JOPLIN, Mo. —
Ken Martin has a front-row seat for the Joplin rebound.
“We can see things moving forward every day,” said Martin, president of Great Plains Federal Credit Union, 2306 S. Range Line Road. “To me it is unbelievable it has moved this fast. I just didn’t see how that would happen.”
Walgreens will reopen two stores in Joplin on Monday — three months to the day since the tornado hit — including a record-breaker at 20th Street and Range Line Road that was built from the ground up.
AT&T just opened a 5,000-square-foot retail store at 2336 S. Range Line Road, near the credit union.
Chick-fil-A has announced plans to reopen in its same Range Line location on Sept. 1.
Home Depot and the Wal-Mart store on Range Line have walls up.
The list goes on.
Alden Buerge, chairman and chief executive officer of First State Bank in Joplin, said the city is on the front edge of an economic boom that will last for years.
“Courtesy of the insurance industry,” he added.
The city of Joplin recently released its list of June building permits. Hundreds of permits were filed, many valued in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for electrical service, or repairs to homes and businesses after the May 22 tornado.
The value of all those permits in June came to nearly $27.2 million, which means Joplin saw in June more than twice as much construction activity as it saw in the first six months of the city’s fiscal year combined. The value of all construction in the city came to $13.4 million for those first six months. Joplin’s fiscal year runs from Nov. 1 through Oct. 31.
Construction in Joplin has been sluggish since the recession began several years ago, and multimillion-dollar permits filed with the city for private-sector projects have been scarce. In recent weeks, several such permits have been filed.
Chick-fil-A filed a building permit for just under $1 million. Some doctors filed seven-figure permits for new offices. Walgreens filed permits for $1.8 million to repair its Main Street store and for $2 million to rebuild the Range Line Road store.
Great Plains Federal Credit Union filed a $3.2 million permit in June to repair its building at 2306 S. Range Line Road.
“They are about 50 percent of the way to completion,” said Martin. “We probably have another month and a half before we are back in.”
The building sustained water damage after the air conditioning units and roof were damaged by the tornado. The credit union has been operating out of a temporary modular unit on the site.
Few businesses are rebounding faster than Walgreens.
“Joplin is a new record,” said Dan Garneau, project architect, referring to the 15,000-square-foot store the company built from the ground up at 20th Street and Range Line Road.
The work was done in 83 days; the previous record for the company was 100 days. The company has more than 7,700 stores in all 50 states.
“It is the fastest we have ever built a store in the history of the company,” Garneau said.
“At one point we had 25 masons out there, and they were working every side of the building,” added Mike Flinchum, senior regional construction manager for the company. “It was 10-hour shifts, and toward the end, it was 12-hour shifts.”
Not only will Walgreens mark the grand opening Monday of its store on Range Line Road, but it also will hold a grand opening for the store at 20th and Main streets that had to be repaired.
‘Bidding is starting’
Chuck Killinger, too, is encouraged. He is president of Dalton-Killinger Construction Co. in Joplin, which specializes in public buildings such as schools and hospitals.
“I think there is a lot of design going on right now,” he said. “The bidding is starting.”
The Joplin School District sustained an estimated $150 million in losses, including multiple buildings that were destroyed. St. John’s Regional Medical Center also was destroyed; just this week, it announced that it will rebuild near Hearnes Boulevard and Interstate 44, and that total costs will be just shy of $1 billion.
“I think it is going to be a good time for construction. It is going to be great in terms of helping get our community on its feet, both for the people in the industry and for the people who benefit from it,” Killinger said, referring to restaurant owners and others.
Mike Landis, with Landis Construction, is a Joplin homebuilder who sees plenty of work ahead for years to come.
“We haven’t seen it this busy in six or seven years, at least,” he said Thursday.
“I foresee this for three, five, seven years. There are a lot of homes to rebuild, and businesses. This is not something that is going to happen overnight.”
“It’s going to be big,” said Buerge, with First State Bank.
THE RECORD FOR CONSTRUCTION in Joplin is $128.1 million, set in the city’s fiscal year that ended Oct. 31, 2007.