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Small Business Administration to present disaster recovery awards to Joplin businessmen

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News release from the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce:

The U.S. SmallBusiness Administration presents two disaster recovery awards each year, andthis year those two awards are going to Joplin businessmen. Joplin Area Chamberof Commerce President Rob O'Brian and Amplify Gymnastics owners Paul Comstedt,Derek Hammeke and Kip Johnson, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce members, willeach receive the Phoenix Award June 21 in Washington, D.C. The SBA presents theaward to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayselflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster whilecontributing toward rebuilding their communities.

Joplin Area Chamber of CommercePresident Rob O'Brian will receive the Phoenix Award for his outstandingcontribution to disaster recovery following the May 22, 2011 tornado.

"We're extremely proud ofRob, whose quick thinking and professionalism when things were so chaotichelped business owners know the next step to take," said Joplin AreaChamber of Commerce Board Chairman Larry Warren. "And Rob used that samecalmness to guide the Chamber staff through a stressful time. They were dealingwith their own losses, yet they forged ahead to make sure Joplin businesseswere looked after. We're honored to have such high-caliber leadership and staffat the Chamber."

The tornado destroyed or damagedmore than 550 businesses, and nearly 5,000 jobs were in danger of being lost.Just days after the tornado struck, the Chamber secured space for the SBA'sBusiness Recovery Center to open, and within three weeks most of the affectedbusinesses were contacted. Today, 500 affected companies are still operating,and more than 100 new employers have opened their doors in the Joplin region.

Comstedt, Hammeke and Johnson,owners of Amplify Gymnastics, will receive the Phoenix Award for their effortsto rebuild their business despite overwhelming odds while contributing to therecovery of their community.

Amplify Gymnastics was destroyedby the tornado just a few days before its grand opening. The owners secured anSBA disaster loan for $256,100, which covered rebuilding costs and operatingexpenses. Amplify opened in February 2012 with an enrollment of more than 200athletes, which grew to 300 within a few months, surpassing the owners'five-year enrollment goal. They are planning to expand soon.

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