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Opinion: A look back at a decade with SBJ

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I easily can say I’m not the same reporter I was a decade ago.

In summer 2010, I was wrapping up my bachelor’s degree in print journalism at Missouri State University when I heard the web editor position had opened up at Springfield Business Journal. I tossed my hat in the ring, hoping my work at school newspapers, an internship, four years of college and a lifetime of writing would give me the edge. Looking back, SBJ took a chance on hiring a reporter as green as I was at the time.

This month marks my 10-year anniversary at SBJ, a milestone that carries with it a sense of nostalgia. Most notably, I’ve gained invaluable institutional knowledge, and thousands of editing marks on my work over the years have improved my writing.

It seems fitting that, as I look back, I share noteworthy articles from the past 10 years. They weren’t all written by me, but I grabbed a selection of stories that mean something to me and my place in the Springfield business and civic communities. I hope this list resonates with you, as well.

2010: “30 Points of Change.” This was essentially my crash course in the Springfield business world. July also is SBJ’s anniversary month, and for its 30th year, the editorial team selected 30 pivotal moments that shaped business since 1980. This is worth a read for those wanting a history lesson. SBJ staff chose the expansion of Springfield’s Medical Mile as the No. 1 story, and the list also cites the formation of Partnership Industrial Center, Hammons Field and the Springfield Cardinals.

2011: “Joplin tornado impacts 2,000 homes, businesses.” The devastation brought by this storm was a horrific reminder of the most destructive natural disaster in the Ozarks. I starkly recall the photos of the aftermath, but I also have positive memories of a community coming together to rebuild.

2012: “Restaurateur Swisshelm files for Ch. 7 bankruptcy.” I won a breaking news award for this article, in which restaurateur Bruce Swisshelm filed for bankruptcy. It was a domino effect that took San Francisco Oven, Ebbets Field and other business operations down with it. I caught wind of the bankruptcy filing in public records, and to this day, I watch them closely for leads.

2013: “Business icon Hammons dies at 94.” John Q. Hammons is arguably the most well-known Springfield businessman of all time. His legacy today isn’t what it once was, as his company no longer exists after its assets were bought out in bankruptcy proceedings following his death. Regardless, Hammons’ name will live on in Springfield business history.

2014: “Southwest Airlines exits struggling Branson Airport.” It was a major hit after years of net losses for the airport that’s technically in Hollister. Smaller airlines have helped to fill the void, but the entrance and exit of Southwest in just over a year’s time was a significant point in airport history.

2015: “Nothing to stop us.” This quote from Zac Nichols, project manager for the Dalmark Group, also was used as the article’s headline as redevelopment began in earnest on the downtown Heer’s building. I was among SBJ staff who toured the building; the transformation of a vacant, graffiti-laden building into what it is today is a tremendous feat.

2016: “Uber arrives in Springfield.” The entrance of the ride-hailing giant to the market was one that has helped to modernize the community. As we look toward the city’s future, we must embrace new technology and ideas to attract and keep talent.

2017: “Marathon efforts employed to finish WOW.” You may recall some striking artwork by my former colleague Wes Hamilton. It was a fitting tribute to the long-awaited reopening of Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium. The attraction will continue to pay dividends for our community.

2018: “Investigation continues in Ride the Ducks incident.” Seventeen people were killed in a summer accident on Table Rock Lake. It was once again a stark reminder of the destructive power of Mother Nature. And in the case of Ride the Ducks operator Ripley Entertainment, litigation following the accident should forever remind the company not to eschew signs of severe weather.

2019: “SBJ plans move to Chesterfield Village.” There are so many memories associated with SBJ’s previous home in downtown Springfield. I even lived across the street for a few years. Chesterfield Village presented lovely new digs for our team, but there will always be a part of me that misses working on Park Central West.

2020: “MSU puts temporary ban on travel to China.” This was my first bylined article this year about the coronavirus pandemic. When it was published in January, I had no idea what kind of havoc there was to come this year. Looking at the rest of my list above, there’s a part of me that wants to go back to simpler, less contagious times. I have to believe we will emerge from the pandemic stronger.

As I look back, I can’t help but look forward. Where we’ll be in the next decade is anyone’s guess, but it’s my hope to continue on this journey with you.

Springfield Business Journal Web Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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