Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O’Brian has an answer for those who might question the town’s business community ability to bounce back from the EF-5 tornado which struck Joplin Sunday May 22nd 2011, killing 161 persons and destroying or damaging thousands of homes and businesses.
“To paraphrase our great Missouri son Mark Twain, The results of our demise were greatly exaggerated. It certainly was a blow. We have still some areas that need to be built back, but what we see today of the 531 employers that were destroyed or severely damaged, and with the well over 5,000 job slots, over 90% are back. People might say after 3 years if they’re not back yet they aren’t coming back, but we still have a couple out there who are still sorting things out. One of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Joplin just reopened earlier this year, so it’s almost 3 years for them, so it does take time for some businesses. The ones that are left out there are relatively small and did not have a lot of employment, although collectively they did. There’s about 60 of them that are not back yet, but the thing we have seen beyond that is about 160 new businesses come in to town after the tornado. It’s hard to draw in some respects, any firm rule of thumb that says if you have this kind of catastrophe, all your businesses will be struggling, because we have some who aren’t struggling. Some have done very well. And New businesses have come into the market and are doing pretty well. Probably for most affected businesses though, the ones with some kind of business recovery plan seemed to get off the mark a little quicker than those without a disaster plan.”
Donald Swanson is a financial advisor with the Edward Jones Company. His place of business is at 2205 Connecticut, just 2 blocks south of 20th street, and was in the direct path of the tornado. His disaster plan began with the construction of his building, which was completed a mere 2 and a half weeks before the tornado. The place was designed to withstand high winds, and had an emergency generator installed. Both proved invaluable to victims of and first responders to the tornado: “It was a location that had some lights and provided shelter to some of the neighbors. There were 10 deaths in the apartments across the street, and some people came from there to spend the night. This neighborhood was especially hard hit. When I got here Monday morning, there must have been 90-100 people here using the building as a command center to deal with victims. Afterwards, I had a lot of inquiries about the construction and how it remained standing while everything around it was destroyed. This building was constructed with hurricane straps, or hurricane tie downs, and I was concerned about energy savings and through research I found a spray foam insulation which adds 80-200 percent structural strength when it’s used. My mind set is probably the hurricane straps alone wouldn’t’ve prevented this building from collapse , but certainly the addition of the spray foam helped the structure stay together.”
Which allowed Donald Swanson’s place of business to literally stand as a beacon of light, signaling SHELTER HERE, amid an area of darkness and destruction in Joplin Missouri, May 22nd 2011.