How does a community, business owner, tourist attraction, farmer, homeowner go on after the disastrous 2011 Missouri River flood? At a news conference on May 17, the message was clear: it took determination, community strength and perseverance. With great pride, communities and businesses announced that the Missouri River “MINK” Corridor is “Open for Business”.
The news conference was hosted by a coalition of communities and organizations in the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas (MINK). The members are in counties two deep on either side of the river. MINK knows no borders crossing county and state lines, and is helping each other in community development efforts. The genesis for MINK was a Midwest meeting in Madison, Wis. in May, 2010, hosted by the Partnership for Rural America through an agreement with USDA Rural Development.
Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City, MO was the site of the news conference, attended by multiple media. More than 60 people were present, where community members and business owners gave testimonials and resource providers offered their assistance.
On hand were USDA Rural Development, Economic Development Administration and the Small Business Administration representatives who shared the resources they have to offer in the continued recovery efforts.
Several spoke of their personal flooding encounters and recovery successes. Bill Hutting, owner of Sportsman’s Lodge at Bigelow, MO said, “People ask me how long I’ve been in business and I tell them ‘two floods’. Bill’s business is definitely a rural one, located in the thriving community of Bigelow, population 12, even though the sign says 32, according to Bill. Since moving back to Holt County a couple years ago and buying the lodge, Bill has survived two floods and a major break-in, but he is going to stick with his dream.
Bill Sapp, an owner of Sapp Bros. Travel Center at the intersection of I-29 and Highway 2 in Iowa reported that during the four months of closing, not one of his employees were laid off as he was able to keep all his staff employed by having them help lay sand bags to build a barrier around his business to alleviate damage and help the business reopen as soon as the highways were repaired. He also had his employees help with the cleanup of Highway 2 businesses in the area. “We are back better than ever and I attribute that to the positive approach taken,” said Sapp.
Bob Chitwood, a member of the Merchants Association of Brownville, Neb., and representatives of the Brownville Historical Society, discussed the impact the flood had on tourism in their village of 130. Bob estimated that they lost 50 percent in tourist attendance and in revenue. But, like Bill Sapp, Bob says they are back stronger. Gary Satter, Glacial Hills RC&D Executive Director at Wetmore, KS spoke of the recovery efforts in Kansas.
It was just a year ago, that the Missouri River was out of its banks and causing bridge closings, interrupting highway traffic and affecting the livelihoods of farmers and small town businesses. But this year, the corridor between the metro areas of Omaha and Kansas City is rebounding.