For Nathan Bemo and John Hunter, a community-centered mission drives their co-owned skatepark design and construction business, American Ramp Company (ARC). ARC started in 1998, operating out of a garage in Joplin despite Bemo’s plans to move to the West Coast.
“I never actually intended to stay in Joplin,” explains Bemo, President of ARC. “Up until I finished high school, I spent a majority of my life in southeast Asia. My plan was to move to California where I could pursue my passion for skateboarding.”
Instead, when Bemo graduated boarding school in Malaysia, he stayed with his grandmother in Joplin while he attended Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) and Ozark Christian College, where he met his wife. From there, Bemo’s roots in Joplin “kept getting deeper.”
After graduation, Bemo had an opportunity to design and build a skatepark and ARC officially began. Today, their services include designing and building above-and in-ground skateparks and “pro-ops,” or professionally endorsed features like rails and ramps. They are also expanding their cycling infrastructure, Progressive Bike Ramps, by offering bike park and pumptrack design and construction. Part of this includes advocating for the benefits of these projects.
“If we create places that get kids to fall in love with riding their bikes when they are young, we believe that they will become healthy, happier adults,” explains Hunter, Vice President of ARC.
Making this positive impact is a main goal of the company. They recognize that creating a space, like a skatepark, that someone can belong to and become a part of is significant because, as Hunter puts it, “The trajectory of their life changes for the positive.”
This determination to change communities with safe places to gather and play has brought ARC to all 50 states in the U.S. and 40 different countries around the world. Still, they say that their favorite projects are the ones that can make a big impact in a small community.
“High-profile, big-budget projects like downtown Miami, Florida or Dubai in the United Arab Emirates get a lot of attention and are great for our portfolio,” says Hunter. “But the small town park builds with lots of community involvement are really rewarding to work on.”
These small town projects include an in-ground skatepark built in Bemo and Hunter’s own community of Joplin. This is Bemo’s favorite project, and despite his initial plans to relocate, the two of them agree that Joplin is the right place for ARC to be.
With a low cost of living, a skilled labor force, and a central location beside two major interstates, it’s clear why Joplin is a good place for any business. But there are also less tangible qualities that Hunter sees as some of the area’s best offerings.
“The small town feel, toughness, friendly people who care about their community. Almost every time we have visitors from out of town visit our office, they comment on the community,” he explains. “They see Joplin as a fairly large metro area, but everyone is so connected.”
They predict that more people and businesses will begin to see these aspects and recognize that Joplin is quickly becoming a prime place to work, play, and do business.
“Joplin already has so much going for it,” says Hunter. “I believe there is going to be a business industry migration out of big coastal cities into America’s heartland. Both literally and figuratively, you can’t get more heartland than Joplin.”
To learn more about American Ramp Company, visit their website here.