Kudos to the Joplin City Council for approving three resolutions, presented by Wallace Bajjali Development Partners of Sugar Land, Texas, to start the next phase of rebuilding in Joplin.
By authorizing the application for $40 million in grant funds from the federal Economic Development Administration, submitting an action plan to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency for $45 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, and allowing Wallace and Bajjali and the city, using the Joplin Development 353 Corporation, to buy land for the projects, Joplin is taking the next big step in setting the tone for our recovery.
I am sure we all wish there was a manual on how to rebuild a city. Unfortunately, there isn’t one, so our city leaders did what was best: They listened to those who live in Joplin and heard their ideas on what they wanted for their town.
The Citizens Advisory Recovery Team vetted many of the ideas of the citizens. It was able to categorize, catalog and prioritize them in a way that made sense, looking at the hierarchy of our needs. The city sought a master planner who understood the size and makeup of our market. David Wallace is a planner who could help us accomplish our needs as we see fit. He’s a planner who not only will help Joplin reach its goals, but to coin a phrase, is willing to “put his money where his mouth is.”
I, like most of you, have a family. Mine happens to be a younger family. We moved from the hustle and bustle of a big city to Joplin where we could enjoy the quality of life that comes with a smaller town. Joplin is a town made up of very good people — people with moral fiber. It’s a community that believes in hard work and stands with each other through the good and bad. I enjoy being able to coach Little League, staying involved with the community and still being home for dinner most nights. Those are the advantages of living in Joplin.
But in order for Joplin to grow and prosper, we need to guard ourselves against negative national trends. We need to attract better-paying jobs, opportunities and amenities. We need the features that will keep our young people here and attract others who are looking for the same things we love about Joplin — plus the “extras.”
That is why I like the Wallace and Bajjali plan. It addresses the hierarchy of our immediate needs, blending in the amenities necessary for keeping our youth and attracting new jobs and business to our area. I pray that we will never again see a disaster like we faced. But since we cannot change the hands of time, we must take advantage of the present to make Joplin what we want it to be.
I close my eyes and imagine. I imagine the future with brand-new mixed-use neighborhoods surrounding our state-of-the-art high school. I look forward to taking our kids to a library that is second to none. I love the idea of having more choices of what to do on weekends. Do we go to a play or a musical? Do we go to the community center for an outdoor concert sponsored by Pro Musica? Do I go to the movies at Hollywood Theaters, Route 66 or the new theater? Or do we go to a movie at each one?
Let’s explore our history through a museum that can showcase everything we were and what we are becoming. Imagine a discussion of options for shopping that are unique to our area and not the same as every midsize town across the United States. How about catching a ball game at our new minor league stadium, or watching a concert at the same venue? Before going, we can have something to eat at one of Joplin’s current great restaurants, or a new one.
There are a lot of good ideas in the Wallace Bajjali plan. Some say if we can complete 75 percent of them, we will be doing great.
I’m not one of those people. I say we accomplish them all and more.
Mike Beatty is publisher and president of The Joplin Globe. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MBeatty_Joplin.