Washington - A Joplin, Mo. chamber of commerce leader who guided the economic recovery of the city in the aftermath of a devastating tornado, a Missouri trio whose gymnastics facility was destroyed before they had a chance to open, and a Louisiana parish president who calmly managed the evacuation and rebuilding of the community following Hurricane Isaac were each presented with Phoenix Awards today during a U.S. Small Business Administration National Small Business Week breakfast event sponsored by Office Depot.
Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.
“These individuals demonstrated tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the midst of several devastating disasters,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “The Phoenix Award acknowledges their heroic efforts and is a symbol of appreciation for their contributions to the economic recovery of their communities.”
Rob O’Brian, President, Joplin Chamber of Commerce, received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official. On May 22, 2011, the deadliest tornado in U.S. history destroyed or badly damaged more than 550 businesses in Joplin. A huge portion of the city’s tax base was reduced to rubble along with thousands of jobs in jeopardy. After securing a space for the SBA’s Business Recovery Center (BRC), O’Brian 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 his team had talked to more than 420 business owners, steering most of them to the SBA’s BRC where they could apply for SBA disaster loans, and get counseling on how to build a more resilient business.
The chamber also sponsored business recovery expos that covered topics including business plan development, overcoming post-disaster rebuilding challenges, and tips on starting a new business. Today, out of the 553 businesses at risk of closing, 500 of those companies remain operating. More than 90 percent of the jobs impacted by the storm remain in place and 40 new businesses have opened.