The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 17, 2012

Businesses utilize Joplin Tomorrow Fund to rebuild after tornado

When Brigitte Pippin reopened Southtown Cleaners and Alterations in early February, loyal customers sent her potted plants and cards. They were happy for her to be back.

“I got so many plants I had to take some home,’’ she said. “The cards said: ‘We missed you.’ It’s so great to be missed.’’

But early on after the tornado, Pippin had second thoughts about rebuilding at 2630 S. Main St.

“It’s so naked everywhere,’’ she said, emphasizing her point with her German accent. “I asked myself: What if nobody builds back?’’

She decided to rebuild, but she soon found out that her insurance coverage for property and contents didn’t go far enough.

It was 17 years ago when she purchased insurance for her business. Her coverage totaled $193,000.

She would need help to raise the more than $500,000 she needed to rebuild.

“It did not take long to figure out it was going to cost a lot more than that to rebuild. But who would ever think you would lose everything?’’ she asked. “It was going to cost a lot more to rebuild, and we thought we were debt free.’’

She said she was insured for the status quo, but the status quo was gone. Her challenge would be to restore her business and prepare for the future, but at the same time make allowances for the customers she might have lost. It was a gamble.

Looking at a partially full conveyor last week, where clothes await customer pickup, she said, “It’s not as good as before, but every week it is coming back.’’

Pippin’s break came through one of her customers, Mike Pence, of Joplin.

She recognized Pence in a television report about the Joplin Tomorrow Fund, which offers low-interest loans that were being offered to qualifying businesses that were victims of the May 22 storm. She called Pence and asked whether she might qualify.

“He said: ‘Oh, definitely.’ I was the first to apply,’’ she said.

She and her husband obtained a $30,000, seven-year loan at an interest rate of 2.5 percent from the Joplin Tomorrow Fund. They combined that with a Small Business Administration loan and the insurance settlement, she said.

She used her loan to install a laundry and purchase automated equipment that can press a shirt.

As she was talking about her comeback last week, Pence walked through the doors of her business with some pants that needed repair.

Said Pence: “The ink had barely dried on the Joplin Tomorrow documents when I told the board: ‘I have our first applicant. She’s a self-made woman whose business was blown down by the tornado. She’s coming back and she needs us.’”

Job creation

Also approved for a loan from the Joplin Tomorrow Fund was Heather Grills, owner of the new Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 S. Main St. She used the fund and a loan from the SBA to help start a business.

“What we did was borrow $40,000 at a low interest rate from the Joplin Tomorrow Fund for job creation,’’ she said. “The fund stipulates job creation and what you will contribute to the community. We created two jobs immediately. We’ll probably create two to five additional jobs over the next few years.

“We also provide a venue for artists to sell their work, which brings money into the city,’’ she said. “The Joplin Tomorrow Fund has permitted us to start out with a gas-fired kiln, which is an important part of our organization. This will help us attract the professional level studio members.

“The kiln is very crucial to our business. We can become a regional clay center as opposed to a local pottery studio. That loan made a big difference.’’

‘A warning to us’

Within a week of the tornado, officials at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce were hearing from their counterparts in other communities that had been hit by natural disasters. What they learned was that some businesses who thought they could rebuild without help after a disaster actually would need help.

“They sounded a warning to us,’’ said Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. “There will be businesses who might get Small Business Administration support and good bank support to get rebuilt, but it’s all aimed at returning you to the status quo, as it was.

“You might not necessarily need a bigger building, but you might need different equipment. You might need an opportunity to expand. All of the tools are generally there to get you back to what you were prior to the disaster,’’ he said. “But that status quo does not exist anymore.’’

O’Brian said the chamber responded by forming the Joplin Recovery Center, which brought to the table all of the resources that a business can use to rebuild or help an existing business respond to the change in market conditions.

“Through the Small Business and Technology Development Center (at Missouri Southern State University), we have been able to help businesses leverage their SBA money to expand their staff,’’ he said.

The Tomorrow Fund project was a goal of former U.S. Sen. John Danforth, who visited Joplin soon after the tornado. He started the fund with a $500,000 donation from the Danforth Foundation. The fund now has grown to more than $1 million. It gives low-interest loans to businesses that create jobs.

The Joplin Tomorrow Fund is just one outreach available through the chamber. Another is the Business Recovery Fund, which has $200,000 and provides working capital in the form of short-term, low-interest loans “for businesses that have hit a wall and cannot move forward,’’ O’Brian said.

He noted that the assistance is not limited to businesses that were affected by the tornado.

“They can be from outside of that area. They may want to just grow their business,’’ he said. “They may just have an opportunity they need help with.

“We know what resources are available,” he added. “We can take them from where they are today to where they want their business to go. We can get them past the roadblocks that are holding them back.’’


Applications for assistance may be filled out by visiting the website, or contacting Cindy Weiss, finance director at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, 417-624-4150.

Text Only
Local News
  • 0420earthday.jpg Prairie State Park kicks off Earth Day events

    Prairie State Park began celebrating Earth Day early with an event Saturday that provided a chance for people of all ages to learn more about how they can protect the environment.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Catholic schools to hold annual spring auction

    The Joplin Area Catholic Schools spring auction will be staged Saturday at the Jack Lawton Webb Convention Center, 5300 S. Range Line Road in Joplin.

    April 19, 2014

  • Wally Kennedy MUG72.jpg Wally Kennedy: Another pizza choice and ice cream on the way

    A new pizza restaurant is coming to the northwest corner of Stone’s Corner in the Village of Airport Drive. Piez is opening this week in a storefront that formerly housed Quincy Magoo’s, 6039 N. Main Street Road, which has been closed for more than two years.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • mike pound_cnhi .jpg Mike Pound: No more hiding Easter eggs or emotions

    Well, that’s a wrap on the Easter egg hunts. For about 15 years we have staged not one, but two Easter egg hunts for our now 16-year-old daughter, Emma.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Carthage Historic Preservation to re-create trolley era

    Recapturing history is difficult, but recapturing history without a building, an artifact or a singular focal point is even harder. To celebrate National Historic Preservation Month, Carthage Historic Preservation wants to recapture an era and an experience that have been gone from the city for almost 80 years: the era of the trolley (or tram) cars that provided public transportation.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Mosaic pieces together purpose

    Today I want to tell you about a man named John — a man I never knew existed until last week. And yet he’s making a difference in my community. He is an individual served by Mosaic of Southeast Kansas, which also, I learned, is making a difference.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Last two safe room projects up for Joplin School Board approval

    The Joplin Board of Education during its meeting tonight will consider more than $2.4 million in bid packages for safe rooms at Columbia and West Central elementary schools.

    April 20, 2014

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Candidates for associate judge address GOP group

    The response was all but unanimous among four candidates seeking two Jasper County associate circuit judge positions. Asked to cite the biggest obstacle to justice in Jasper County, three of the four said the most prevalent challenge is getting the needed time on a busy court docket.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

Must Read


The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, following Russia's buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine. Do you think we should deploy these troops?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter