By: Brian Evans

Over the past few years, Joplin businesses have been placed into seemingly impossible situations by our leaders in Washington DC, Jefferson City, and in Joplin! These extreme measures led to business closures, bankruptcies, plummeting sales, and bleak sales forecasts regarding future profits for their businesses and companies, especially locally owned small businesses!

Sadly, our own leadership in Joplin chose to follow the direction of government officials who mandated the closure of our own local businesses during the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those unprecedented, excessive, unconstitutional, and destructive measures led to a massive downturn in our economy, business failures, growing unemployment and poverty, a shrinking middle class, and massive losses in business revenue and personal income for most of our local citizenry.

As a result of these burdens to our local economy and small businesses, our nation and city succumbed to sharp increase in the number of reported cases of depression, drug abuse, mental illness, untreated and undiagnosed diseases like cancer and heart disease, suicide, dependency on taxpayer handouts, children falling behind in school, and countless other public health and financial crises!

In regards to Joplin small businesses, and what I also find extremely concerning, is how the mandate didn’t treat all businesses the same, as it didn’t shut down all businesses. In fact, it strategically targeted locally owned small businesses for shutdown, while simutaneously giving explicit permission for global, wealthy, multi-billion dollar corporations to remain open for in person, drive-thru, and pick-up business! 

As a result of these authoritarian and politically motivated actions by our national, state, and even local government leaders, multi-millions of dollars in revenue that would have been destined for our locally owned Joplin small businesses, families, and for our community, were re-routed to multi-billion dollar corporations located in other cities, states, and nations! 

The result of these actions led to companies like Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, and other corporate based businesses to come to realize historic increases in their own sales, as it caused an explosion in overall corporate profit margins!

Meanwhile, small businesses were left in the cold trying to pick up the pieces, as many were forced to file for bankruptcy and/or government assistance, many times unsuccessfully, and then struggling to remain open, remain staffed, and provide for their families. These actions have led to the multitude of other crises that our nation and city are now undergoing!

Unfortunately, our government leaders didn’t stop there! In fact, after the lockdowns, our city placed even further burdens on our locally owned small Joplin businesses by mandating that they post signs in their windows that said customers were required to wear masks when patronizing their establishments. Regardless of how business owners felt, whether they were for or against the mask mandate, whether they were for or against wearing of masks, the business owners were hit with even further revenue losses. Therefore, they had greater difficulties in keeping their stores afloat, despite the fact that it was not even their choice, as the government took it upon themselves to take control of local businesses governance. Regardless of government being responsible for the mandated closures and masking in businesses, it led to many of our Joplin businesses customers choosing to shop in Webb City, the surrounding communities, or even worse…ONLINE! 

Many shoppers from Joplin and outlying areas who normally patronized our local businesses and shops unfortunatly decided to completely avoid local small business stores in Joplin, and thus gave their money and business to communities that didn’t require masks, or corporate stores who already had in place pick-up and delivery services; thus allowing some to avoid wearing masks at all, and others to punish small businesses who didn’t submit to the government’s demands!

 Our Joplin store owners, who include our family members, neighbors, and friends, were sadly caught in uncharted territory, as some of their longtime customers, friends, and sometimes even family members quit patronizing their establishments because of the signage that they were forced to post on their doors by city officials. Others chose to shop elsewhere, simply because they felt that store management was not being confrontational enough with their guests and demanding they mask up! Ironically, others were angry and went elsewhere because the store management was asking patrons to wear a mask. It was a damned if you do…damned if you don’t scenario that our leadership placed our local businesses into.

Sadly, these targeted measures hurt the Joplin residents who own local small businesses the most, as they had their livelihood stolen and redistributed to the rich corporations who suddenly became flushed with even greater riches! Simultaneously, employees had their hours cut or eliminated, as businesses began to lose profits and struggled for survival and profitability!

Now, our small businesses are looking for an advocate who will stand up for their right to make their own decisions that impact their livelihoods, unimpeded by our government leaders! They are looking for someone who will fight for their right to not only exist, but to thrive in a world that seems to have turned against them! 

This is why I would like to form a coalition of Joplin business owners who can meet quarterly to brainstorm and discuss new ideas to promote Joplin businesses, increase revenues, fight inflationary effects, and grow Joplin in such a way as to help their businesses not simply survive, but to flourish, fill job vacancies, and grow new jobs. Consequently, this would assist in lowering the unemployment rate for our city’s residents, and allow Joplin residents to get back to work so they can afford to put food on the table, and shelter over their head, especially in this current down economy!

As of December 12, 2021, our nation is suffering from a massive 6.8% inflation rate, combined with a high unemployment rate, which results in stagflation. 

This inflation rate not only impacts Americans across this nation, but it also causes a loss in sales and revenue right here in Joplin. Unfortunately our small businesses are the least able to handle declining sales.

In addition, what our leaders don’t talk about enough, or more likely…DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT is how our soaring inflation rate is actually a massive tax on the poor and middle classes, who are now beginning to bear the brunt of this nation’s economic woes!

It is a dire situation for both Joplin businesses, and our residents who are not only trying to earn a living and provide for their families, but it makes it difficult for everyone, as they struggle to pay their bills, keep a roof over their families heads, and put food on the table! 

To make matters worse, the irresponsible actions in Washington D.C. by our national leadership is hurting the poorest in our community the most! Actions like how the current Administration ended America’s energy independence, causing our nation to be dependent on foreign nations oil from the Middle East and Russia. It is causing extremely expensive gasoline, heating, and energy costs, while concurrently endangering our nation’s security!

Ultimately, to remedy our business and job situation in Joplin, I would like to facilitate the creation and implementation of a Joplin business delegation, which would be composed of locally owned businesses to brainstorm and streamline the best ways to promote Joplin’s business growth, needs, and concerns. The delegation should be composed of all sectors of Joplin business to gain full understanding of the needs, concerns, and impact of those policies on ALL BUSINESSES! It can be put into action by utilizing in person and/or online meetings if necessary, to allow larger participation throughout the business and working community, as we all know that business owners are very busy!

There needs to be a prioritization of the needs and concerns, including addressing small business growth,  expansion of businesses in the city, promotion of ‘SHOP JOPLIN’, as well as addressing staffing shortages to help businesses find ways to help our citizens get back to work, and to get their businesses fully staffed and operational! In addition, the city needs to find ways to streamline business permit, licensing, and inspection processes to make it easier, and more affordable for start up businesses to get launched and off the ground.

Furthermore, Joplin needs to make sure the city has improved technology capabilities such as broadband, so our community is able to support not only business needs, but keep up with the growing community needs as a whole.

The city also needs to look into the feasibility of the creation of an online directory of local businesses, products, and services available locally, as well as an interactive map to help direct potential customers to the products, foods, services, or activities, as a way to encourage local shopping, and create business and job growth in Joplin. Currently, too many people find it easier to go online and buy products, as they don’t know where to look for those items, and don’t want to drive from business to business, trying to find specific products or services that the consumers need or want.

Also, to make the platform more competitive with online retailers, there needs to be a discussion of bringing in delivery services that can service all Joplin businesses, as we make Joplin have its own ‘Amazon Style’ service for our local businesses!

To better facilitate that, I would like to potentially bring in our colleges to discuss the feasibility for Joplin’s creation of an online platform that all businesses could connect their stores to, which would be like an Amazon type site for Joplin businesses. Customers could type in specific products or services, and search all across Joplin for those items. Then, they would be able to buy and hold those items with a connected map to direct them to the businesses where they made their purchases. To make it even better, I would also like to check into the feasibility of bringing in delivery services like doordash and other companies who could offer delivery of their purchases. It would finally help level the playing field for our small businesses in regards to competing with Amazon, Wal-Mart, and other major online retailers who already have the infrastructure in place!

Finally, in order to protect our Joplin small businesses, our city should never allow for the targeted shut down of our local small businesses, especially while simutaneously allowing corporate stores to remain open to the public! 

Our city should never put the burden of enforcing mask mandates on businesses that pit business owners against their customers, which costs them crucial clientele; therefore, financially and wrongfully burdening and hurting Joplin businesses.

In the end, it is not the place of government to rule over our citizens, but instead it is to safeguard their freedoms and liberties. In fact, in the words of the late President Ronald Reagan…

Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for existing

Ronald Reagan

Therefore, if the residents of our great city give me the distinct honor of serving as their voice on Joplin’s city council, I will defend the rights and liberties of the people of Joplin, so that not only would our citizens right to work and provide for their families be protected, but also I would fight to help strengthen our community! I will fight to help defend the businesses right to not only survive, but to thrive, and for that reason, I would give a voice to all business owners, so they no longer feel ignored, and so they have direct input in the direction of our economy and a voice in government decisions that directly impact their business! That way we would be able to ensure our cities future growth, stability, and strength, as we make Joplin businesses strong, employment strong, and ‘Joplin Strong’!