By Jane Cage
Special to The Globe
JOPLIN, Mo. —
I think all of us can agree that Joplin is in an extraordinary time that will take extraordinary measures — and unfortunately an extraordinary amount of money.
Every public entity in Joplin was adversely affected on May 22, 2011 — the city, the schools, the utilities, the hospitals, the road district — the list is endless. As time passes we must face the mounting pressure of how to best recover through the wise use of limited resources.
The tax increment financing district is at the front and center of that discussion right now. If we wait for the area encompassed by the TIF district to redevelop on its own, I am afraid our recovery will be much longer than any of us want it to be. We have had remarkable growth along the edges, but the central sector is noticeably vacant.
Property owners are reluctant to rebuild because of uncertainty. Attracting investors will require incentives to develop the kind of anchor projects that can be the catalysts for recovery. I saw that concept at work firsthand in Waco, Texas, a community that was devastated by a tornado 50 years ago. A few really great key projects transformed a dormant downtown and gave private investors confidence to join in. Waco is becoming exactly the kind of place that Joplin citizens told the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team that they wanted — a vibrant city with amenities that we have never had.
Over these last few weeks, the parties directly affected by the TIF district have been working hard on the details. It’s been a tough assignment to balance the common good while at the same time minimizing the negative effects on individual organizations. At the end of the day, however, I am not worried. I know from the personal experience of working with everyone involved that what is best for Joplin in its entirety comes first.
Our cooperation for the public good has become our hallmark. As the CART vision statement says: “Joplin will set the standard for disaster recovery by demonstrating to America its can-do attitude.” Successfully navigating the TIF will be just another steppingstone along the road to our remarkable recovery.