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Business Class co-hosts John Wanamaker, left, and Randell Wallace are pictured next to a Paul Mueller Co. tank at a Napa Valley winery in 2015.SBJ photo by JENNIFER JACKSON
Business Class co-hosts John Wanamaker, left, and Randell Wallace are pictured next to a Paul Mueller Co. tank at a Napa Valley winery in 2015.


Opinion: Saying goodbye to Business Class

Posted online
After five years, it’s time to say goodbye to a class act. In June, approximately 30 guests gathered at Touch in south Springfield for a reunion of the Business Class event, which has honored 33 local companies since 2012 and hosted a total of 18 different winning companies on exclusive executive retreats in the Napa Valley wine country. 

Ann Marie Baker, UMB Bank’s president for its Greater Missouri Region, brought Business Class to life in Springfield out of a desire to recognize and share a meaningful experience with extraordinary leaders in the area. 

“We are so proud to have brought Business Class to the Springfield business community,” Baker said. “Recognizing best-of-class companies across the region was a tremendous privilege and pleasure.”

Baker quickly assembled a group of co-hosts in the first year to help bring her vision to fruition. Springfield Business Journal had the honor to be among them as a media sponsor and coordinator for the awards event. Each sponsor played a unique role that contributed to the overall success.

The awards recognized companies for financial performance, innovation and community involvement. Participating companies had to have been in business three years, operated their headquarters within SBJ’s 50-mile coverage area and reported at least $5 million in gross annual revenue.

“We at UMB feel it is vitally important that every company have a first-class network of experienced professionals working together to guide their path and support their success. Our partnership with BKD, Lathrop Gage and SBJ was a very fitting way to acknowledge that a professional support network is critical to all business pursuits,” Baker said.

I know I speak for each of the sponsors in saying that we accomplished all that Baker envisioned we could and then some. We were able to shine a light on some of Springfield’s most extraordinary companies in a grand way and really get to know the leaders that make them great.

“The trip itself was outstanding and allowed us to develop personal relationships with the business executives and their spouses in a way that you can never achieve through other sponsorships,” said Business Class co-host John Wanamaker, a BKD managing partner.

I agree. None of us could have anticipated the memories, friendships and partnerships that would evolve and continue to grow as a result.

Springfield Business Journal Publisher Jennifer Jackson can be reached at
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