On the Move! Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce

Having trails, and a community known for its active lifestyle, will help Joplin attract and retain talent for local businesses.—Toby Teeter, Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce president

By Kathleen Swift

Toby Teeter, the recently named Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce president, brings new ideas to his leadership role. An attorney and entrepreneur by background, Teeter has initiated a movement toward healthier lifestyles for the chamber and the community.

In explaining what sparked this initiative, Teeter explains many local organizations have been making the shift toward more active, healthier lifestyles.

“The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce wants to be a leader in this area because it will enhance economic prosperity and quality of life. A set of statistics brought the health of the Joplin area into focus. People in the Joplin area have some of the highest Body Mass Indices in the state, and Missouri is one of the worst states in the nation for high BMI indices. We also noted that 15 percent of the population in the area has diabetes or pre-diabetes caused by well-known risk factors.

“We are working with local schools and business leaders to integrate more physical activity into our businesses and schools. For example, we encourage small groups of people to meet and go for a walk while discussing an issue rather than sitting in a conference room.”

Teeter noted the sea change in the growth of the number of people using local hiking and biking trails.

“The Frisco Trail is being extended to Oronogo by volunteers where it will T into the Ruby Jack Trail. It will provide 35 miles of walking, running and biking trail from Carl Junction to Carthage. Volunteers are also working to add 3.5 miles of mountain biking trails near Dover Hill. We are part of the outdoor belt. Look at the trail system in Northwest Arkansas and the hunting and fishing promoted through Bass Pro. Our trail system and our local runs such as the annual Turkey Trot and the Joplin Memorial Run are already putting Joplin on the map. ”

Adding opportunities for outdoor activity and encouraging adding activity during business hours makes good economic sense, too.

“Twenty and 30-year-olds are looking to live and work in communities with these amenities. Having trails, and a community known for its active lifestyle, will help Joplin attract and retain talent for local businesses. That, in turn, affects our ability to grow. Millennials and those in Generation Z are more interested in maximizing life,” says Teeter. “They want to have enough income to live, but quality of life is even more important to them. That includes having access to trails, walkable streets, bike lanes and healthier dining options.”

In an effort to attract and retain younger workers, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce is working with private and public entities to encourage investments and initiatives toward more active lifestyles. Teeter hopes to add more activity to some of the Chamber meetings, too.

“I envision a coffee crawl on bicycles. A Chamber group could meet in the parking lot, ride eight miles to a coffee shop for a discussion and then ride back. It mixes business, socializing and activity leading to healthier lifestyles.”

This doesn’t mean the traditional Chamber groups won’t exist, but Teeter hopes to activate business in the community to extend their traditional programs to add active lifestyle activities. It’s not only a generational shift in outlook, but Teeter hopes to modernize the approach toward these types of activities.

“We are one Chamber, and we work together in getting all of our members working together and staying active.”