The City of Joplin, Missouri — once a boomtown for mining of lead and zinc — is on the road to an exciting high-tech future. With a name familiar to many as a stop on Route 66, or the temporary home to Bonnie and Clyde, the community has also been impacted deeply by a significant natural disaster – an EF5 tornado that struck the City in 2011. However, in the spirit of recovery and resilience, Joplin is now aiming for a digital transformation to help advance its post-disaster community and economic development goals. Local leaders from across industry and academia, along with support from City staff, are drawing together to make Joplin a “smarter” city.

Joplin is approaching its smart city goals with three main areas of focus:

  • Closing the Digital Divide – By cost-effectively connecting all parts of the community with reliable internet access, Joplin will work to close the information gap that negatively impacts vulnerable residents and restricts the development of local businesses.
  • Technology & Entrepreneurship – Through the blending of technology and an entrepreneurial emphasis in education – including apprenticeships, mentorships, and new tech-based workforce training opportunities – Joplin will create and develop additional job opportunities with a focus on resilience and sustainability responding to the evolving global landscape.
  • Creating an Economic Development Hub – Joplin will create a connected, mixed-use, “live, work, play” area that will benefit the entire community. The economic development hub will include a ‘melting pot’ of start-ups, established businesses, university students, and other interest groups to help drive economic growth and community vitality.

Troy Bolander, Director of Planning, Development and Neighborhood Services, and a member of the Joplin Ignite team, said: “By building a “smarter” more resilient Joplin we hope to encourage talent to live, work and play in the City, as well as educate and provide new opportunities to our existing residents and businesses. As a City, we have seen continual growth through our recovery process, and through this partnership with US Ignite will be able to generate additional economic development activities that will help the city as it continues to thrive and become more resilient.”

Though the work is just beginning, Joplin Ignite is embarking on an exciting journey to drive the City to enjoy a future of improved health, ‘smarter’ prosperity, and enhanced opportunities for its citizens. As of today, Joplin is the newest member of the Smart Gigabit Community initiative, a project initially funded by the National Science Foundation.