Tornado Creates Tragic Opportunity for Builders in Joplin

Rebuilding in the wake of tornado-wrought devastation has created hundreds of millions of dollars of immediate opportunity for commercial contractors in Joplin, Mo.

"The numbers are starting to add up quickly," said Bill Hannah, CEO of Conway's Nabholz Construction Corp. "It wouldn't surprise me if it hit $1 billion."

The multiple vortex EF5 storm laid waste to the Joplin High School campus and severely damaged other school buildings around town. Nabholz is submitting a proposal to the Joplin School District to replace and repair its facilities.

Hannah estimates a new high school campus could run as high as $60 million and $15 million for each lower school that is replaced.

The swirling blast of 200-mph wind essentially gutted St. John's Regional Health Center. Hannah said the nine-story structure appeared to be salvageable but wonders if officials will decide to replace the building. A new hospital complex would amount to a $75 million to $100 million project. (The hospital's owner, Sisters of Mercy Health System, announced Wednesday that it would rebuild but acknowledged that the damaged building "may not be salvageable.")

The Joplin storm hammered the large trucking terminal owned by Con-way Inc. that Nabholz originally built for Consolidated Freightways, which drew a call for help.

"We rounded up some emergency response people and sent them up there," Hannah said. "We're sending volunteers to Joplin to help with debris removal, too. Some employees had family in the area. I don't think anyone had lost anybody the last we heard."