In the middle of the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression, Joplin did something rather remarkable: It invested in itself at a record rate.
Construction in the city of Joplin during the last fiscal year hit nearly $246 million. That's more than the previous two years combined, and as was noted in this morning's front-page story, it's higher by nearly $70 million than the previous record for any normal year, which was $177 million, set in 2017.
We say "normal" because there was that event nearly 10 years ago — hard to believe we're coming on 10 years — when the city was hit by one of the most devastating tornadoes on record and responded by investing in ourselves. By building back. Construction was off the charts then, so it's hard to compare those years.
But it seems that in tough times Joplin gets outs its hammers and levels and goes to work.
Who's investing in us now?
Some outsiders, of course, such as Iowa-based Casey's, with only its third distribution center and warehouse. And German-based Schaeffler Group, Netherlands-based Refresco, Liberty Utilities, and others.
We're investing in Joplin. We're investing in ourselves.
Some of the big projects last year were local, such as Employer Advantage. And half the $80 million needed for the College of Dental Medicine at the Joplin campus of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences is being raised locally. The new Jasper County courts building going up in Joplin is being built with a quarter-cent sales tax first imposed on ourselves in 2016 to build a new Juvenile Services Center and then extended by 71% of the voters last year to build the courthouse and expand the county jail and make improvements to the courthouse in Carthage.
We'd like to note, too, that a number of projects slated for the next fiscal year will also represent Joplin continuing to invest in itself.
Bids are being sought for the $17.5 million Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex this year, with a ground breaking targeted for January. Much of that money was raised locally, by more than 265 donors who have committed to $16.2 million thus far.
And then there's new elementary school to replace the aging Columbia and West Central elementary schools and improvements at Kelsey Norman, approved by 4 of every 5 voters in June. Work will begin on Kelsey Norman in the next month or two and on the new elementary school this spring.
And in January, SFS Architecture will make a presentation to the Joplin City Council for Memorial Hall. We'll have to wait and see where that goes, but it could be the next signal that Joplin believes in its future — and in itself.