FROM THE DESK OF...Jeff Hettrick, Executive Director

The energy on the streets in Ottawa has dramatically increased with the sudden summer weather and the state easing into phase 3 of the Reopen Illinois plan. Our bars and restaurants have the ability to offer outdoor seating to a limited degree, and retailers are allowed to reopen their facilities with appropriate safety guidelines. On Friday, the local state parks held their reopening including use of the trails. Our community has held together, supported each other and is continuing to move forward.

The City of Ottawa deserves our thanks for working with the business owners to offer new options for help. There are several street closures to allow additional restaurant outside seating. Mayor Dan Aussem has published a letter, under the emergency order (sent out last week), which outlines road closures, parking restrictions and the ability to use some city property to create safe seating areas. Ottawa has posted the changes and at the bottom of their page is a link to a map to help out.

The Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and the Ottawa Visitors Center have partnered to work on messaging for the safe reopening of our businesses. The School of Hospitality Leadership at DePaul University expects to see a lot of people traveling regionally, driving places and not having to go through the process of flying. Destinations in close proximity, within a two-hour drive range for day trips and a four-hour range for overnight trips, will be the most popular. A survey recently commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association found 68% feel safest when traveling in their car. Nearly one-third said they would be willing to drive up to 300 miles to reach their vacation destination.

The Chamber, the City and the Ottawa Visitors Center encourage motels, restaurants, museums, retailers and other attractions to pledge to keep “socially responsible” health and cleanliness measures top of mind for both visitors and employees. The best practice suggestion from our video conferences is to prominently display that info on websites and other communications. The city has some posters printed for display to draw customers’ attention to the hard work taken to continually clean and disinfect. Unlike some places that have hurtled toward a rapid reopening with a patchwork of measures, Ottawa wants to be viewed as an intelligent destination that visitors can trust.

If you would like more information and segment specific tips, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has posted a massive amount of information on their website.

The Ottawa Area Chamber is partnering with the City of Ottawa and CGI Communications on a series of professionally produced online videos to highlight everything that Ottawa offers for businesses, residents and visitors. We will be updating the previous videos to include new attractions and businesses in our area.

CGI is also offering an opportunity for businesses to create their own professional video to promote their business. In additions to creating the videos, CGI is ensuring they are seen. Mobile devices have shifted the landscape of business, making it more important than ever to embrace technology, as residents of Ottawa are streaming high-quality video constantly. For many businesses, getting noticed online can be a challenge, however, utilizing video dramatically improves visibility and drives more action to your website than static pages.

We are dedicated to highlighting the advantages of living and working in Ottawa; advantages that include access to our wonderful business community; and we feel that this video program will be widely successful in doing so. We encourage you to consider participating in this program as it provides an exciting opportunity to showcase your business and utilize the power of video on your own websites and social media pages. And the CGI team is easy to work with and they can safely shoot a promotional video for your business.

To view a short press release video made by Jeff and Dave Noble from the City, please visit our website:
The Ottawa Area Chamber Ambassadors, Board of Directors and Mayor Dan Aussem marked the safe re-opening of local commerce with a special Ribbon Cutting on Thursday, May 28th. It was held in conjunction with the hand sanitizer giveaway courtesy of Sigan America. Thank you to all that came by!
The Chamber is posting at our members' sites to bring some small light-hearted attention to businesses. All safety concerns are addressed and look at the posts and you will see what we mean. Follow us on Facebook to see what we come up with in our community!
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