JOPLIN, Mo. —
Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, will receive the U.S. Small Business Administration's Phoenix Award, it was announced this week.
The award will be presented during an event in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 21, 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 statement Monday. “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 and Home Depot on Range Line Road, two Walgreens stores and many of the city’s other key employers. In all, more than 5,000 jobs were affected.
According to the 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.”
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 noted that 500 of those Joplin businesses that were at risk of closing after they were hit are operating two years later, more than 90 percent of the jobs impacted by the storm remain in place, and 40 new businesses have opened in Joplin.
Since 1998, the U.S. Small Business Administration 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.