new addition, to be open every day for lunch and dinner. Luigi’s hosted Chamber members (pictures here) to coffee this morning to hear of menu updates and welcome the community back in the doors. Kristin announced this morning, beginning sometime in July, they will be adding Mediterranean menu options…this sounds good! She asked people at the coffee what some of our favorite Greek dishes are. In addition to her restaurant, Luigi’s also does catering and also hosts events. She hosts funeral dinners and weddings…other events include birthday parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties and really anything you can imagine. I really appreciate Kristin keeping the local eatery open after the kitchen fire during COVID, which happened during previous ownership. Her efforts and menu adds a great change of pace for eating in Ottawa…the addition of a Greek menu will only enhance this option more. Kristin also does a fantastic job of partnering with other downtown businesses to entice people to eat and shop in Ottawa…thanks Luigi’s and Kristin!!
In case you are wondering what all the construction is around the Keokuk and Main Street intersection is…back in August of 2018, I helped Wynndee Lee write an alternative transportation (AT) grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). The award of over $350,000.00 was announced in January of 2019. Finally, now in the summer of 2022, we are seeing the sidewalks built…there is always a lag time between the awarding of the grant and the start of the project – in large part because of budget years. This AT grant was written to improve a major entryway into our City. Keokuk Street…originally built in the 70’s does not have any sidewalks or bike paths – and has never had a major upgrade. The grant award will build sidewalks from North Oak Street to Main Street… the sidewalks will extend on the north side of Keokuk west of Main to Forest Park and additionally connect to the Prairie Spirit Trail. A sidewalk east of the Coop is also in the project. This will greatly enhance the appearance and functionality of this entryway by connecting North Ottawa to the downtown and trail system with an alternative transportation modality. It also officially connects the trails to Forest Park. Here are pictures of the construction happening now. This is a good addition for the community.
Richard Jackson – “A Ward of the Court”:
Longtime community servant, Richard Jackson retired from ECKAN a little over a year ago…in his spare time, he has written a book, “A Ward of the Court”. Last evening, he held a book signing at Corner Market and personally autographed copies of his book (pictures here). Something I didn’t realize, Richard, originally from Rochester, New York has been an orphan his whole life. In 1964, he was recruited to our local university to play soccer…he met his wife LaDora here, and together, they lived in Ottawa their entire adult lives. After retiring, Richard has written a book regarding how he ended up in the Midwest, serving this community…both as an elected official and as a volunteer; and, even about the discrimination he’s experienced locally through the years. Personally, I have always looked up to Richard…I have served with him on several boards and committees – including the Ottawa University board and fundraising together to build Legacy Square. Richard always brought great perspective to a group and helped everyone understand and see the long vision. I bought a copy of the book last evening and I’m looking forward to reading it…if you would like a copy you can do so by clicking here – or if you get in touch with Richard I’m sure he’ll help you get a copy too.
OU Braves New Athletic Performance Center:
Ottawa University board of trustees is in town to participate in June board meetings today…after going to Luigi’s, I’ll be on campus the rest of the day. Because board members have not seen the new athletic performance center, the “official” opening of the new center was held last evening (pictures here)…even though students have been using the facility since February of this year. Several coaches spoke as did Arabie Connor, the Braves Athletic Director. They are all very pleased and proud of the teaching facility which helps students who are studying to major in sports health ‘medicine…but maybe more importantly, helping athletes build body and muscle for better performance and to better protect themselves from the rigors of vigorous sports training and routine. I’ve had the fortune of seeing inside the Chiefs training center…what we have here on our local campus is very comparable. The Chiefs center is bigger…but has the same equipment and opportunities for athletes. It is really a great tool for a NAIA school to have such an elite training facility…it’s also a great recruitment tool for future athletes and students.
Hope & Barry Pelton:
Many have known Barry for years as a local contractor and painter…most don’t know a lot about him and Hope and their generous nature. Both are OU graduates from the 1970s. I’ve served on the OU Board with Barry for the last 9 years…he is a quiet man but very well thought and provides direction at just the right moments. Hope was born in India, the daughter of American missionaries…Barry was raised in Maine. Both came to OU in the late ’60s…Barry to play baseball and Hope appreciated the Christian underpinning of the University. They met, were married and have lived here involving themselves in the community their entire lives. What some fail to recognize about the University is not only how much diversity and perspective it brings to our community…many come from all over the world and choose to remain in Ottawa for the rest of their lives. It is one of our biggest economic engines in Ottawa…we are so lucky to have both the University and Neosho County Community College here providing life-changing educations and seeding our community with great outside influences.
Last night, Barry was being recognized for his 13-years service on the board; together they were honored for their generous donations to the organization (pictures here). Many would find it hard to believe Hope and Barry are 7-figure donors to OU…how generous is that!! Most recently the Pelton’s donated Ottawa University Apartments to the university (some know it as Patty Apartment). What a great couple…we are so glad they remained in Ottawa their whole lives!! Many, many thanks!!
Kansas House District 59:
Most know by now, that our state rep for the last 10-years, Blaine Finch, is returning to private life…as of noon today there have been 3 local citizens agree to run and if elected serve in the Kansas Legislature to represent Ottawa…Republicans Rebecca Schmoe, whom I’m not familiar with, and Louis Reed…who is a longtime friend have both filed – Louis and I served on the school board together and he is a great volunteer at Chamber events. Democrat Darrell McCune has also filed…Darrell is a lifelong teacher and is very familiar with education issues. We will have a chance over the next couple of months to get to know all 3 of these citizens better…and should have a good choice in front of us for our next representative. I will provide more information as it becomes available.
With Cherry out of school for the summer, we’ve had many opportunities to have kids here for sleepovers and cousin time…here are a few summer pictures of playing ball and riding bikes. It is great fun to be a kid…
Hope to talk to you next week as we celebrate BAK participants stopping overnight in Ottawa…
Onward ~ John
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce