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Opinion: Welcome to the ’24 class of 12 People

12 People You Need to Know in 2024

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With this 2024 class of Springfield Business Journal’s 12 People You Need to Know series, I can’t help but think about the well-meaning radio DJ saying, “The hits keep coming.” It can appropriately be adapted here to: The influential businesspeople keep coming.

SBJ is in its 17th year handpicking business leaders for the live interview series. The locations, times and tones of the interviews have changed over the years, but the heart of it remains to tell the stories of those people making a difference in business and to make connections with others throughout the region.

We’re playing that tune again, and the next 12 provide some interesting storylines. Here are a few teasers:

  • Three of them have been with the same employer their entire careers (Steve Prange at Crawford, Murphy & Tilly; Winter Kinne at Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Michael Calhoun at Citizens Memorial Hospital).
  • One managed expeditions for a National Geographic resort in Ecuador – maybe the coolest job among the group (you might have guessed it to be Danny Collins of 37 North Expeditions, and that’s right, but did you also know he has a Master of Architecture degree?).
  • Four have been appointed in recent years to new leadership positions (Calhoun, Kinne, Pamela Yancey at the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau and Dr. Kyle John at the Arc of the Ozarks).
  • Two have reinvented their careers (Debbie Shantz Hart with multiple development companies and Yancey, doing so in her 60s, she’ll happily tell you; Hart parlayed over a dozen years working with hotelier John Q. Hammons into multiple development ventures of her own, now amassing a $110 million portfolio, while Yancey just flipped three decades in banking to take on a new challenge leading the Branson chamber. They’re each uniquely equipped for those roles, as you’ll read in their profiles inside).

Bottom line: They’re all influential and shaping the business community in positive ways – today and for the future, in some cases, literally decades down the line (see Prange and the Lake Springfield master plan).

But it takes one step at a time, with patience and persistence. And I should note the series presenting sponsor, Arvest Bank, has been with us every step of the way since the inaugural class in 2008.

So, come take some steps with SBJ and the 2024 class of 12 People You Need to Know. We’ll get there together.

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


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