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Opinion: Something to Behold

12 People You Need to Know in 2023

Posted online

The birth of an idea is something to behold, and this editorial project has a good origin story.

The idea bubbled up from the newsroom in 2007. Yes, way back then. And it was not an idea for the monthly live interview series you know today. Nope, Springfield Business Journal editors at the time pitched the idea for a special publication to highlight 10 businesspeople who were doing exceptional works, held influential positions and were in new roles or newcomers to Springfield. It was a Top 10 list of sorts, with profile stories.

I remember that meeting with the management team. As good leaders can do, they took our newsroom idea and expanded it. It went something like, “You know, if we add two businesspeople to the list, that makes 12. There are 12 months in a year. We could produce the publication and hold a monthly event with interviews of each.”

We looked at each other, wide-eyed. Brilliant! You’ve had those kinds of moments in your offices, I’m sure.

SBJ began to tell stories in a brand-new way. To paraphrase SBJ Publisher Jennifer Jackson, we’re making the stories on the page come to life with these events.

The first year of the project, 2008, our editors selected an FBI special agent (Josh Nixon), a St. Louis developer readying to buy and redevelop the Heer’s building (Kevin McGowan) and John Q. Hammons’ right-hand man, who’s left a strong and sweet legacy following his recent death (Scott Tarwater, age 74).

Over the years, I’ve interviewed a legal pioneer who now has a Springfield chamber award named in her memory (Virginia Fry); a Super Bowl champion (Grant Wistrom); the namesake of Andy’s Frozen Custard (Andy Kuntz); the lone Democrat representing southwest Missouri in the state capitol at the time (Crystal Quade); the open-book management czar (Jack Stack); a global small-batch chocolatier (Shawn Askinosie); and the co-founder of Silver Dollar City (Peter Herschend)

This class follows in those steps. Occasionally, it’s worthwhile to pause and reflect.

This is the origin of 12 People, and the 2023 group is its future. Let’s step into it together.

Enjoy the read, and come listen to their stories throughout the year.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson can be reached at


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