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If We Build It, Will They Come?
By Philip Mitchell
JOPLIN, MO.--- As you drive around Joplin, you'll notice a fair amount of rebuilding still happening today. You will also notice several new businesses that have decided to setup shop in the Joplin area since the storm. The question I had was, were these companies always planning to open a location in Joplin or did the tornado have something to do with it?
"One of the things that we saw post tornado is there were companies that were pre-tornado and even prerecession, and we go back to 2006 or 2007 they were thinking about the Joplin market. The tornado created opportunities for some companies to find locations that they made, you weren't able to find before," said Rob O'Brian, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President.
One of the main sections of town where this has taken place is at 20th and Range Line. We've seen several national chains like Longhorn Steakhouse, Five Guys, and HuHot moving into that area.
"We've had developers local developers. Like the people who own the Bel Air Shopping Center that really took the opportunity to acquire the additional land around them and build a very modern center," said O'Brian.
While new restaurants and retail establishments are often exciting for residents, the Chamber is committed to attracting a different portion of the business community.
"We focus more on the warehousing distribution and manufacturing, and office types of operations," said O'Brian.
Those are the types of organizations that create the most jobs for the area. Another thing O'Brian talked about was money and how it relates to some of the big projects that have yet to take shape.
"One of the questions we get frequently get, well we have all this federal money. There's a EDA money and the city has it and when are some of these bigger projects going to get underway. Process of the land acquisition through the Joplin Redevelopment Corporation as well as the paperwork. We're coming up on three years after the storm, but it's actually been less than a year since the city was notified it will be receiving some of that money," said O'Brian.
We heard an update on the projects Wallace-Bajjali is involved with at the Joplin City Council meeting this past Monday. Their main focus at the moment is the Senior Transitional Housing project, the library movie theater and a discovery science type center on a section of the former Saint John's Hospital lot.