I was back in Springfield, MO for the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development last week. When I toured the community a year ago, I was struck by the number of entrepreneurs who had positively impacted the community, but none more than John Q. Hammons who had built a $32 million minor league stadium, museum and many other improvements to the quality of life in Springfield. I had been inspired when I read his biography after that trip.
As I was walking thru the hotel lobby, on my way to dinner, I was pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Hammons sitting in the lobby. I was thrilled to get a chance to chat with him for a few minutes and to invite him to my talk the next morning. Unfortunately, he was flying out of town and couldn’t attend but I used him as an example several times in my talk.
Here is his story. John Q. Hammons was born in Fairview, MO (population 395), 60 miles south and west of Springfield. He was one of only 12 students in his high school graduating class. After two years of college he became a teacher at a salary of $40 per month. During WWII he helped to build the Alaskan-Canadian Highway, nicknamed the Road to Tokyo, and served in the Merchant Marines in the Pacific Campaign.
Mr Hammons told me, “I’ve built 187 hotels during my career and have $360 million in new construction going on right now, so we’re rapidly closing in on 200 hotels.”
Today he owns hotels in 23 states, including the award winning Chateau on the Lake Resort and Conference Center in Branson, MO.
One of his employees at the hotel told me, “He lives here in the hotel and works every day of the week. He is a real joy to work for.”
It’s been an amazing journey of 88 years from tiny Fairview, MO for John Q. Hammons.