Monday, September 24, 2007

Greensburg Green

I hate it when I’m running late, but mechanical problems on the plane from Memphis to Wichita delayed me an hour and a half. I pushed the accelerator probably a bit more than I should have as I sped to make up lost time, trying to squeeze in a tour of Greensburg, KS prior to my talk in nearby Dodge City. I made up quite a bit of time on my 100 miles trip from Wichita, but lost it all when one of Greensburg’s finest pulled me over for speeding. But this blog isn’t going to be a rant on hub-and-spoke plane systems or speeding tickets. Rather, it is on the process of rebuilding a small town after a catastrophe.

Greensburg was the town that was devastated by a EF-5 tornado on May 4, 2007 with winds of over 200 mph. I had been there in July to give a talk and tour the town and was anxious to see the changes taking place in the two months since my last visit.

Steve Kirk, the local Centera banker who brought me in initially told me of the progress being made, “We’ve now developed a long-term plan with the help of FEMA. One of the more visionary, but controversial parts of the plan, is the development of a town square park that would allow us to tie the downtown together with our one tourist attraction, the largest hand dug well in the world. We’ve gotten a lot of help from the USDA which is helping us to do a business incubator, rebuild our water tower and get a grocery store going again.”

When I was last there I had been impressed with the governmental recovery workers from FEMA, USDA and others. The interest that they displayed and their monetary help are going to allow Greensburg to rebuild itself, better than it ever was.

The town is looking at redoing itself as a ‘Green’ town, something that I believe that it could capitalize upon. While there is some resistance to rebuilding with new 2003 codes, if the local residents can continue to take a long-term approach I believe that they will look back with pride on what they have accomplished.

I was pleased to see a number of new buildings already built or under construction. Greensburg is coming back. You’ll be able to watch their progress as the Discovery Channel is planning to do a 13 episode series on the town later this year.

No comments: