Dear Chamber Supporters:
 
The calendar slipped over to August this week but so far it hasn’t affected the temperatures. Also, we are headed toward fall/school schedules and August is absolutely full of Chamber events…including next Tuesday, August 9 a groundbreaking at noon for the new Victory Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM car plaza and OU Fusion that evening to welcome OU students to town (complete calendar here). Later the week on Friday, August 12 is our last summer concert to enjoy a Southern Rock/Red Dirt band, Sons of Sterling, which features local Chad Caylor on bass guitar. Both concert and Fusion are at Legacy Square…hope to see you there for one or both!
 
Primary Election:
 
Of course, the biggest news of the week is the primary election…which means we’ve made it halfway through the election year with campaigning now ramping up between the Democrats and Republicans. Locally, County Clerk, Janet Paddock reports a total of 8,865 voters with 164 provisional…1,712 of these were either early or absentee by mail voters (official-unofficial county number here). These are phenomenal numbers for a midterm, non-presidential election. The constitutional question on abortion (which brought voters to the polls) was soundly defeated statewide…which actually doesn’t settle the issue. All it does is says the courts will make the final decisions and not the legislature. I believe this is best…if the decision moves to the legislature, it will change every 5-years or so when new legislators are elected. The courts at least add stability to the topic…it is how separation of powers is supposed to work. The result does not mean our society has reached a solution or come to a conclusion on the bigger question of abortion…just where the differences of opinions or questions are eventually determined. 
 
The anticlimactic governor’s primary now officially pits Republican Derek Schmidt against Democrat Laura Kelley…new to the equation is long-time Republican/now independent Dennis Pyle filed by petition as an independent candidate creating a 3-way race (albeit his petition has not been officially certified yet). In the only strictly local contest, former school board member Louis Reed was defeated by political newcomer Rebecka Schmoe who will run against long-time teacher, Darrell McCune. The only left-undecided vote is the still-to-close-to-call contest between Steve Johnson and Caryn Tyson. Currently Johnson is leading by about 400 votes, but it’s close enough that all county clerks in Kansas are required to do a 10 percent of voters recount to verify results (state results here). All the above will make this fall interesting…very annoying with ads, mailings, and negative television commercials – but interesting!?!
 
Labor Shed Study:
 
Franklin County Development Council recently had a new Labor Shed study conducted for our area…large companies wanting to locate in our region want/need this information to indicate who and what is available for employees should they choose to locate here. Every 5-10 years the study needs to be updated. You can read the complete study here. It usually tells us what we already know…that we need a bigger workforce to attract a big company. Still…with Panasonic recently announcing the new plant in DeSoto there will be many ancillary companies evaluating our area. This is all fabulous news for us and the prospects of Proximity Park just south of Ottawa. Franklin County Commissioners, City of Ottawa Commissioners and USD 290 School officials met this week to evaluate the results of the labor study, talk about the nuances of the results…and subsequently visit about solutions to increase labor numbers and discuss what types of companies would be good fits for our community. These discussions have been had before but need refreshing as new information becomes available and as commissions and commissioners change.
 
Positives in the equation are the big number of high school and post-secondary graduates we produce locally each year. With a 4-year liberal arts college, vocational college and 4 high schools in the county, education has always been in the plus column for us. Hurting us is the lack of available housing. While we are building 30-40 new houses in the City of Ottawa a year (I don’t know the county numbers on this), what is needed is density…think apartments. We are terribly short in this area. The younger/newer members of the workforce calculation don’t want to buy a house…they are looking for an apartment. There are developers looking at the area and I expect some new apartment developments will/could happen soon…it needs to occur quickly. Also hurting the labor force numbers is a lack of childcare…we absolutely need more daycare and preschool centers in Franklin County. This not only provides solutions for young parents but also better prepares our children for school when they begin their formal education. All the problems are being talked about and worked on… it’s just the answers are not simple. We’ll get there…and it’s good for local elected officials to meet to discuss these issues. Being on the same page is also very important!!
 
Jena Jacobs-Garcia American Family Insurance Agency:
 
Jena Jacobs-Garcia recently expanded her American Family Insurance agency to Ottawa and joined the Chamber…she actually took over half of the Steve Norris Agency’s book of business. Jena welcomed Chamber members this morning for coffee (pictures here), and a ribbon cutting…and of course to get acquainted with Jena. While new to Ottawa she is not new to the insurance business…she has owned and managed an American Family Agency in Burlington, Kansas for 25-years and describes herself as having a lot of experience in small business and “dream” protection. She and her husband continue to live in Burlington…her husband is a retired electrical engineer for Wolf Creek Nuclear Powerplant. Jena’s Ottawa location is 2232 S. King Street but is just off West 23rd Street next to the car wash…some mused you can get your car washed and insured in one stop now! Stop by and welcome Jena…she has her office decorated very light and air and she and her employees are very pleasant to visit with. You will enjoy her personality!!
 
Ryland’s Wedding:
 
Ryland and his fiancé, Makayla Hahn are officially Mr. and Mrs. Miller now (pictures here). The wedding was absolutely beautiful…they had written their own vows and it was very moving. Two thumbs up to Ryland and Makayla for adding the pressure of reading their own vows to an already nervous moment…it really made the ceremony special. Cherry and I enjoyed hosting the groom’s party the night before the wedding…since Ryland began working at the Chamber, Cherry and I have gotten to know all four of these young men which are all very upstanding. The picture of them at our house was the morning of the wedding as they were getting ready to clean up and head to the venue. Congratulations to Ryland and Makayla…now set at home in Ottawa with Makayla working to finish her education degree next May! What an exciting time beginning life together…blessings to both!!
 
Time for me to run…talk to you next week.
 
Onward ~ John 
 
President/CEO
Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce
785-242-1000