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Biz 100

Meet the 2018 Biz 100

Our annual list of the most powerful and influential business leaders in southwest Missouri is back for year three.

By Adrienne Donica, Evan Greenberg, Rose Marthis, Claire Porter and Lillian Stone

Nov 2018

Visionary. Tenacious. Innovative. These are just a few words that describe our 2018 list of the most powerful and influential business leaders in 417-land. This year, you’ll find 17 new faces—including Person of the Year, Gov. Mike Parson—and discover new achievements by our returning honorees. Consider this your guidebook to making connections in southwest Missouri’s business community.

METHODOLOGY

The Biz 100 is selected by Biz 417’s editors, publishers and advisory board members each May. We evaluate current and prospective honorees based on their individual business success, their impact on the local business community and their community involvement. Current honorees are eligible to appear again, but as people retire, leave the area or otherwise take a step back, they can be taken off the list. Leaders can come from any industry and hold any title; however, we are looking for people who truly can move the needle in one or more areas listed above. Some leaders on this list might prefer to avoid the limelight, but we have chosen to brag about them anyway. For more information or to tell us who we missed, visit biz417.com/nominate.

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Mike Parsons
Photo by Brandon Alms
Missouri Governor
Wheatland High School
Holding political office wasn’t on Mike Parson’s radar until the early 1990s when the Polk County sheriff, who was heading for retirement, encouraged Parson to become his replacement. So began the Wheatland native’s decades-long career in various public offices. Our 2018 Person of the Year, Parson has served in the Missouri House and Senate before being elected as lieutenant governor in 2016. This June, he moved into the governor’s office after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned. Now, he has set his sights on improving infrastructure and facing the state’s workforce development challenges head-on. Read our full profile here.
Architecture
Photo by About Faces
Rita Baron
Principal, Baron Design & Associates LLC
Drury College (now Drury University), B.Arch
Leadership is a central component of Rita Baron’s life. In 2003, the principal founded Baron Design & Associates LLC, a firm with clients in medical, financial, government, corporate, university, restaurant and hospitality sectors. “A mentor told me to stop waiting for someone else to show me how to lead and be the leader,” Baron says. This year, Baron was named chair of the Drury University board of trustees, the first woman to hold the position. She also serves on the board of directors for OakStar Bank and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Rita Baron’s professional standing. She is an associate member of the American Institute of Architects.
Brad Erwin
President and Principal Architect, Paragon Architecture
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.S. in architectural studies, M.Arch
A Chicago native, Brad Erwin moved to Springfield in 2003. His love for Wrigley Field sparked an interest in baseball stadium design. In 2001, he visited every MLB stadium and designed some stadium replicas for Ballparks of America in Branson. This year, his firm was involved in creating the O’Reilly Center for Hope community hub.
NEW IN 2018: Erwin’s growing architecture firm opened a new office in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis, expanding the company’s reach across the state.
 
John Oke-Thomas
President and CEO, Oke-Thomas + Associates Inc.
Drury College (now Drury University), B.Arch
John Oke-Thomas has led architectural and construction management firm Oke-Thomas + Associates for more than 20 years. He is a founding member and past president of Minorities in Business, and the U.S. Small Business Association named him the 2011 Minority Business Person of the Year. He and his wife, Helen, have four children.
NEW IN 2018: Oke-Thomas joined the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors and is designing a 40,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing plant.
 
Tim Rosenbury
Managing Partner, Butler, Rosenbury & Partners
Mississippi State University, B.Arch
Tim Rosenbury has been part of the Springfield business community for 33 years, watching the city grow, getting involved and honing his leadership skills. “My role as a leader is to lead people to accomplish things they didn’t believe they could,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: Butler, Rosenbury & Partners celebrated not only its 40th anniversary but also its placement as No. 111 on Design + Construction’s Giants 300 list of the nation’s largest architecture, engineering and construction firms.
Arts & Entertainment
Photo by Alex Soloman
Beth Domann
Executive Director, Springfield Little Theatre
Stephens College, B.F.A. in theatre with an emphasis in directing
Beth Domann, a self-described introvert, grew up in Springfield theatre, first appearing on the Landers Theatre stage in 1978. She considers the building to be the heartbeat of Springfield Little Theatre. “It is our job and in our mission statement to take care of this beautiful building,” Domann says. “We are the only arts organization in Springfield that owns our own building.”
NEW IN 2018: Springfield Little Theatre is in the midst of a $5 million capital campaign to preserve the Landers Theatre and to buy and renovate the former McDaniel School for SLT’s educational programs.
Jack Herschend
Co-founder and Co-owner, Herschend Enterprises
Northwestern University, B.S. in business
Jack Herschend loves the environment as much as he loves creating theme parks around it—Silver Dollar City isn’t nestled in the Ozarks woodlands for nothing. In 1992, he began a program to reforest the Ozarks hills, and his Gift of Green project has donated and planted more than 250,000 trees since beginning. His efforts were recognized in 1999 with an award from the National Arbor Day Foundation, and several of SDC’s coasters pay homage to his work by providing an unbeatable view of the tree-filled hills surrounding the park.
NEW IN 2018: USA Today ranked SDC among its 10 Best Amusement Parks.
Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City
Peter Herschend
Co-founder and Co-owner, Herschend Enterprises
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in business
From roller coasters to education, Peter Herschend is bettering 417-land from the ground up. The Herschend Enterprises co-founder and co-owner is well-known for his efforts to improve Missouri tourism—namely, his penchant for developing roads, improving environmental awareness and extending the annual tourism season in Branson. Now, Herschend is officially back on the Missouri Board of Education, and he’s ready to take Missouri’s approach to early childhood education to the next level. The co-founder of Herschend Family Entertainment Corp.—formerly Silver Dollar City Inc.—has history on the board, serving three eight-year terms, including two terms as president. Herschend was re-appointed to the board by Gov. Mike Parson after a brief departure. Now, he can continue mapping out how to expand the reach of early childhood education across the state.
 
Mary Kellogg-Joslyn
President, Chief Operating Officer and Co-owner, Titanic Museum Attraction
Monmouth High School
Mary Kellogg-Joslyn is sharing the majesty of the historic ocean liner Titanic at Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson and in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Kellogg-Joslyn previously worked for The Walt Disney Co. and for CBS, where she earned Emmy awards.
NEW IN 2018: Kellogg-Joslyn and her team tested opening both locations of Titanic Museum Attraction early one day a week so children with autism and their families can enjoy the museum without crowds. The museum is now rolling out the program year-round.
“Set goals and set expectations and inspire.“—Mary Kellogg-Joslyn
 
Brad Thomas
President, Silver Dollar City Attractions
Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in human resources and marketing, MBA
In Brad Thomas’s 27 years with Silver Dollar City, he’s had his fair share of honest and tough conversations, which he says lead to even better problem solving—but if he needs to decompress, you can find him screaming it out on a roller coaster. Thomas ensures SDC’s organization is people-focused on employees, guests and experiences.
NEW IN 2018: Not only did the highly anticipated Time Traveler coaster open this year, but Thomas’s focus on customer experience has also paid off, as SDC’s Old Time Christmas was named USA Today’s Best Theme Park Holiday Event at the tail end of last year.
AUTOMOBILES & TRANSPORTATION
 
Bob Beine
Owner and President, Beine Automotive Group
William Jewell College, B.S. in business and marketing
Growing up the stepson of a Ford dealer in Kansas, Bob Beine always knew he would be in the automotive business. What he didn’t know was that he would build his business in Missouri after selling cars in college and then become the president of several local dealerships. “Don’t be afraid to be successful,” says Beine, a 2013 recipient of the Missourian Award.
DID YOU KNOW? Outside the showroom, Beine stays active in the community as a member of the World Presidents Organization and Rotary Club. Beine also serves on the board of directors for SFC Bank and OTC Foundation.
 
J. Howard Fisk
Owner, J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc.
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in business administration, B.S. in marketing and design
The name Fisk has become instantly recognizable in local transportation. J. Howard Fisk, a lifelong 417-lander, has spent more than four decades leading his company and serving on boards of numerous community organizations. He is proudly involved in Sons of the American Revolution and celebrates the life of William Freeman, the only patriot buried in the Springfield National Cemetery.
DID YOU KNOW? Fisk is a Vietnam veteran who moved to Springfield in 1973 after being discharged from the Navy. He and his wife, Jan, founded their company three years later.
 
Jan Fisk
Chief Financial Officer, J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc. General Councilmember A and Mayor Pro Tem, City of Springfield
Lebanon High School
Jan Fisk co-founded J. Howard Fisk Limousines Inc. with her husband. In 1980, she started working there full-time and brought experience in architecture, hospitality and commercial construction. Fisk has been on Springfield City Council since 2012 and works with Sister Cities as well as on committees for Plans and Policies, Community Involvement, Tourism Funding and Mayor’s Commission for Children.
NEW IN 2018: The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce awarded Fisk the ATHENA Award for her career and community involvement.
Photo by Kristina Bridges Templeton Courtesy of Ozarks Technical Community College
Rick Hughlett
Owner, Rick's Automotive
Parkview High School
In 1980, Rick Hughlett and his wife, Karen, opened Rick’s Automotive. Hughlett invests in his team fully because he says they are the future of the business. And after 38 years, Hughlett is preparing for the future by grooming the next generation to lead his company. If you’re looking for Hughlett, try looking up. When the skies are clear, the commercial hot air balloon pilot can be found floating the evening away.
NEW IN 2018: This fall, Rick’s Automotive rolled out a new pick-up and delivery service. For a small fee, the company will pick up your car for service and deliver it when it’s done so you never have to leave the office—or couch.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Robert Low
President and Owner, Prime Inc.
Skyline High School
Back in 1969, a 19-year-old Robert Low started driving a dump truck, which led him to form an official company, Prime Inc., one year later. The next 10 years brought quick growth, and by 1979 Low had profited $1 million. However, his success halted in the early ’80s, when Prime went bankrupt. Low restructured his business model and placed high value on personal responsibility and teamwork—values that are also key to Low’s basketball games with Prime associates.
NEW IN 2018: Low and his wife, Lawana, own Primatara horse farm. This year, their racehorse Magnum Moon won the Arkansas Derby and competed in the Kentucky Derby, a Grade 1 race.
“Do your best, do what’s right, and treat others the way you want to be treated.“—Robert Low
 
Lynn Thompson
President, Thompson Sales Co.
Glendale High School
Lynn Thompson lives and breathes family business. He is one of seven family members currently working for the company that has now seen four generations of Thompsons within its walls. How does he pass on the love of the car business to all his relatives and stay successful? He trusts his gut. “You can read hundreds of books on business, but never underestimate your own thoughts and feelings on what you need to do to be successful,” he says. In his free time, Thompson performs mediations nationwide.
NEW IN 2018: This year marks Thompson Sales Co.’s 99th year in business.
“Change is good, and never discount other people’s ideas.“—Lynn Thompson
 
Mark Walker
Chairman and CEO, TransLand
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in business administration and economics
Before taking over TransLand, the trucking company founded by his parents, Mark Walker worked in Silicon Valley for SBC Communications. After a 23-year career there, he left to lead United Way Silicon Valley, which he brought back from the brink of bankruptcy thanks to smart hiring decisions, help from mentors and guidance from a board of directors. Walker unwinds with a glass of wine on his patio while watching the sunset with his wife, Mary.
NEW IN 2018: TransLand expanded operations to the Dallas–Fort Worth area, and this fall Walker started a term as chairman of the Missouri Trucking Association.
BUSINESS CONSULTING & EMPLOYMENT SERVICES
 
Paula Adams
Penmac Staffing Services Inc.
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in home economics
With Paula Adams at its helm, Penmac Staffing Services Inc. is growing faster than ever before. This year marked Penmac’s first acquisition with its purchase of Employment Resource Center Inc. (ERC), a staffing firm serving central Minnesota. With the addition of ERC’s four Minnesota offices, Penmac is now active in nine states with 35 branches. Adams’ dedication to growth hasn’t gone unrecognized—in 2018, the Penmac president was honored for the third consecutive year on the Staffing Industry Analysts Global Power 100 list of women in staffing. According to Staffing Industry Analysts, women tend to dominate staffing industry branch offices. However, according to Adams, few of those women make it to boardrooms. “This list is helping to change the narrative in our industry,” she says. “I am proud to play a role.”
“Don’t be afraid to change what isn’t working.“—Paula Adams
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
 
John F. Griesemer
President and CEO, Erlen Group
Purdue University, B.S. in industrial management and civil engineering
John Griesemer is the third generation of the Griesemer family to work for Erlen Group, previously called Springfield Underground. “The rebrand allows us to clarify our mission and values while we explore new opportunities,” Griesemer says. The Erlen Group encompasses five businesses: Springfield Underground, Westside Stone, Joplin Stone, Cold Zone and The Frisco Building.
NEW IN 2018: Griesemer’s uncle Louis retired from the CEO role in January. Under John’s leadership, the company opened Building 19 South, bringing the Springfield Underground’s leasable space to 2.5 million square feet.
 
Debra Shantz Hart
Owner/Member, Housing Plus LLC, HP Construction LLC and Sustainable Housing Solutions LLC
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in economics; University of Missouri–Columbia, J.D.
In Debra Shantz Hart’s 20 years practicing law, she represented clients in real estate development and real estate finance, so it was only natural for her to start a second career in commercial real estate. After 13 years as vice president and general counsel for John Q. Hammons Hotels and Resorts Inc., Hart opened Housing Plus LLC with Becky Selle. If you want to know what the buzz is, just ask Hart—she spends her spare time beekeeping.
NEW IN 2018: This year, Hart joined the board of directors for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Great Southern Bank.
 
Stacy Jurado-Miller
Chief Mission Officer and Supportive Housing Developer, The Vecino Group
University of Nevada, Reno, B.A. in English Literature
As the chief mission officer for a development company with a mission of creating a better world one community and development at a time, Stacy Jurado-Miller embodies her mantra each day: “Give through your work, not just after work.” In her lifetime, Jurado-Miller wants to see the end of patriarchy and an equal representation of women in positions of power. “We need to be intentional and aggressive in correcting the historic imbalance,” she says. As a leader, Jurado-Miller recognizes her own missteps, especially when she initially argued against expanding The Vecino Group outside of Missouri. “Being adamant doesn’t make you right,” she says.
Photo by Patrick McWhirt
Matt Miller
CEO, The Vecino Group
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in political science and Russian area studies
In 1992, Matt Miller took out a loan to rehab a South Avenue building. “I was 24 years old and had nothing to my name but a few ideas,” he says. Now as the CEO of a company billed as being devoted to development for the greater good, he’s returning the favor. “I’m paying it forward by taking chances on folks who show a little moxie and a lot of determination,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: The Vecino Group now includes approximately 70 employees. “Even in the most stressful parts of a deal, we still remain kind to one another,” Miller says.
“Be kind but not agreeable.“—Matt Miller
 
Matt E. Miller
Owner, Miller Commerce LLC
Kickapoo High School
Since launching Miller Commerce LLC in 2002, Matt E. Miller, who studied finance at Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU) now owns and co-owns a portfolio of 22 properties that include apartments, mixed-used buildings, student housing and senior living communities.
NEW IN 2018: Miller is digging into senior housing with the groundbreaking of Turner’s Rock, a luxury 55+ senior living facility. “Being in the senior housing business has actually caused me to begin to obsess over what the future of living vibrantly as we age can look like,” he says.
 
Stephanie Stenger Montgomery
CEO, Springfield Land LP
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in business administration; University of Southern California, J.D.
Stephanie Stenger Montgomery’s work as an attorney was recognized in Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s 13th Annual Women’s Justice Awards. She now runs real estate development company Springfield Land LP. Stenger Montgomery also builds communities through local organizations; she’s been president and champion of Moxie Cinema since it converted to nonprofit status in 2010. She was also a founding board member and former president of Isabel’s House.
NEW IN 2018: Stenger Montgomery stepped up as the board president of Care to Learn.
 
Patrick Murney
Owner, Murney Associates, Realtors
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in business
Patrick Murney has spent more than two decades in real estate, amassing more than $1.2 billion in personal lifetime real estate sales. “My motivation has always been to give my very best in everything I do,” he says. “I’m very competitive, so my drive comes from wanting to be the best.” As a business owner, Murney keeps clients at the forefront. “I’ve always sought to exceed my clients’ expectations,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: Murney has a lot to celebrate this year. The company was named the 46th largest independent real estate company in the country and top independent brokerage in the state by REAL Trends.
Photo By Kevin ORiley
Matt O’Reilly
Founder, Green Circle Projects
Drury University, B.A. in business and philosophy
It’s easy to list Matt O’Reilly’s successes. He started Dynamic Earth while still in college, was a founding board member of the Ozarks Green Building Coalition and co-founded Farmers Market of the Ozarks Inc. But what does he say is the toughest challenge he’s faced? The BC Bike Race, a seven-day mountain bike race through the mountains of British Columbia, and this is coming from someone who rode a mountain bike down Mount Kilimanjaro.
NEW IN 2018: Development is picking up in O’Reilly’s Galloway-area Quarry Town. The mixed-use development will have residential, retail, office and restaurant spaces.
 
Tom Rankin
Managing Director, SVN/Rankin Co. LLC; Owner, Rankin Development LLC
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance
A longtime 417-land resident, Tom Rankin founded Rankin Co., a general commercial real estate brokerage, in 1990. In 2006, the company became affiliated with national brokerage firm SVN and has been consistently among the top 10 most productive SVN offices out of approximately 200 offices nationwide. Throughout his career, Rankin has developed more than 1,000,000 square feet of retail and industrial projects.
NEW IN 2018: Rankin Development opened an expanded manufacturing facility for Mercy ROI and a distribution facility for Lew’s in the Garton Business Park.
COMMUNICATIONS & MEDIA
 
Brian McDonough
Vice President and General Manager, KYTV/KSPR and The Ozarks CW
Wichita State University, B.A. in business administration
Fresh out of college, Brian McDonough served as a radio account executive. The fishing hobbyist now leads KY3, KSPR 33 and The Ozarks CW networks and their digital platforms—including OzarksSportsZone.com, better known as The O-Zone. The concept was a spin-off of a newspaper company McDonough and his wife started in Wichita.
NEW IN 2018: McDonough and his TV team launched news bureaus in Camdenton, Harrison, West Plains and Branson to provide better coverage.
 
Scott Opfer
President, Opfer Communications Inc., Affluity Inc., Big O Investments, Opfer Enterprises LLC and Patient Pending LLC
Winona State University, B.A. in mass communications
A longtime sports lover who jokes an X-ray would reveal a football-shaped heart, Scott Opfer took Opfer Communications Inc. from a basement side hustle to a company boasting more than $1 billion in client product sales. But even with the rewards that come with running the firm, the self-proclaimed Jif Crunchy Peanut Butter addict values his family above all. “I’m most proud of the accomplishments of my kids,” Opfer says.
NEW IN 2018: Three of Opfer’s children have joined the family business.
CONSTRUCTION
 
Rob Baird
CEO, Conco Cos.
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.A. in philosophy, M.A. in philosophy; Georgetown University, all but dissertation for Ph.D. in philosophy
In addition to overseeing the largest concrete producer in southwest Missouri, Rob Baird, who completed all but his dissertation for a doctorate in philosophy at Georgetown University, is a major supporter of the arts. Baird was a key player in the development of The Creamery Arts Center and received a 1997 Ozzie Award from the Springfield Regional Arts Council. Marble from a Conco Cos. quarry has been used in the Missouri State Capitol and the New York Stock Exchange.
NEW IN 2018: Ever the philanthropist, Baird celebrated 15 years as a member of the Musgrave Foundation’s Grant Committee, which awards grants to southwest Missouri charities.
 
Mary Beth Hartman
President and Founder, Hunter Chase & Associates Inc.
Executive Vice President, Hartman & Company Inc.
Republic High School
For Mary Beth Hartman, nothing beats spending time at home with her family, but this homebody is at the forefront of 417-land’s construction industry. Hunter Chase & Associates Inc., which Hartman named after her two sons, has specialized in highway, road and streetscape construction since its beginnings in 1996. Hartman has learned to not let fear stop her from taking risks and facing challenges—such as a lack of funding for transportation infrastructure—head on. “To survive, you have to find the best employees and find ways to reduce costs,” she says. “You are in a constant position of finding opportunities where there are few.”
 
William F. Killian
President and Chair of the Board, Killian Construction
Glendale High School
An attendee of Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU) and the University of Missouri–Columbia, William “Bill” Killian became president then sole owner of his family’s construction company in 1993. This year, the firm—known for its work on Chateau on the Lake, the Branson Landing and hotels and casinos nationwide—started on a 22-story, 250-unit condo development in Panama City Beach, Florida. “This project is the first high-rise structure started since the Great Recession on the Florida panhandle,” Killian says.
NEW IN 2018: Killian Construction marked its 70th year in business.
 
Larry Snyder
CEO, Larry Snyder & Co.
Missouri Southern State University, B.S. in business marketing and management
Larry Snyder proudly continued a family tradition of working in construction that began with his father, uncles and cousins when he founded Larry Snyder & Co. in 1978. Snyder has steered the general contracting firm through two major economic downturns and a move from Joplin to Branson. The company’s work includes the addition to O’Reilly Auto Parts’ headquarters, Magers Crossing in west Springfield, Boomer Town lofts and many others.
NEW IN 2018: Snyder finished his second six-year term on the Ozarks Technical Community College Board of Trustees.
Education
 
Tim Cloyd
President, Drury University
Emory & Henry College, B.A. in philosophy and political science; University of Massachusetts Amherst, M.A. in political science, Ph.D. in higher education
Three years ago, Drury University was experiencing tough times. Student enrollment was down, departments were downsizing and the university’s future looked murky. In 2016, Tim Cloyd stepped in as the university president and professor of management and political science. Fast forward to 2018: Drury experienced an unprecedented fundraising increase of 121 percent during the 2017–2018 fiscal year with more than $20 million raised. Combined with increased enrollment and higher net revenue, it’s shaping up to be a banner year for Drury—and it’s just the beginning. The recent reveal of Drury’s new Master Plan, alongside aggressive fundraising and marketing goals, thrilled students and alumni alike. Now, with the boost to the school’s funds, that Master Plan is closer to becoming a reality. What’s more, next fall, the institution will unveil a whole new curriculum, Your Drury Fusion, designed to promote multidisciplinary and experiential learning.
Photo courtesy of OTC
Hal Higdon
Chancellor, Ozarks Technical Community College
University of Alabama, B.S. in business; University of Southern Mississippi, M.Ed. in educational administration, Ph.D. in higher education
When Ozarks Technical Community College revealed a new strategic plan earlier this year, a few factors were up in the air thanks to two votes: a tax renewal and a separate hike. OTC called on 417-land voters to approve the levies, which would enable the college to continue the growth of its technical and allied health programs and would contribute to the addition of new programs—such as the $20 million Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Technology. The tax levies were approved for the next 20 years, which will allow Chancellor Hal Higdon and other OTC administrators to continue the college’s upward trajectory while focusing on the strategic plan’s three main initiatives: student success, access to education and alignment with community needs. OTC’s expansion also includes a new education center in Republic.
 
John Jungmann
Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools
Missouri Southern State University, B.S. in education; Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), M.S. in educational administration, Ed.S. in education; University of Arkansas, Ed.D. in educational leadership
An advocate for creating opportunities for children in public education, John Jungmann is focused on the future of learning. “Our 2017 bond issue that received 51 percent yes votes but not the required 57.1 percent necessary for passage was a failure that will set the system [up] for a great celebration when our community task force constructs a recommendation that gets us over the hump in an upcoming election,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: Jungmann oversaw the development of Launch, the district’s online learning platform that solves course access issues. As of press time, SPS has secured 105 partner districts from across the state.
 
Allen Kunkel
Associate Vice President for Economic Development, Missouri State University
Iowa State University, B.S. in community and regional planning; University of Missouri–Columbia, MPA
Allen Kunkel says he doesn’t believe in failure—everything is a learning experience. It makes sense that he applies this motto to his work at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center and The efactory, where lately he’s been energized by the tenants. “Their approach to innovation, creativity and risk has been an inspiration,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: As the five-year plan for the JVIC and The efactory ended in June, the team exceeded its target metrics in every category by no less than 117 percent—and as much as 480 percent in some cases. Categories included jobs created, capital investment, occupancy and more.
 
Clifton Smart
President, Missouri State University
Tulane University, B.A. in political science; University of Arkansas, J.D.
A former lawyer and two-time finalist for the Missouri Supreme Court, Clif Smart continues to succeed as Missouri State University’s president. The school has seen fall enrollment increases for the past six years, notably after Smart took the reins in June 2011. There is no sign of him leaving soon, either—Smart’s contract was extended earlier this year to keep him in the role until 2026.
NEW IN 2018: Smart successfully advocated for the passage of degree legislation in the Missouri General Assembly. This move gives the university more ability to offer doctorates and professional degrees.
 
Carol A. Taylor
President, Evangel University
Evangel University, B.A. in education; Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, M.A. in cross-cultural communication; Florida State University, Ph.D. in multilingual/multicultural education
Carol Taylor returned to Springfield in 2013 to be president of her alma mater after leading at Vanguard University for six years. Before Vanguard, she spent seven years at Biola University and 12 years in executive management and research at Education Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, New Jersey. Obstacles in both positions, including a stalled research and development project at ETS and navigating a probation sanction and addressing concerns from the full accreditation commission at Vanguard, taught Taylor resilience and grit, she says.
FINANCE & BANKING
Photo courtesy of Guaranty Bank
Shaun A. Burke
President and CEO, Guaranty Bank
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance; University of Colorado, Graduate School of Banking
After more than three years of discussions, Guaranty Bank completed its acquisition and conversion of seven Hometown Bank facilities in Carthage, Joplin, Neosho, Oronogo and Pineville, Missouri, this June. “Patience and persistence finally got the deal done,” says Shaun Burke, the bank’s president and CEO. “This was a first-time conversion for many on the team, and we’ve received numerous compliments on the successful transition from both Hometown employees and customers.” That’s not all: Also, as of June, Burke began his term as chairman of the Missouri Bankers Association (MBA). As chairman, Burke oversees and directs the MBA board of directors and works as a liaison between the organization’s members and elected officials at the state and national levels.
 
Robert C. Fulp
CEO, Springfield First Community Bank
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance and accounting
Despite being only a decade old, Springfield First Community Bank, led by Robert Fulp, continues to grow at a rapid pace. “Our bank surpassed $600 million during 2017, and we are well on our way to $1 billion in assets within the near future,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: QCR Holdings finalized its acquisition of Springfield Bancshares Inc., the holding company of Springfield First Community Bank. “While SFC will continue operating under the leadership of a superior local management team and board, this unique partnership allows us to bring advanced technology and services to our valued clients,” Fulp says.
Photo courtesy of Bob Hammerschmidt
Bob Hammerschmidt
Vice Chairman, Commerce Bank
Arkansas Tech University, B.S. in business administration; University of Colorado, American Bankers Association School of Bank Marketing; University of Wisconsin–Madison, ABA Graduate School of Bank Marketing; Southern Methodist University, Southwestern Graduate School of Banking
Originally planning to join his family’s lumber business, Bob Hammerschmidt switched directions in college and hasn’t looked back. After a 30-year career at Commerce Bank, Hammerschmidt transitioned from president to vice chairman earlier this year. He will continue to work with customers from all areas of the bank and to represent Commerce in the community through many civic and philanthropic organizations.
NEW IN 2018: With his role transition, Hammerschmidt is looking at the future of Commerce Bank and recruiting the team that will spearhead leadership in the next 25 years.
 
Russ Marquart
President and CEO, Central Bank of the Ozarks
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance and investments; ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking
When it comes to community involvement, Russ Marquart is a star. He has been involved with Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Mercy Health Systems, Rotary Club of Springfield and Convoy of Hope, and recently sponsored a home at the newly opened Eden Village in Springfield.
NEW IN 2018: Central Bank of the Ozarks increased its local footprint with its 22nd branch location at Sunshine Street and West Bypass. “Committing our people and resources in West Springfield is a benefit to our customers who live in this thriving and growing part of Springfield,” Marquart said in a press release.
 
Doug Neff
Southwest Missouri Region CEO and Chairman, Commerce Bank
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in business administration and finance; University of Wisconsin–Madison, Graduate School of Banking
Doug Neff relocated from Kansas City to Wichita 12 years into his career and learned how to succeed on new turf. Now he’s settled into Springfield and seeing that same ambition in the next generation, especially as board chairman for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are blessed to have a very talented and engaged group of young professionals,” he says. “They are our future.”
NEW IN 2018: Neff completed a Leadership Development Program designed by University of Missouri–Kansas City to build a business plan for 20 years into the future, focusing on the exciting industry and technology changes to come.
“Success only comes before work in the dictionary.“—Doug Neff
 
Robin Robeson
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Guaranty Bank
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.A. in communication; Drury University, MBA
Robin Robeson had been in banking 20 years when she joined a software development company to gain knowledge and experience to be qualified for a C-level position, she says. It worked: She joined Guaranty Bank as COO in 2012. During her tenure, she has spearheaded rebranding and expansion efforts, where she learned another valuable lesson: Listen to your customers. “Internally, we thought our eagle moniker needed updating to something more modern,” she says. Before the launch, focus groups taught the team that the eagle was huge for the bank’s brand awareness and had to stay.
“Be a voice, not an echo.“—Robin Robeson
 
Joseph W. Turner
President and CEO, Great Southern Bank
Drake University, B.S. in business administration; University of Missouri–Columbia, J.D.
Joseph Turner was settling into the courtroom when his father asked him to join Great Southern Bank. He has worked his way up, navigating multiple challenges such as the financial crisis. “We learned from these mistakes and made the necessary changes to prevent future error,” he says. “Great Southern emerged as a stronger, more successful company.“
NEW IN 2018: Turner and Great Southern Bank are paying attention to their internal success and have completed Process Matters, a workshop that takes an in-depth look at certain areas within the company to improve efficiency.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Photo courtesy of Askinosie Chocolate
Shawn Askinosie
Founder and CEO, Askinosie Chocolate
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.A. in political science, J.D.
Making a living can mean making a difference, and after serving as a criminal defense attorney for 20 years, Shawn Askinosie aimed to do just that when he founded Askinosie Chocolate in 2007. He brings global flavors to 417-land but keeps his focus here. “My business vocation? Not to necessarily get bigger, but to get better at staying small,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: Askinosie continued to impact the local community by speaking to every public senior high school class in Springfield and making sure every senior received a copy of his book, Meaningful Work.
Photo courtesy of Mark Farbin Photography
Susie Farbin
Co-owner, MaMa Jean’s Natural Market
Ava High School
Providing natural products for the public runs in Susie Farbin’s blood. Her mother, the namesake Jean, opened Jean’s Healthway market in Ava nearly 40 years ago. Farbin helped in that venture before striking out with Diana Hicks. The duo now has three Springfield markets (plus an MJ’s Market & Deli), and business keeps growing. Farbin says her business motto is “to never get comfortable [and] always look for ways to improve.”
NEW IN 2018: The Springfield health food market is receiving national attention—MaMa Jean’s was awarded Natural Market of the Year by Whole Foods Magazine.
 
Lyle Q. Foster
CEO, Big Momma’s Coffee and Espresso Bar
Macalester College, B.A. in political science, urban studies and sociology; Brown University, M.A. in sociology; Yale University, M.A. in religion; University of Missouri–Columbia, Ph.D. in educational leadership
Lyle Foster and the Big Momma’s team have been creating community and driving cultural development on Historic Commercial Street for 11 years. Foster’s community involvement doesn’t stop there. In conjunction with a colleague and a community group, Foster launched the Springfield-Greene County African-American Heritage Trail this year as a “chance to share the stories, experiences and history that otherwise may have been lost,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: Foster accomplished a lifelong goal and completed a doctoral program in educational leadership.
“Patience is a virtue.“—Lyle Q. Foster
 
Sam F. Hamra
Chairman and Founder, Hamra Enterprises
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S./B.A. in business administration, LL.B.
Sam Hamra invested in his first food franchise in 1976 to start his journey on a 42-year successful business venture. Hamra Enterprises now owns 157 Panera Bread Cafés, Wendy’s and Noodles & Company restaurants located in Missouri, Chicago and Boston. Hamra was named the 2018 Springfieldian of the Year by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
NEW IN 2018: In recognition of Hamra’s philanthropic works, he received the 2017–2018 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, and his photo appeared in The Wall Street Journal and in Times Square this summer.
 
Sally Hargis
Vice President/Chairman of the Board, Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co.
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in home economics journalism
The footprint of Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Co. is expanding rapidly, and Vice President and Chairman of the Board Sally Hargis has a lot to do with the growth. Last year, the company completed a large-scale expansion through Coca-Cola’s “System of the Future” to purchase the Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper franchise areas in northwest Arkansas. Headquartered in Springfield, the Ozarks territory now includes manufacturing and distribution in Springfield and distribution centers in Rolla, West Plains, Bolivar, Joplin and Lowell, Arkansas—an expansion made possible by Ozarks Coca-Cola’s stellar reputation. With nearly 100 years in business, Ozarks Coca-Cola has deep roots in the Ozarks. Along with her father, Edwin “Cookie” Rice, Hargis leads a team of accomplished go-getters in their quest to grow their third-generation family business throughout the Midwest.
 
Kurt Hellweg
Chairman of the Board, American Dehydrated Foods Inc., International Dehydrated Foods Inc., IsoNova Technologies LLC and Food Ingredients Technology Co. LLC
University of Nebraska, B.S. in engineering
Over three decades, Kurt Hellweg has worked as a senior vice president, president, COO, CEO and now as chairman of the board, all at a company he was initially reluctant to join. “I was on a pretty fast track for a great career in the Navy and wasn’t sure if I could handle the role of the emasculated son-in-law,” he says of father-in-law William Darr’s offer to join the business.
NEW IN 2018: IDF debuted a muscle-building and joint-supporting protein isolate powder at the SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas.
 
Diana J. Hicks
Co-owner, MaMa Jean’s Natural Market
Richland High School
Diana Hicks and her business partner, Susie Farbin, are both dedicated to growing and improving the markets they own. In 16 years, the company has grown from one location to three (plus an MJ’s Market & Deli) throughout Springfield. Hicks’s No. 1 source of inspiration? Learning from the aisles of the competition. “When I travel, I love to go to grocery stores,” she says. “I get some really good ideas that way.”
NEW IN 2018: The Springfield health food market is receiving national attention—MaMa Jean’s was awarded Natural Market of the Year by Whole Foods Magazine.
 
Andy Kuntz
Presidentand CEO, Andy’s Frozen Custard
As Andy’s Frozen Custard looks to break the 60-store mark this year, Andy Kuntz is navigating how to move from player to coach. “Since expanding Andy’s, we’ve struggled with thoroughly teaching everything we have learned over the years,” he says. “We have really worked on and improved at giving our teams and franchisees the knowledge that we have gained over the last 32 years.” And thanks to their efforts, residents in 11 states get to enjoy Andy’s delicious desserts.
NEW IN 2018: Kuntz is moving from dairy to dry goods but only on his own farm. “I’ve planted and grown my first corn field and pumpkin patch,” he says.
Photo by Vivian Wheeler
Jeff Schrag
Owner and Founder, Mother’s Brewing Co.
Publisher, The Daily Events
Kansas State University, B.S. in journalism and social sciences
With a resume including newspapers, property management, formalwear and a brewery, Jeff Schrag has learned his fair share of business lessons. One is walking the fine line between starting too early and too late. “I have failed at several businesses,” he says. “Not knowing enough about a new business in advance is usually the culprit. If you wait until you know everything, you may never do the deed.”
NEW IN 2018: Mother’s successfully launched both tap and retail distribution in to the St. Louis metro area, known for being one of the country’s best beer markets.
“Leave everything better than you found it.“—Jeff Schrag
Health Care
 
Donald J. Babb
CEO, Citizens Memorial Hospital
Executive Director, Citizens Memorial Health Care Foundation
U.S. Air Force, A.A. in medical technology; Barnes Hospital, A.A. in radiology; Ohio State University, M.A. in health care financial management
In 1981, Donald J. Babb was given the opportunity of a lifetime—that’s saying something for someone who lived in Morocco while serving in the U.S. Air Force. That year, the avid race car driving fan was asked to develop Citizens Memorial Hospital and continues to lead it today. Babb is excited for the organization’s continued growth. “We have a list of 45 primary care and specialty care physician openings that we are recruiting for over the next three years,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: Citizens Memorial opened a new 50,000-square-foot, 90-bed long-term care facility in Stockton this fall.
 
Teresa Coyan
Director of Public Affairs, CoxHealth
Missouri State University, B.S. in business management; Webster University, MBA
Teresa Coyan moved to Springfield to attend Missouri State University and nearly left 417-land after graduation when a tempting job offer in St. Louis came along. “However, I had just gotten married, and Justin and I had agreed to stay in Springfield at least a few years to ‘see how it goes,’” she says. Today, Coyan has no regrets about the decision and actively works to fight Springfield’s brain drain through the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, The Network and CoxHealth’s young professionals group, which she started in 2011. When she’s not spending face time with public officials, Coyan loves to run and enjoy the Ozarks outdoors with her husband and their two kids.
 
Steve Edwards
President and CEO, CoxHealth
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in political science; Washington University in St. Louis, Master of health care administration
As a 16-year-old, Steve Edwards worked as an orderly in the Cox Medical Center (now Cox North) emergency department, discovered his passion for medicine and made it a goal to become CEO of a hospital. In 2011, Edwards became president and CEO of an entire health system. “Life is too short to be in a position, a company or an industry for which you find no passion,” he says. “If you cannot find passion in your work, have the courage to change.”
NEW IN 2018: CoxHealth leaders are reviewing the results of an engagement satisfaction survey, which Edwards proudly shares 90 percent of 11,600 staffers completed.
Photo courtesy of Mercy
Jon Swope
Regional President, Mercy Central Communities
President, Mercy Springfield Communities
Maryville University, B.S. in business administration; Webster University, Master of health care administration
As president of Mercy Central Communities, Jon Swope oversees the health system’s facilities in Kansas, Arkansas and across 417-land. “Even with the challenges we face, being a part of Mercy is exciting,” says Swope, who has been with the organization since 1980. “When I look at the next generation of leaders coming up the ranks, I can’t wait to see what they will do to revolutionize care.”
NEW IN 2018: “One of our big focuses this past year or two has been on enhancing or increasing access,” Swope says. To that end, Mercy opened two innovative Mercy-GoHealth Urgent Care locations this year.
Insurance
 
Timothy A. Connell
Partner, Connell Insurance Inc.
Reeds Spring High School
After attending Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), Tim Connell started his insurance career in 1984 and joined Connell Insurance Inc., which his brother started, three years later. The company pays as much attention to its staff as it does to its clients. Connell Insurance covers the cost of personal and professional development opportunities for employees, who complete 24 hours of community service in return. That’s a win-win in our book.
NEW IN 2018: Connell attended the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Leadership Visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee, along with dozens of other 417-land business leaders.
 
Trevor Crist
CEO, Nixon & Lindstrom Insurance 
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in communications
In his career, Trevor Crist has made a lot of calls. But his very first cold call—to Nixon & Lindstrom owner Luke Nixon—was arguably the most important. “I reached out based upon an interest in getting into the insurance industry and a mutual fraternity affiliation,” Crist says. “He said that he wouldn’t hire me but that he’d buy me lunch, and the rest is history.” Knowing the importance of connections, Crist serves as the president of the local Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity alumni association.
NEW IN 2018: Crist is proud to have invested in the Glass Hall Renovation and Expansion at his alma mater, Missouri State University.
“Today not tomorrow.“—Trevor Crist
 
Gordon L. Kinne
President, Med-Pay Inc.
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in political science
After high school, Gordon Kinne intended to start farming, but his father had other ideas. That led Kinne to attend college and establish third party administrator Med-Pay Inc. less than a decade into his career. When he’s not growing his business or hunting, there’s a good chance Kinne is giving back or spending time with family, including his grandson, Walker.
NEW IN 2018: As board of trustees chair for the Missouri State University Foundation, Kinne welcomed a record-breaking fundraising year. In fiscal year 2018, the foundation received more than $21.5 million, beating the previous $20.3 million record.
Photo courtesy of Ollis Akers Arney
Richard Ollis
CEO, Ollis/Akers/Arney
General Councilmember D, City of Springfield
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance
A fourth-generation risk and insurance advisor, Richard Ollis leads Springfield’s largest independent insurance agency. “Early in my career, I missed a deadline with a client,” Ollis says. “This enabled us to establish a process that creates a timeline of how we deliver services. Frankly, it transformed our business model from transactional to consultative.” And this Springfield native knows the meaning of service; he served in the Navy and, in May 2017, was appointed to City Council.
NEW IN 2018: In July, Ollis’s company acquired the Paul Long Agency of Bolivar and El Dorado Springs.
LAW
 
David Agee
Partner, Husch Blackwell LLP
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.A. in finance; University of Missouri–Columbia, J.D.
Despite David Agee’s long list of successful dealings for an array of local, national and international clients, he wasn’t always focused on corporate and commercial law. As a young lawyer, Agee handled a few divorce cases that “helped steer me to become a corporate and commercial transaction attorney advising startups and established businesses of all sizes and industries,” Agee says.
NEW IN 2018: Agee and his team represented a commercial airline in a $5 billion order for 47 Boeing 787 aircraft. The company has handled transactions of this size before, but Agee admits, “Those projects don’t come around very often.”
Photo courtesy of Husch Blackwell
Virginia Fry
Partner, Husch Blackwell LLP
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in finance, MBA; University of Missouri– Kansas City, J.D.
“My best failure was working in a shoe factory the summer before college and figuring out that I needed to succeed in education because I failed miserably as a fancy stitcher,” Virginia Fry says. That proved to be successful motivation for the Wright County farm girl, who is now a reputable lawyer specializing in labor and employment law and commercial litigation. When she’s not on the clock, Fry serves on Missouri State University’s board of governors.
NEW IN 2018: Fry is no stranger to board service and is currently the co-chair of the Springfield Visioning Committee, an initiative of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
“The glass is always half-full.“—Virginia Fry
 
Crista Hogan
Executive Director, Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association and Springfield Metropolitan Bar Foundation
George Washington University, B.B.A. in business economics and public policy; Tulsa University, J.D.
A titan in Springfield’s legal community, Crista Hogan operated her own private practice before joining the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association. Leading the region’s litigators isn’t all Hogan spends her time doing. “Don’t be surprised if you see me in my pickup truck hauling lumber,” she says. “My current hobby and sole source of exercise is property rehab, and I’m very hands-on.”
NEW IN 2018: The Springfield Metropolitan Bar Foundation began The 1217 Project, a four-year initiative to help Zone 1 residents “resolve legal issues that contribute to the cycle of poverty,” Hogan says.
 
Randell D. Wallace
Partner in Charge, Kutak Rock LLP
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in business administration and political science; Vanderbilt University, J.D.
Earlier this year, Randell Wallace exited Springfield’s branch of Lathrop Gage LLP along with five other partners. The branch closed its Springfield office in July, after Wallace and the other partners, as well as some Lathrop Gage staffers, formed the eighteenth office of Nebraska-based law firm Kutak Rock LLP with Wallace acting as partner in charge. Kutak Rock has more than 530 attorneys company-wide and now has a strong Midwest presence with branches across Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. Wallace credits his go-getter attitude to his late father, an employee of the Federal Aviation Administration who maintained the administration’s crucial Instrument Landing System. “While handling this great responsibility and having the lives of thousands of people in his hands at any given moment, he also always maintained a fun attitude,” Wallace says.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misrepresented how Lathrop Gage’s Springfield office closed. The company exited southwest Missouri after Randell Wallace and several other partners formed Springfield’s Kutak Rock location.
MANUFACTURING
 
Bobby Allison
Flunky, Custom Protein Corp.
One of Springfield’s most notable philanthropists is known for attending black-tie events in overalls. Bobby Allison has donated millions of dollars to various organizations and causes in 417-land, including Missouri State University, Mercy Hospital Springfield and area parks, which earned him a 2015 award from the Missouri Park & Recreation Association. Allison oversees sales and purchases for Custom Protein Corp.
NEW IN 2018: Construction continues on the three-phase expansion of Greenwood Laboratory School. Allison pledged a seven-figure matching gift for the project, expected to cost more than $6 million.
 
Brad Boswell
CEO, Independent Stave Co.
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in industrial engineering
There was no question Brad Boswell would be joining the family business; he started cooper training at just 9 years old. Independent Stave Co. has remained a family business for four generations, with Boswell now as the man in charge. “Early in my career and with a small account, I learned the hard way that the customer is king,” says Boswell, who was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2008. “Since then, if I have a contentious situation with a client, I do my best to win them over with kindness.”
NEW IN 2018: After acquiring a Louisville, Kentucky–based company, Independent Stave is now in the “used barrel” industry.
“Reinvest until it hurts.“—Brad Boswell
 
John Gentry
CEO and Chairman of the Board, Positronic Industries
Georgia Institute of Technology, B.S. in chemical engineering
Since 1966, Positronic Industries has played a major role in Springfield’s economy. Now, the global manufacturer of electronic connectors is upping its investment in 417-land. This year, Positronic announced the expansion of its Springfield headquarters, a $2.5 million project that will add 90 new full-time jobs and consolidate the efforts of four North American manufacturing facilities. “Having four plants in North America operating at partial capacity had become a major barrier in reducing our fixed cost structures,” says John Gentry, CEO and chairman of the board. “As global competition continues to intensify, we’ve chosen to consolidate these operations. The decision to expand at our Springfield location makes sense operationally and helps our local community.” The expansion is part of Positronic’s ongoing consolidation effort, which will allow the company to remain globally competitive while better serving industries such as aerospace and defense. It’s a smart investment in our book.
 
Dwayne A. Holden
President, Custom Metalcraft Inc.
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in business
Dwayne A. Holden doesn’t shy away from a challenge, and in his line of work, there can be a lot of them. He thrives on developing new products for the wide variety of industries—such as food, beverage, chemical and energy—that Custom Metalcraft serves. Holden advises other people in the business community: “Never give up, as there will be a way to solve the challenge.” And when he needs some liquid inspiration, Holden turns to a good glass of wine.
NEW IN 2018: Custom Metalcraft Inc. isn’t wedded to metalwork. This year, the 41-year-old company entered the polyethylene tank industry when it began producing plastic tanks.
Photo by Brandon Alms
David C. Humphreys
President and CEO, TAMKO Building Products Inc.
University of the South, B.A. in English; University of Miami, J.D.; New York University, LLM in taxation
David Humphreys pursued a legal career in New York and Paris before becoming TAMKO’s general counsel in 1989. Five years later, he became president and CEO of the three-generation family business, one of the country’s largest independent manufacturers of residential and commercial roofing products. The husband, father of five and co-founder of Joplin’s Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School has spent years advocating for liberty and free-market principles through millions of dollars in political and charitable donations and as a board member for the Institute for Humane Studies, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty and other organizations.
 
David Moore
President and CEO, Paul Mueller Co.
Middlebury College, B.A. in physics; University of Chicago, MBA
In 2011, David Moore assumed the role of president at Paul Mueller Co., the business his grandfather started in 1940. Since Moore took over, the stainless steel equipment manufacturer has seen many milestones, such as celebrating the company’s 75th year in business and implementing open-book management under the Great Game of Business.
NEW IN 2018: Like many other 417-land businesses, Paul Mueller Co. is experiencing a boom and getting smart about its hiring tactics. In February, the business introduced a recruitment bonus for employees who help bring new talent to the company.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Jack Stack
President and CEO, SRC Holdings Corp.
Elmhurst College, B.S. in business
When Jack Stack and his partners bought International Harvester in 1983, the business was a far cry from where it stands today. “In our journey to buy the company, we learned the difference between just making a product and what it took to build a company,” he says. Many people have looked to one of Stack’s books, The Great Game of Business, about open-book management, for advice. Expect to see a new title from Stack in 2019.
NEW IN 2018: SRC marked its 35th year in business. “We exist to create opportunity and quality jobs for our community,” says Stack, who finds his best business inspiration from his company’s associates.
Mark Wessell
Owner and CEO, Springfield Sign
Missouri University of Science and Technology, B.S. in electrical engineering
A former electrical engineer, Mark Wessell was without a job and expecting his first child in 1986 when he followed the lead of his aunt and uncle who were in the sign business and started Springfield Sign on a shoestring budget. “We now operate one of the largest central U.S. sign and plastic companies with 70-plus associates and 145,000 square feet of manufacturing,” the Verona native says. Springfield Sign serves companies in 417-land and beyond including international retailers and national fast food brands. Out of the office, Wessell likes to unwind with a meal at Harvest or Metropolitan Grill with friends and good conversation. “Nothing like a glass of wine with friends!” he says.
“Be honest with yourself. Self-reflection provides wisdom.“—Mark Wessell
NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Amy Blansit
Creator and Founder, Solely Jolie; Program Director, The Fairbanks; Board Chair and Founder, Drew Lewis Foundation; Program Director, The Northwest Project; Instructor of Kinesiology, Missouri State University
Drury University, B.A. in exercise physiology; Adelphi University, M.A. in exercise physiology; A.T. Still University, DHSc
Amy Blansit is more than an entrepreneur. She’s a community leader, philanthropist and advocate who plays an integral role at each organization she has her hand in whether it’s at The Fairbanks community center; at her nonprofit, the Drew Lewis Foundation; or in her classroom at Missouri State University.
NEW IN 2018: The Drew Lewis Foundation received capital campaign funds for the final phase of construction on The Fairbanks, expected to be complete this coming spring.
 
Hal Donaldson
President and CEO, Convoy of Hope
San Jose State University, B.A. in journalism; Bethany University, B.A. in biblical studies
Through Convoy of Hope, Hal Donaldson has helped nearly $1 billion (retail value) worth of food and supplies get to nearly 100 million people in need around the globe. But many years ago, he was on the receiving end of things. “Our father was killed by a drunken driver when I was 12,” Donaldson says. “Our mother was in the car and was seriously injured. Our family survived because of the kindness of others.”
NEW IN 2018: Donaldson is working on his second book, Disruptive Compassion: Your Guide To Becoming The Revolutionary You Were Born to Be, which will be released in 2019.
 
Brian Fogle
President and CEO, Community Foundation of the Ozarks
University of Mississippi, BBA, MBA
After almost 30 years in banking, Brian Fogle joined Community Foundation of the Ozarks in 2008. He’s had numerous triumphs there, including The Northwest Project, Growth for the Rural Ozarks and Give Ozarks Day.
NEW IN 2018: Despite successes, Fogle knows his organization has room for growth. “Our great team at CFO went through an incredible year of self-analysis and reflection to help us build for the future,” he says. “I liken it to physical therapy—you pay someone to hurt you so you can get better. We’ve already learned and grown from the experience.”
“Often wrong, seldom in doubt.“—Brian Fogle
 
Francine M. Pratt
Prosper Springfield Director
University of Phoenix, B.S. in business management
Francine Pratt worked for the state of California and held professional positions in the corporate world before moving to Springfield to work in the nonprofit sector. Now, she holds a position that she says “belongs to the community,” as the director of Prosper Springfield. The initiative works to reduce poverty across Springfield through a collaborative model. Pratt hopes the organization can “work to enrich the lives of others.”
NEW IN 2018: Prosper Springfield marked its first year with a breakfast meeting to share its progress with the community.
PUBLIC & ELECTED OFFICIALS
 
Roy Blunt
U.S. Senator for Missouri
Southwest Baptist University, B.A. in history; Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), M.A. in history
As evidenced by his careers in education and politics, Roy Blunt has a passion for serving people. The former history teacher served as president of his alma mater Southwest Baptist University for four years. Blunt, a Webster County native, has held office as Greene County clerk, Missouri Secretary of State and U.S. Representative for seven terms. In 2010, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he serves on the Appropriations Committee and is the Rules Committee chairman. As member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Blunt helped shepherd a 2018 bill that allocated resources to expand broadband in rural Missouri. He is married to his wife, Abigail, and has four children and six grandchildren.
 
Phyllis Ferguson
Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer, Mexican Villa Food Products Inc.
Zone 1 City Councilwoman, City of Springfield
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.A. in history
Phyllis Ferguson has made it her mission to improve the quality of life for all of her constituents. A U.S. Army Reserves veteran and the creator of the Corporate Health Services program at Mercy, Ferguson has long been a leader in the community. She joined Springfield City Council in 2015 and is leading the charge for Zone 1 Blitz. The initiative aims to fight against poverty and sustain an environment of collaboration and problem-solving. When she’s not hard at work for the city, Ferguson can be found leading her family’s three-generation business and Springfield institution: Mexican Villa.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included the incorrect name of Mexican Villa Food Products Inc.
 
Ken McClure
Mayor, City of Springfield
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.A. in history; Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), M.A. in history
Mayor Ken McClure, who is a Mizzou and Missouri State University alumnus, has been in office for more than a year. As mayor, McClure has been a strong voice on city council, a former councilman himself. He has placed a continued emphasis on growing Springfield’s economy and responding to population growth. He has helped oversee programs to stimulate job growth as Springfield continues to develop and evolve.
NEW IN 2018: McClure and Springfield City Council approved funding to expand IDEA Commons. The improvements will focus on infrastructure, including sidewalks, flood prevention and landscaping.
 
Scott Miller
General Manager, City Utilities of Springfield
University of Texas–Austin, B.S. in mechanical engineering; Wright State University, MBA in finance
With 30 years of experience in the utility industry under his belt, Scott Miller is a trusted leader at the helm of City Utilities of Springfield (CU). Miller is a member on the board of the American Public Power Association in Washington, D.C. and serves as chair of the board of directors of the Energy Authority in Jacksonville, Florida.
NEW IN 2018: City Utilities celebrated the first year of its battery energy storage initiative. The project allows CU to store renewable energy for later use and could prove to be a model for other Midwest communities, Miller said in a press release.
 
Matt Morrow
President and CEO, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
Southwest Baptist University, B.S. in communication, MBA
Matt Morrow knows business and spends his days advocating for local economic development. It’s no surprise that he feels strongly about the power of local business: He waxes poetic on Springfield’s “robust, nimble and responsive education system,” as well as the local culture of collaboration that he sees as the keys to bringing and keeping talent within our region.
NEW IN 2018: The Chamber and its development arm, the Springfield Business Development Corp., received an international award for a digital brochure that aims to attract new business to the area.
 
Missouri Governor
Wheatland High School
Holding political office wasn’t on Mike Parson’s radar until the early 1990s when the Polk County sheriff, who was heading for retirement, encouraged Parson to become his replacement. So began the Wheatland native’s decades-long career in various public offices. Our 2018 Person of the Year, Parson has served in the Missouri House and Senate before being elected as lieutenant governor in 2016. This June, he moved into the governor’s office after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned. Now, he has set his sights on improving infrastructure and facing the state’s workforce development challenges head-on. Read our full profile here.
 
Crystal Quade
District 132 Representative, Missouri House of Representatives
Missouri State University, B.S.W.
Crystal Quade’s defining moment in her career came in 2016 when she won her election to the Missouri House of Representatives. Currently the co-chair of the House Democratic Caucus, she had longed to be a public servant for many years, and the win cemented her dream. Quade has a passion for working with young people, and, prior to public service, she worked as a director of chapter services for Care to Learn for many years. A social worker by training, Quade also served as regional field director for Organizing for America and as a constituent services representative in the Missouri Senate.
“The welfare of the people should be the supreme law.“—Crystal Quade
 
Mary Ann Rojas
Director of Workforce Development, City of Springfield
Midwestern State University, B.A.A.S. in management
Mary Ann Rojas learned one of her hardest lessons about the workforce when she had to close her business and lay off her employees. “I felt I had failed them, and that was a heavy burden,” she says. But that failure paved the way for her to become the first woman and person of color to hold an executive leadership role for the City of Springfield, where she has spent the past five and a half years.
NEW IN 2018: In May, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded Springfield a $200,000 grant to train individuals for environmentally focused careers.
Photo by Brandon Alms
Jeff Seifried
President and CEO, Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB
Drury University, B.A. in business administration
Jeff Seifried has led the charge in promoting tourism in and around Branson since 2015. He works to nurture the assets of the community and is a champion for all that Branson has to offer. That’s no small task as the region continues to grow—during the 2018 summer tourism season, Branson saw almost $1 billion of new investments. Seifried, a former Springfield City Council member and mayor pro tem, also serves on the RMI Membership and Southwest Loan Committee to evaluate and approve 504 loans.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Jeff Seifried’s educational degrees. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Drury University and completed 18 hours toward an MBA at Missouri State University.
RETAIL
 
Catherine Bass Black
Human Resources Executive, Bass Pro Shops
University of the South–Sewanee, B.A. in history; Emory University, MBA
Catherine Bass Black considers herself a “student of life.” She is a risk-taker and embraces failure, which she uses as a tool to learn from mistakes. All of these characteristics serve the South Carolina native in her role at Bass Pro Shops, where she has worked since May 2015. Bass Black helped the outdoor retailer nearly double in size following its 2017 acquisition of Cabela’s. As the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice chairman of workforce development and an active community participant, Bass Black sees what Springfield is and what it can become. “Every day I wake up excited about the great potential for Springfield,” she says.
“How you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.“—Catherine Bass Black
 
Randy Little
Owner and CEO, PFI Western Store, RL Associates and SKI Air LLC
University of Missouri–Columbia, B.S. in agricultural economics
What started as a livestock feed and farm supply company has become a multimillion dollar clothing and leather goods retailer under the guidance of Randy Little, who became the sole owner in the ’80s. “There is always more out there—more to do, more mountains to climb,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: PFI has continued to grow despite the disruption of Amazon. “Staying in business is all about change, culling out the mediocre and continually adding new excitement,” Little says.
“Act instead of react! If you are reacting to anything, you are already a step behind.“—Randy Little
 
Johnny Morris
CEO and Founder, Bass Pro Shops
Drury College (now Drury University), Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in business
From the brilliant attention to detail at Bass Pro Shops and Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium to the cozy luxury of Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock, Johnny Morris is directly responsible for 417-land’s biggest tourist attractions. The CEO and founder of Bass Pro Shops had a banner year in 2017, and he isn’t slowing down. This year, Wonders of Wildlife was voted America’s Best Aquarium by USA Today, and Bass Pro Shops was named the second hottest retailer in the United States by the National Retail Federation—placing above powerhouses such as Amazon, PetSmart and IKEA. Now, another new project is in the works: Finley Farms, a property in Ozark that will include a restaurant, a speakeasy-style bar and nature trails. One thing is certain: Johnny Morris remains one of 417-land’s most influential entrepreneurs.
 
David O’Reilly
Chairman of the Board, O’Reilly Auto Parts
Drury College (now Drury University), B.A. in business and economics
A third-generation employee, David O’Reilly joined his family’s automotive retail company when it was still in its formative years. Working long hours while being an active family man was a challenge, he says, but he learned some of his most valuable lessons about business then. “There is no substitute for managing the smallest details of your business or your associates,” he says. “If you manage all of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.”
NEW IN 2018: O’Reilly started the year off with cause for celebration—his own marriage this January.
““Be fair, do what’s right and don’t be afraid to fail.“—David O’Reilly
 
Jeff Russell
President and CEO, Russell Cellular Inc.
Bruno Pyatt High School
As one of the nation’s largest Verizon Wireless retailers, Russell Cellular Inc. operates more than 425 stores across 31 states, employing more than 1,900 people. It all started in 1993 when President and CEO Jeff Russell began selling Alltel Wireless phones from the trunk of his car after a career in turkey farming. The wireless communication services company recorded $318.1 million in revenue in 2017 and has graced Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the country eight times, including this year. Now, the business is expanding after two and a half decades of stellar growth. Earlier this year, Russell Cellular announced its plan to build a new $8 million, 40,000-square-foot headquarters in Battlefield, which will create approximately 135 new jobs. It’s a testament to Russell’s commitment to 417-land.
TECHNOLOGY
Photo courtesy of Stephens Photography
Thomas H. Douglas
President and CEO, JMARK Business Solutions
Bolivar High School
Thomas H. Douglas is at the helm of one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in America. JMARK, a nine-time recipient of the Inc. Magazine distinction, supports more than 15,000 devices across hundreds of networks. “Our industry drives change,” Douglas says. “Change is hard for business and obviously for people.” He is also an energetic public speaker, delivering talks on executive strategies, technology trends and many other topics.
NEW IN 2018: JMARK celebrated 30 years of business this year.
 
David Foss
President and CEO, Jack Henry & Associates
Minnesota State University Moorhead, B.S. in computer science
David Foss joined Jack Henry & Associates, a Monett-based financial industry software firm, in 1999 through the acquisition of BancTec’s financial solutions division—a deal that he personally arranged. Over the years, Foss climbed the company ranks and, in 2014, assumed the role of JHA president. Two years later, Foss added CEO to his business cards, following in the footsteps of Jack Prim. Foss has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry and was appointed to the JHA board of directors in 2017. This October, the company announced two acquisitions in the span of eight days.
 
Doug Pitt
Founder and Co-owner, Pitt Technology Group
Owner and Developer, Pitt Development Group LLC
Founder, Care To Learn
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), B.S. in communications
Doug Pitt is a master of multitasking. Pitt has donated his time as an executive consultant for Enactus and a board member for WorldServe International. He is also the first ever Goodwill Ambassador for the United Republic of Tanzania. Still, Pitt finds time to own two successful businesses. His trick to keep it all together? “Technology!” he says.
NEW IN 2018: At press time, Pitt Technology Group was working to purchase two other Springfield technology firms.
TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY
 
Gordon Elliott
President and CEO, Elliott Lodging Ltd.
Southwest Missouri State College (now MSU), B.S. in accounting
Gordon A. Elliott has experienced many ups and downs throughout his decades-long career, including founding public accounting firm Elliott, Robinson & Company LLP and hotel management company Elliott Lodging Ltd. But nothing has altered his life more than suffering a major heart attack in China. “I realized that I had to make every minute count,” he says.
NEW IN 2018: Elliott was presented with the Excellence in Business Award by Ozarks Technical Community College this past spring. The award highlights those with entrepreneurial success, business leadership, acumen and growth and community achievement.
 
Billy McQueary
Co-owner, Hotel Vandivort
William Jewell College, B.S. in computer science
Few things excite Billy McQueary more than the trajectory of Springfield and its downtown, where his family’s business of four generations was located. Those memories stoke his passion for downtown. “Every year, there seem to be a few more pieces of the puzzle to take downtown Springfield to that next level,” he says. McQueary enjoys coaching and cheering on his three kids as they play soccer, basketball and other sports.
NEW IN 2018: Hotel Vandivort is planning an expansion, which involves a second building with additional rooms, a new valet service and a rooftop bar called The Vantage with views of the Springfield skyline.
 
John McQueary
Co-owner, Hotel Vandivort
Missouri University of Science & Technology, B.S. in computer engineering
John McQueary worked as a programmer for McQueary Brothers Drug Co. until his family’s business was acquired in 2008. After a few years writing software with his brother, Billy, the pair sought a change of pace. Enter Hotel Vandivort. “It was hard to stick firm with the vision and not sacrifice vital elements for the sake of budget, but ultimately we felt it was a concept worth the risk,” McQueary says.
NEW IN 2018: Hotel Vandivort is planning an expansion, which involves a second building with additional rooms, a new valet service and a rooftop bar called The Vantage with views of the Springfield skyline.
“Make it the place you want to live.“—John McQueary
 
Karen McQueary
Co-owner, Hotel Vandivort
Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), BFA in public communications
Karen McQueary is a public relations expert by training, but, over the years, she has developed quite the design eye. After earning a degree in public relations from Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU), McQueary worked in the public relations department at BKD. Now, she helps run Hotel Vandivort, where she focuses on the Springfield hot spot’s interior design. “Seek out your professional passion no matter what your background is,” she advises.
NEW IN 2018: McQueary is helping design the expansion of Hotel Vandivort.
Photo by Amy Pennington
Tim O’Reilly
CEO, O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC
Westminster College, B.A. in economics with an emphasis in English and political science; University of Missouri–Kansas City, J.D.
Tim O’Reilly, a practicing lawyer for O’Reilly & Preston LLC Attorneys at Law, took a chance and with his brother, Ryan, invested in Hawthorn Park Hotel, reopening it as DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Springfield and Houlihan’s. Not long after, O’Reilly Hospitality Management LLC was born and has grown to include 15 hotels in multiple states, some still under construction, and five restaurants.
NEW IN 2018: O’Reilly’s company is hard at work on construction of a new Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Springfield’s north side.
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