EDITORIAL: A good end to a crazy year

Dec. 28—Let's end the year on a positive note.

Today and tomorrow, we'll take a look at 10 reasons to be optimistic about Joplin, about where we are and where we are going.

Let's start by looking at the some numbers — the dashboard if you will.

1. The unemployment rate for the Joplin metro area (Jasper and Newton counties) has been in record-low territory for much of the year. The Joplin unemployment rate was 2.4% in November, which is where it has been since the summer, with the exception of 2.3% in September. This is the lowest the unemployment rate has been since at least 1990, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Anybody who wants a job can get one.

2. Joplin construction is also in near-record territory. Construction in the city hit $224.5 million for the fiscal year that ran from Nov. 1, 2021, through Oct. 31, 2022, according to city building permit records. It's the second time in three years that Joplin has climbed over $200 million. (Total building in Joplin for the year that ended Oct. 31, 2020, came to nearly $246 million.) That rivals the construction that took place in 2012 and 2013, when tornado building was taking place.

3. Joplin's downtown is seeing its most dramatic levels of investment in decades, maybe in a century, with the new Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex and the Jasper County Courthouse in Joplin, which opens next month. There are two new buildings planned for the 900 block of Main Street, as well as the restoration of many iconic buildings, such as the Olivia, the Downtown Y and many others.

4. The newest Joplin school, Dover Elementary, opens to students next week. That means that nearly every school in Joplin has been dramatically upgraded or replaced in the past 15 years, beginning with the approval of a $57.3 million bond issue for the middle schools in 2007. Many of our schools were replaced following the tornado. Now, with Dover, two more older and outdated buildings, West Central and Columbia, have been replaced. Think about where we were just 15 years ago, and where we are as 2023 begins. This represents the biggest investment in school buildings in the city's history.

5. Joplin's 150th birthday is coming up, with celebrations and events next year. What would the city's founders think to look upon their community today? They would recognize that we continue to have challenges, just as they did, but they surely would marvel at how far we've come and at what's coming.

Coming tomorrow: Five more good things.