By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Economic forces are in place to help fuel Joplin’s recovery from the 2011 tornado, residents were told Thursday night.
The city’s contracted master developer, David Wallace, CEO of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, said there is some work going on that could bring federal and charitable contributions to help the homeless in Joplin. He also said there is the possibility that a children’s learning center will be built, though he could not give any specific details on that project yet.
Wallace spoke at a “Joplin Forward” event his firm and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce put on at the Holiday Inn to update residents on the status of Joplin’s recovery projects. The group also heard a presentation on the economic status of the U.S. that could be an influence.
Economist Peter Ricchiuti, a Tulane University professor who has a National Public Radio show and writes for publications such as The New York Times, was brought to Joplin by Wallace to discuss the state of the economy and what it portends for Joplin’s recovery.
More than seven years after Hurricane Katrina, Tulane has seen 40,000 students apply for the 1,600 freshman slots available at the university, Ricchiuti said. “If you think national attention doesn’t help you out, it does,” he said. He said the recovery in New Orleans has brought about a number of positives: public education reform, an improved political environment and an increased sense of community.
As for Joplin’s recovery from the storm, the economic signs point to prosperity, not recession, in his assessment.
Growth in the gross domestic product has been positive every quarter since 2009, and the stock market is at an all-time high. The stock market is always about six to nine months ahead of a full economic recovery, Ricchiuti said. The size of the national debt has to be assessed relevant to the economy, he said. It was higher during World War II than it is now, and he expects that it has peaked.
Ricchiuti said he expects to see raises in taxes, cuts in entitlements and budget cuts that will reduce the debt. He said some people fear that the amount of interest paid on the debt hurts the economy, “but rates are so low we are not being eaten up on interest rates.”
He said he believes the stock market will remain strong, terming corporate profits “phenomenal right now.”
He predicted that oil prices will remain high because of strong demand in China and India and a weak supply. But, he said, the real story in energy is the abundance of natural gas in the U.S. “We have become the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” he said, and he predicted that it will be the next big boon because of the need to power transportation.
“We are going to see big changes in the next couple of years” as a result of that, he said.
“WHAT JOPLIN NEEDS is the economic wind to your back, and you’re going to have that,” economist Peter Ricchiuti said at a session Thursday night in Joplin.