JOPLIN, Mo. — Moore, Okla., would look “pretty familiar” to Joplin residents, Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, said Saturday.
But two years after Joplin was struck by a massive tornado, things have improved dramatically, O’Brian said, and that message was part of what he delivered over the weekend to his counterparts in Moore. He was accompanied by Larry Warren, the new chairman of the board of the Joplin chamber.
The two men traveled to the Oklahoma community that was hit by an EF-5 tornado a week ago today. They presented $20,000 to the Moore Chamber of Commerce so it can start its own business recovery fund, similar to what happened in Joplin after the 2011 tornado.
“That speaks louder than any wind or any noise that could have been happening on the day of the tornado,” Brenda Roberts, president of the Moore chamber, said Saturday after the presentation.
“We will pay it forward.”
The $20,000 is from 36 contributors who wanted to help Moore, according to Joplin chamber officials.
Roberts said the Moore chamber had no final tally on the number of businesses that were hit or the number of jobs that were affected.
“They are still assessing that,” she said.
O’Brian said the Moore tornado, like the one that hit Joplin, cut through a key retail area on its long path of destruction. Even many businesses that weren’t hit could find themselves struggling because of everything from the loss of power to the death of an employee, he noted.
O’Brian said that after the 2011 tornado, Joplin was in similar shape, with 530 employers having been hit or sustaining substantial damage. But two years later, 450 of those are back in operation, he said.
He also recalled the outpouring of help the Joplin chamber and Joplin businesses received from other chambers and businesses after May 22, 2011.
O’Brian said about $1.7 million has been donated to various recovery funds for Joplin businesses, and out of that, 26 loans have been made so far, saving or creating 208 jobs.
O’Brian said he and Warren wanted to let members of the business community in Moore know they are not alone.
“Like Joplin, they kind of dusted themselves off and said, ‘We’re not going to let this get us down,’” O’Brian said after his visit. “We just felt it was important to be there with them and talk with them.”
Donations to the Moore Business Recovery Fund are being accepted as long as the fund is needed. Every dollar of the contributions through the Joplin Chamber Foundation (a not-for-profit organization) will go directly to the Moore Chamber of Commerce for use in rebuilding efforts. Details are available at www.joplincc.com/help_moore_business.html.
Keeping doors open
“ONE LESSON THAT WE LEARNED after the May 2011 tornado is that businesses will need help today and in the future,” said Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin chamber. “A business recovery fund can help make sure businesses have the resources they need to keep their doors open.”