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Thankful and Optimistic: Reflecting on 20 Under 40

Thankful and Optimistic: Reflecting on 20 Under 40

  • "Thankful and Optimistic" originally appeared in the April 2024 "20 Under 40" issue of COMO Magazine.
2016 20U40 Magazine Spread

In 2016, I was recognized in CBT’s 20 Under 40 class. I had never heard of it before and, to be honest, when I first received the notification that I had been nominated I was a little taken aback. As a woman, I didn’t like to draw attention to the fact that I was also young. I know this can be a common worry for women in the workplace. Now my hesitation with wanting to be recognized was short-lived because the process leading up to the event and all the networking opportunities that have happened since then have been impactful on my career.

As mayor of a university town, I am often concerned with the reality of talent drain. Talent drain, for me, is when we educate all these bright, young people and then they move after graduation and we lose out on the impact they could have made in Columbia. Sometimes this doesn’t happen immediately after graduation. A recent study by Fourth Economy examined several key indicators for the Regional Economic Development Commission Inc.’s (REDI) current strategic plan, and it showed that over the past decade, we have lost 13,348 of our residents in the 30 to 39 age range. And those aged 30 to 34 were the most likely to migrate out of Boone County.

By recognizing our young professionals who have chosen to stay in Columbia, we’re showing them that they made the right choice and we’re glad to have them here. Recognizing young professionals for their achievements can contribute to the retention of talent within the community. Feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions can increase job satisfaction and loyalty, ultimately benefiting local businesses and organizations.

Alumni of our 20 Under 40 program have made significant impacts on our community. I think about some of the members of my class — like Jabbok and Willie Schlacks, who founded and run EquipmentShare. EquipmentShare could have moved its headquarters out of Columbia when its success took off, but the company chose to remain in Columbia and is continuing to grow and flourish. Its local corporate headquarters and technology development center expansion project will add 555 new jobs over the next five years, and an investment of just over $100 million.

Being featured on a 20 under 40 list can open doors to new networking opportunities within the community. For me, it provided a platform to connect with other talented individuals, potential mentors, and influential leaders.

One perfect example is what I was able to do in my previous role with the city when I collaborated with another member of my class, artist Madeleine LeMieux. Madeleine and a group of C.A.R.E. students collaborated with my office to design and execute two murals on the MKT trail that educate trail users on environmental issues and ways individuals can make a positive difference. 

As we work to brainstorm what makes people want to stay in Columbia after graduation and at the start of their careers, I think investing in the places and activities that add to our vibrancy can only help our efforts. Recent expansions and developments in the Stockade (Stockyard + Arcade District) area of Columbia are the physical representation of a growing community that is more than just a college town. Another class of 2016 member is Logboat captain Tyson Hunt. It was inspiring back then to hear the story of a group of friends who started brewing beer in their garage and then had the vision to create Logboat Brewing. This operation has now expanded twice and distributes beer and cider throughout the entire state of Missouri.

Columbia is a vibrant community with a reputation for nurturing young talent. This reputation can attract investment and new opportunities because businesses and investors are drawn to areas where there is a strong pool of skilled professionals and a supportive environment for growth and development.

I am thankful to COMO Business Times for continuing the tradition of recognizing our emerging professionals and celebrating what makes us special. Congratulations to this year’s (and past years) classes!  

Barbara Buffaloe photographed in Downtown Columbia

Barbara Buffaloe currently is serving her first term in office as the mayor of Columbia.

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