Future of K-12 Panel

Why Columbia?


Continuing our morning at Stephens College, our higher education session was followed by a spotlight session on NextGen with Dr. Richard Barohn, Scientific Director, NextGenPrecisionHealth. Dr. Barohn shared the promising demographics of incoming Mizzou doctors and a general update on the progress on the NextGen project. 

Afterward, we spent the rest of the morning, focusing on a significant topic in Columbia – workforce development.

What does it look like for us to attract and maintain new talent to Columbia?


In the opening panel, August Nielsen, Vice President of People Services, Veterans United Home Loans, Randa Rawlins, Executive Vice President and Board Member, Shelter Insurance Companies, and Cole Knudsen, Plant Director, Quaker Oats to discuss protecting and attracting talent to Columbia. The problems Columbia had with workforce development have continued with the additional challenges of COVID-19.

As COVID-19 has shifted large segments of the workforce virtual, employers must consider the pros and cons of allowing employees to move while continuing their positions remotely. This both impacts a company’s culture as well as the overall community as there will now be one less person living in Columbia.

The question is… What could our community be doing to make Columbia a more desirable place to enhance our attraction to workers? 

The panel mentioned affordable housing and to be very intentional about continuing the talk about our education and healthcare opportunities. Larger cities were pointed out to be expensive and congested, which could play in Columbia’s favor, especially as more jobs move remotely. Most of a person’s needs and wants can be met in a mid-size city like Columbia.

In a supplemental panel, Willy Schlacks, President & Co-founder of EquipmentShare, said “Focus on what you have, and double down on those roots. The culture is what will attract employees to Columbia. We (EquipmentShare) want to be part of what draws people to Columbia.”

Inspired from last year’s Leadership Visit to Tuscaloosa, AL., the Chamber is moving forward with a workforce development 

The Sharp End

Attendees walked through a haze of snow to the Atrium to our afternoon sessions. Jim Whitt, Director of the Supplier Diversity Program, City of Columbia and Chair, Sharp End Heritage Committee, opened the afternoon session with a review of the Sharp End and its impact on Columbia. During Urban Renewal in Columbia, individuals who were most impacted were not included on decision-making committees causing many Black businesses to be forced out of their livelihoods.

Following Jim’s review, Barbra Horrell, Vice Chair, Sharp End Heritage Committee Vice Chair, African American Heritage Trail; Board Member and Treasurer, JW “Blind” Boone Heritage Foundation Board along with Ed Tibbs, Member, Sharp End Heritage Committee and African American Heritage Trail and Monica Naylor, Retired, Columbia Public Schools spoke on a panel about their relation to the Sharp End. 


“We have history – as long as we can tell you about our history, we are proud of it,” said Barbra.

The Sharp End not only contributed to the Black business community, but the entire community of Columbia. 

Once health guidelines allow it, each 7th grader in the Columbia Public School system will be allowed to experience the African American Heritage Trail.