The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 13, 2013

SBA presents Phoenix Awards today at chamber event

JOPLIN, Mo. — Representatives with the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O’Brian and Amplify Gymnastics owners Paul Comstedt, Derek Hammeke and Kip Johnson this morning with the SBA’s Phoenix Award.

An SBA delegation, headed by regional administrator Patricia Brown-Dixon, attended the Chamber’s Good Morning Joplin networking event to present the awards.

The recognition precedes an official presentation on June 21 in Washington, D.C., during National Small Business Week.

“The Phoenix Award is an acknowledgment of heroic work and a recognition of the contributions made to disaster recovery,” SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills said in a recent statement.

“Rob O’Brian displayed tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, and he exemplifies the spirit one must have to rebuild after a disaster like this.”

The May 22, 2011, tornado damaged or destroyed more than 550 businesses in Joplin, including St. John’s Regional Medical Center, the Wal-Mart Super Center, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Home Depot and two Walgreens stores, and many of the city’s other key employers. In all, more than 5,000 jobs were affected.

After the presentation, O’Brian said 450 of the 550 impacted businesses have returned to Joplin. In addition, nearly 100 new businesses have started in the last two years in Joplin.

O’Brian said he received the award “because of all of you in this community.’’

According to an SBA announcement, O’Brian first secured space for the SBA’s Business Recovery Center, directed his staff to canvass the hardest hit areas and make phone calls to find out what each business needed to recover. Within three weeks, O’Brian and chamber staff members had talked to more than 420 business owners, steering many of them to the SBA’s Business Recovery Center, where they could apply for disaster loans and get counseling on how to rebuild.

The SBA award states: “O’Brian maintained constant contact with government officials and private-sector partners who would ultimately help with Joplin's long-term rebuilding.”

Brown-Dixon, the regional SBA administrator, said Missouri was hard hit by disasters in 2011. The SBA approved loans totaling $55 million for the state that year. Of that amount, $42 million came to Joplin.

The chamber also sponsored business recovery expos that covered topics such as business plan development, overcoming post-disaster rebuilding challenges, and tips on starting a new business.

The SBA, since 1998, has presented the Phoenix Award to business owners, public officials and volunteers for their contributions in the aftermath of a disaster and their help rebuilding their communities.

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