Hearne: Is Joplin Better Off a Year Later Because of the Tornado?

They’ve got a new mayor and a new lease on life…

As Joplin preps for the onslaught of its one-year tornado anniversary, the untold tale is that the disaster has transformed the battered midwestern burg into something of a boom town.

If you weren’t hit or killed by the tornado (or left town), there’s a good chance you’re better off now than you would have been had the tornado not struck.

The reason for the financial uptick?

"We’ve had over 125,000 registered volunteers and that’s not even counting the unregistered ones," says new mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean. "And it’s helping out everybody. Our sales tax for the city is up. The stores are doing good. The hotels are doing good. The restaurants are doing good."

In other words, a disaster boomlet?

"You can probably say that," Colbert-Kean says. "Not the way that everybody would want it to happen, but it is what it is. And we’re expecting it to last a few more years."

For example, business is up 30 percent since the storm for owners of the popular Hackett Hot Wings downtown.

"People came from everywhere in huge support," adds local trucking exec Jeff Watson.

And while some Joplin-ites were disgusted by a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau tornado damage map – calling it a tacky attempt to cash in on "tornado tourism" – there’s been no shortage of cashing in elsewhere about town.

Take the "I ♥ Joplin" T-shirts, twister DVDs and EF-5 coffee table books the Walgreens is hawking – the very Walgreens on Range Line Road that got wiped out by the storm.

Even Boulevard Brewing cashed in on the Joplin disaster with a buck a barrel marketing scheme.

The question being, is cashing in on the disaster a little, you know, tacky?


"I don’t see it that way," Watson says. "I see it as a positive. I think it’s good for the community because the money comes back. Does it really come back? I don’t know for sure, but I hope it does."

As for the post-storm, cup half full, people are better off perspective,

As for the cup-half-full, Joplin’s better off now perspective, "I think it’s still too early to say," says local businesswoman Wendy Watson, a Barstow grad. "Some good things have happened and business is up for a lot of people, but the town as a whole lost a lot of structures and I don’t know what the population loss is. But I mean, Joplin’s going to survive and do well in the long term."

This entry was posted in Hearne_Christopher and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Hearne: Is Joplin Better Off a Year Later Because of the Tornado?

  1. Super Dave says:

    Gee Hearne lets see you have a house with your family and a tornado comes along and leaves nothing but a hole in the ground. You lose two family members and after the fact with bad house market your place wasn’t worth what it was a few years ago so along comes insurance company and hands you a check that will in now way shape or form cover your loss.

    Not to add all the items you had in your home that can’t be bought anywhere. Pictures hand me downs from family members and what not.

    Now you tell me just how you could be better off?

    Explain how you could be better off with your daughter dead?

  2. smartman says:

    The Tale of Two Cities
    Compare where Joplin is today to the island of Haiti. Despite a huge difference in the time, money and attention paid to the two disasters, with Haiti the overwhelming winner , Joplin has emerged with far better prospects for the future. Things will NEVER be the same in Joplin particularly for those that lost friends and family. It’s clear that the strength of the human spirit, the will to survive, move on and honor the lives and memories of those that were lost is far stronger in the Heartland. While people in Haiti continue continue to look for hand outs via the US, UN and Sean Penn, the folks in Joplin just need helping hands, whether folded in prayer, or in the service of brotherhood or commerce.

  3. Hearne says:

    Did you miss my caveats, SD?
    I said, if you were NOT hit or killed, or didn’t leave town.

    Of course in your examples that would not be the case

  4. chuck says:

    smartman is dead on,
    but more importantly, who is Wendy Watson?

    I do like the story, but whenever things like this go well, some shitheel like Naomi Klein shows up and ruins it.

  5. dreamwriter326 says:

    All in the mind of the beholder
    A friend I’ve known for 20 years or so is a reporter at the Joplin Globe. He told me he’s probably better off, from a material standpoint, than he was before the tornado blew the house he rents away, but he’s also pretty sure he’s going through some type of post-traumatic stress disorder and freaks out now when severe weather threatens the area.

    All of his stuff was replaced … his old computer, his old TV, his old, furniture … because he had decided after decades of living in the Midwest he should probably have renter’s insurance. But his mind — indeed, his whole being — has been forever altered by the ugly devastation he and the rest of the community experienced that afternoon.

    Is a new flat-screen tv and much faster laptop — or a new Home Depot or high school, for that matter — worth the neurosis of having lived through those first horrible hours, those first desperate days, as friends and strangers alike helplessly mourned their dead or missing loved ones?

    I doubt if many people who were living in Joplin last May see themselves as better off now, in a pure sense, whether they were hit by the tornado or not. Maybe more of them have a sense or purpose, or are deeply proud of the way everyone pulled together in their time of tragedy.

    But better off? I don’t see it.

  6. Super Dave says:

    No Hearne I didn’t miss them but I saw all the so called good facts you point out while avoiding the real facts.

    A lot of businesses as a rule do more business after a disaster strikes their area if they are still standing. Even people from the Kansas City area and all over the country profited from that disaster. Companies from bottled water to beer made money from it. Hate to think how much Home Depot, Lowes and other construction suppliers and workers are going to make from it.

    But does one have to beat their chest or gloat over the real misery of others. It


    Speaking of disasters – the walking, breathing kind – I am personally better off for not being Super Dave.

  8. Not better off being who?? says:

    Not Better off being who??
    Because Super decides to take the side of the victims and not the opportunists in the Joplin disaster. See this is about perception not about economics. Hearne will take the side of business fundamentalists afterall he’s running a website, being his own boss, recognizes that the Joplin disaster opened up some opportunity all be it on the back’s of those that lost everything. I was in Joplin a week after the tornado and sure the hotels were full, the resteraunts full, lumber, sheet rock, windows all being hauled around by the truck load. Meanwhile disaster trailers and insurance organizations where giving people terrible news, families were burying their loved ones and a community that may have been flourshing on the surface took a huge blow. Disaster can create opportunity and there are ways to exploit that in a tasteful manner. I don’t think the Convention Bureau, WalGreens, or other doing a “tourist” theme for their products are being tasteful or respectful. Lets not forget that just down from WalGreens a father and his 2 children lost their lives in Home Depot. That all along Range Line Road was distruction of a biblical nature, 153 people lost their lives, some celebrating the beginning of their adult hood as they just finished graduation. Let’s take a lesson from the Japenese as we don’t see products celebrating a catastrophic tsunami, nuclear disaster, and powerful earthquake highlighting their recovery.

  9. balbonis moleskine, who attended both public and pvt schools says:

    Oh hearne
    First, I would like to say that as someone who attended both Barstow, Pem Hill and public school in southern OP I find it precious how Hearne tells us when people went to Barstow. I don’t really know if that is meant to mean that we are to respect their wealth or intelligence but when I was there those schools served 3 functions: 1) School for kids who lived in the urban core who didnt want to be murdered. 2) Place where old money hangs out when not watching their children play Broomball at the Carriage Club. 3) Where you buy your Autistic, ADD behavior problem child passing grades if you have 16k sitting around.

    Second, Hearne this phenomenon is covered in Intro to Macro Economics. It is taught how GDP is a poor indicator of wealth and increasing prosperity as you could have a destructive event followed by reconstruction. GDP doesn’t take into account the reduction in value caused by the destructive event, only the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.

    Third, as a person who went through the Katrina diaspora, enjoy your spotlight while you still can. The caring masses have a short attention span. Once they’ve given some blood, boxed up some ratty t-shirts or sent some bottles of water the job is done to them. There was never a massive rebuild of NOLA planned. And that was in a time of economic hardship where a good ole keynesian money injection would have done the country as a whole a lot of good. The next stage will be mockery and blaming the victims. It is their fault they lived in mobile homes (or why do we occupy a city below sea level…I dunno ask Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Jehrico, Tiberias, Venice, etc).

  10. chuck says:

    LMAO – Barstow’s 3 functions. 🙂
    Number 3 killed me. Heh, heh…

    Ease up fellas, I don’t think Hearne is doing anything nefarious, just sending back postcards from his trip to Joplin. We might be reading a few too many hidden themes into a cursory observation gained during this trip. Hearne is always on the go, his habits, nomadic and non descript. Just absorb a little anecdotal observation and cut back on the coffee. Sheesh…

    dreamwriter 326 has a nice take.

    Its just a trip to Joplin, it ain’t Yalta and The Big Three.


  11. chuck says:

    BTW, made a couple of trips thru Greensburg
    last year.

    The city is rebuilt and looks great.

    Windfarms at City Hall, kinda cool.


  12. smartman says:

    As always
    The comments make better reading than the article. So, give Hearne some credit for kicking the ball down the slippery slope.

  13. paulwilsonkc says:

    How do you comment and not have it come out wrong??
    I have to side with Hearne on this one…… AND everyone else at the same time. As everyone realizes, this was a terrible disaster with way too much lost life and destruction. But as it was so clearly stated, there is and can be an upside that isn’t predatory or forgetting the loss in the path of history.

    This thing made a swath through the oldest parts of town, short of the NW side. It hit an area that was largely rental and homes from the eaerliest days of the town. My ex in laws lost two rentals. Whats come about now is the chance to rebuild, and for the people responsible enough to insure themselves, end up much better than they were. Yes, grandma’s picture may be gone and I can relate to that better than most as I’m an overly sentimental sap, but on balance, the town will be better off in the end.

    And, emotionally, thats whats going to get them back on their feet when the help, money and benefits are over….. seeing progress and new homes rising from the debris that was left behind.

  14. kcfred says:

    Here’s a perfectly good bowl of Cheerios
    …and Hearne comes along and pisses in them. Not happy with the boomers, not happy with the people in Joplin. Hey Hearne, the boomers are doing just fine and give back to their community now more than ever. And I see you’ve put up a story about the people of Joplin, whom you know nothing other than a few sound bites. Sounds like, to me, they have it pretty much together. I imagine the rebuilding efforts were put into place by….boomers. Leave us alone, you know nothing of us.

Comments are closed.