JOPLIN, Mo. —
Our work in Joplin is not yet done. While Joplin serves as the standard bearer for excellence in disaster recovery for the entire country, our task remains incomplete.
I reminded a group in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago that our city has arrived as this point by working together as a unit — not by lamenting our circumstances, but by getting to work immediately following the tornado to improve our situation. There’s no better place in the country to deliver such a message than our nation’s capital.
We have accomplished great things in Joplin since that fateful day in May of 2011. According to numbers supplied by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, approximately 90 percent of the businesses impacted by the tornado have either been rebuilt or have imminent plans to do so. The city’s numbers indicate that 80 percent of the 7,500 homes affected by the storm have been repaired, rebuilt or have a permit pulled to do so. I submit to you that the last 10 percent of redevelopment on the commercial side and the final 20 percent on the residential end will be the most difficult to realize.
Now is the time
We can’t just hope and wait for that redevelopment to occur. We can’t wish for the implementation of ideas from Joplin residents who are embedded in the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team plan. In the same manner that the entire community mobilized to help each other immediately after the tornado, we need to marshal our resources to complete our redevelopment efforts.
In order to accomplish Joplin’s stated objective of building back our community bigger and better than it was before the tornado, we need to utilize every tool at our disposal.
One of the major resources under discussion is that of tax increment financing. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I support the usage of TIF to finish the job at hand. TIF, although challenging to understand, is not new to Joplin. It is a funding mechanism that has been successfully used in Joplin on two occasions and utilizes the revenue produced by the CART and the master developer-proposed projects to help pay for themselves. It is not a tax increase. Even if you own property in the currently defined TIF district, you would not pay any more in taxes as a result of the passage of the TIF legislation.
I would hazard a guess that most, if not all, Joplin residents think the TIF implementation would have no direct impact on them. Indirectly, I feel it would have a great impact on all Joplin residents by enabling the completion of the CART project and others. I believe this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to successfully address the two biggest concerns I have heard in my eight years in Joplin: not having enough things to do and not having enough good-paying jobs.
The first concern would be addressed directly with the funding enabled by TIF, and the second issue would be impacted indirectly by helping to create an environment for future investment, which, I believe, will lead to job growth and enhancement.
To be fair, it is important to point out that the utilization of this funding mechanism has generated concern and debate among members of some of the entities that would receive funding from property taxes stemming from the TIF — most specifically, Joplin schools.