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."