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Opinion: Who do you need to know in 2012?

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It’s the time of year that Springfield Business Journal’s editors huddle around the conference table and hash out our selections for the next class of 12 People You Need To Know.

The editorial project – noteworthy in our newsroom as the only special event/product with an in-house selection committee – is wrapping up its fourth year. Last week, I interviewed trial attorney-turned-chocolatier Shawn Askinosie, and I’ll finish the monthly Q&A breakfast with photographer Randy Bacon on Dec. 13.

We’ve made our choices of the 12 People in 2012, sent out our invitations and now we wait for the replies.

Below is a tease of our budding list. The full booklet will be published in the Dec. 19 double issue, and the full event schedule will be noted in upcoming issues.
  • Jeff Schrag of Mother’s Brewing Co. and The Daily Events. It’s not that much of a stretch that a seasoned newspaper guy has an affinity to beer, but there’s something magical with the way his craft brewery has become instantly popular – including product placement in area Wal-Mart stores.
  • Steve Edwards of CoxHealth. On New Year’s Day, CoxHealth will have a new chief at the top. Edwards, a nearly 20-year CoxHealth veteran, was quickly appointed president and CEO by the hospital system’s board to succeed the retiring Bob Benzanson. His responsibilities: four hospitals, 63 clinics, 850 beds and $1.4 billion in annual revenues.
  • Jennifer Baker of Forest Institute of Professional Psychology. She was recently named director of the institute’s Robert J. Murney Clinic and is best known for leading Operation Us, a relationship education program for couples and families. When asked how nonprofits can best help our city, city leaders have said by keeping families together. Baker and Operation Us aim to fight our city’s divorce rate.
  • Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC, Houlihan’s restaurants and O’Reilly & Jenson. He seemingly wears an attorney hat during the day and flips to his hotel and restaurateur developer caps by night. Both roles buck the family connection to O’Reilly Automotive Inc. Coincidentally, the 12 People breakfast series was held this year at O’Reilly’s newest Springfield property, the Hilton Garden Inn at the James River Freeway and Glenstone Avenue interchange.
  • Phill Burgess of John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts. As vice president of sales and revenue management, Burgess is responsible for the hotel development company’s $800 million 2012 budget. With the economic climate, however, the company will be doing less developing and more renovating of current properties. Additionally, the health of the man whose name the company bears remains top of mind.
  • Brian Weiler of Springfield-Branson National Airport. Weiler is in the driver’s seat at the airport, which just concluded nearly $150 million in capital improvements. The new digs should be comfortable to Weiler, a licensed pilot and the former multimodal director for the Missouri Department of Transportation in Jefferson City.
Arvest Bank just signed on as annual sponsor, a position it has held since we rolled out the program in 2008.

Our four-pronged barometer remains: young up-and-comers; influential yet behind the scenes personnel; newcomers to the area or to their positions; and notable names with whom readers would like to get up close and personal.

We do hear declines from candidates for reasons such as it not being comfortable or advantageous for the source, their associates deserve the attention or if the subject company should have a clouded past. And when that occurs, those voices are missed. We put great care and consideration into these selections. The individuals chosen are newsworthy, and we feel they have some level of responsibility to address the business community in their roles. The invitation is an opportunity to accept a bit of the spotlight and share it with colleagues or products.

Last week, Askinosie shared with guests a new chocolate bar made in collaboration with Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago. The duo released the dark chocolate and coffee bar the very day of the breakfast, giving our guests an exclusive sampling along with the unique business advice from an international small businessman who just notched 1 million miles flown with American Airlines.

We expect more of the same great stories, business insights and networking connections from our 12 People in 2012.

Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.[[In-content Ad]]

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