Courtesy of Mercy Hospital, Joplin, Mo.
Courtesy of Mercy Hospital, Joplin, Mo.

Following the 2011 tornado that decimated Joplin, Mo., a remarkable rebuild of the city that continues to take place has resulted in opportunities for local glass businesses that are doing their part in the years-long effort.

Greg Dodson, owner and president of Commercial Glass & Metal in Joplin, was called into action within two days of the natural disaster. Fortunately, Dodson’s shop is located eight blocks from the tornado’s destructive path, so the company was ready right away to go to work.

The company began by doing glass replacement and repair work after receiving calls almost immediately. Then, Dodson says, “Things slowed down for a while,” as immediate needs and efforts to shore up damaged property gave way to longer-term groundwork—i.e., making plans to rebuild various buildings, acquiring building permits, and so forth.

Before long, though, Commercial Glass & Metal was busy with bigger jobs. “Actually, it’s been really good for us,” Dodson says of the post-tornado business environment. Business has been up approximately 50 percent compared to just prior to the tornado, he says.

At last count, the rebuild has totaled more than $997 million. Dodson and other members of the local glass community, however, agree that part of their business growth is attributable to the fact that the town was feeling the effects of the nation’s recession around that time, so business was especially sluggish just prior to the tornado. This made the rebound more pronounced.

Increased awareness of natural disasters across the country and worldwide has raised the issue of whether localities, states, and nations will move toward new options in construction and stricter codes. Japan, for instance, is said to have some of the world’s most stringent building codes, even prior to the tsunami and earthquake tragedy of 2011. Such considerations have reached straight to Joplin, although the impact on the glass business does not appear to be substantial.

The only major project to use impact-resistant glazing that Dodson knows of is the hospital, which, incidentally, may be the largest rebuilding project in the city.  “People talked about it and looked into it, but we haven’t really done much of that,” says Dodson.

Curtainwall company EFCO Corp., which is in nearby Monett, Mo., also has been busy since the tornado. The company has experienced double digit growth, right at about 10 percent, every year since the natural disaster. “Part of it was the market was really in the tank before then,” says Jack Williams, EFCO’s director of product marketing, also confirming, “we did quite a bit of work, particularly right after the tornado,” he says.

Commercial Glass & Metal continues to do projects related to the 2011 disaster. It worked on Irving Middle School, which just opened after the Christmas break, and is also hard at work on Joplin’s brand-new high school, which is slated to open in August for the new school year—an indication that the rebuild continues. Other possible major projects, from an arena to a new library, are being discussed by the city, Dodson says.

Likewise, Williams and EFCO, in fact are anticipating “a miniboom” once the hospital is complete. He notes that with new hospitals come the need for additional doctors’ offices and other facilities, resulting in further economic activity.