The Network Touts Access to Local Leaders, Outdoors Amenities

There are many reasons why Springfield is a great place for people starting or growing their career, and The Network for Young Professionals works hard to share those opportunities with the community.

Two recent events highlighted a couple of the biggest advantages in our area: access to outdoor amenities, and the ability to interact directly with business and community leaders.

Q&A with a CEO

The October 25 edition of the Network’s CEO Series brought Gary Schafer to the Chamber. Schafer is the managing partner of BKD’s Springfield, Joplin and Branson offices, but he also has a special affinity for the Network – he was the organization’s first chair when it was founded in 2007.

Current Network Chair Kristin Carter got a chance to ask Schafer about what he has learned in 23 years with the accounting firm, including how he works to be a good leader. He said the key is constantly striving for improvement.

“As a professional, you never stop learning,” Schafer said. “You’re always finding out what’s next in your career and learning how to do it better.”

He also said he works directly in recruitment of YPs to the firm – an area that he finds especially exciting since the accounting industry is undergoing dramatic change.

“We’re at a point in our industry where what we do for our clients now is completely different than what we’ll do for them 10 years from now,” he said. “Young professionals are going to revolutionize how we do our business, and that’s exciting to me.”

And he encouraged those in attendance to get involved in the community, as he has been – both as a former Network chair and now as a board member with Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks.

“Originally, the Network was focused on retaining young professionals in our community, and that’s still incredibly important. But it’s much more than that now,” he said. “You can be a powerful force for positive change in our community. You’re uniquely positioned to affect change. Be the change you want to see.”

Outdoor living

Part of Schafer’s advice was to find the right balance between work and personal life – and Springfield offers many opportunities to relax in an outdoor setting.

The Network highlighted some of those during its Living in SGF event on October 16 at the Springfield Lake Boathouse. A four-person panel offered their thoughts about the area’s parks and recreation:

  • Bob Belote, Director of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board
  • Matt Coats, Superintendent of Special Facilities for the Park Board
  • Dee King, Corporate Services Development Officer at Guaranty Bank and Park Board Member
  • Mary Kromrey, Executive Director of Ozark Greenways

They talked about how the area boasts 104 parks, sports complexes and special facilities, including “hidden gems” like Ritter Springs Park, Valley Water Mill Equestrian Center and Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park.

They offered their visions for what the area’s parks can be. Belote, for example, says a more extensive biking trail system could make the area’s parks system a destination for travelers as well as residents, while King pointed out that TripAdvisor lists Close Memorial and Nathaniel Greene Park as one of the top things to do in Springfield.

And they told the group of YPs in the crowd how they can help share the love about our parks: Get out and use the parks, tell family and friends about the amazing parks and trails, and communicate what they want to see to local leaders.

Kromrey said she feels passionately that young professionals are key to growing the parks and greenways system into what it could be. “Talk and share your love for the parks, trails, and Springfield generally,” she said. “I want you to fall in love with Springfield, because if you love a place, you take care of it.”