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Class of 2007

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 39. Senior Vice President, Tighe & Bond

You don’t think sitting down for dinner as a family makes an impression on kids? Well, turn off the TV and consider the Hoey clan.

“I’m the youngest of 10, and my father was a civil engineer who went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute,” said Francis Hoey III, senior vice president of Tighe & Bond in Westfield. “Seven of us are in engineering or public work to some degree, and three of us went to my Dad’s alma mater. It’s what we talked about at the dinner table. I got pointed in that direction and found I really enjoyed it, and I did internships all through college.”

Since joining Tighe & Bond 15 years ago, Hoey has worked on a number of high-profile projects throughout the region, including serving as project manager for both the Churchill housing redevelopment project in Holyoke and the Village at Hospital Hill, the redevelopment of the 124-acre site of the former Northampton State Hospital.

“I do a lot of land development work,” he said. “My typical client these days is more likely to be a developer than anything else. There’s a lot of mixed-use development, a lot of brownfields work, and redevelopment of derelict properties.”

Speaking of revitalizing properties, Hoey takes a special interest in recent improvements in his hometown of Holyoke, where he serves as vice chair of the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department board, among other forms of community involvement, including a past stint as vice chair of the Planning Commission.

“I think Holyoke is a great city and a great place to live, but it gets a terrible rap,” he said. “Those of us who are able to polish its star a little bit need to do that. I’m proud to be from Holyoke.”

Hoey brings a similar sense of pride to his work with Tighe & Bond. “I like seeing a finished project,” Hoey said. “I like being able to point to something, whether it’s a building, a dam, or something else, and say, ‘hey, kids, I was involved in taking that from a concept on a drawing board to an actual, physical structure.’”

As for those kids — Hoey and his wife have three of them — they had better keep their guard up at the dinner table. Dad’s career could start to look mighty tempting.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 34. Director of Branding and Licensing, Spalding

Christy Hedgpeth says she has a sports analogy, or lesson, for almost every occasion, including just about every business situation she finds herself in.

And she should. She has played basketball professionally for the Seattle franchise of the American Basketball League and, in fact, played a lead role (manager of player development) in getting that pioneering league off the ground. And she was the starting shooting guard on a Stanford University team that went to two Final Fours and won the national title in 1992.

Hedgpeth, director of branding and licensing for Springfield-based Spalding, has made endless references to that championship season, which provided countless lessons in teamwork, continuously striving to get better, and just plain old hard work.

“We had talent, but we also had great chemistry … we had five starters in double figures that year,” she explained. “But we were also incredibly well-conditioned. We paid our dues on the track in the summer when it was really hot. When games got tight, we knew we had an advantage because we had prepared more thoroughly than anyone else.”

Hedgpeth has been applying lessons she learned on the court, on the running track, and in the weight room (and encouraging others to the same) in a career that has effectively blended her areas of expertise — sports, marketing, and business. At Spalding, she wears many hats in her current role, and is essentially charged with ensuring brand consistency across all of the company’s businesses. Often, she works in concert with Dan Touhey, Spalding’s vice president of Marketing and another of the Forty Under 40.

Like Touhey, Hedgpeth is active in the community, donating time and energy to several causes and groups, especially the fight against breast cancer, which took the life of a friend a few years ago.

Hedgpeth said she will always have fond memories of that championship season, the other years at Stanford — including 1994, when she was team captain — her three years with the Seattle Reign, and even an ESPY nomination in 1993 for best women’s player of that season. But the memories are just part of the equation.

There are also the lessons — especially those about working with others to clear hurdles and achieve common goals. Like the memories, her championship ring, and that piece of net she cut down that April night in 1992, she’ll have those forever.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 31. President and Founder, Atalasoft Inc.

Bill Bither says he doesn’t really have anything he’d call “free time,” just time spent doing many different things.

When he’s not running his software development firm, Atalasoft, in Easthampton, which is growing at an astounding rate of 75% annually, he’s working to recruit technology talent to Western Mass. through his involvement with the Regional Technology Corp. He’s also a prolific blogger at BillBither.com, and encourages the practice among his employees.

But Bither isn’t always chained to his keyboard; he’s also a competitive cyclist who commutes to work by bike, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle within his company, too; Atalasoft’s team meetings are often held in motion on nearby bike paths.

“Sometimes I need to come up for air,” he joked, adding quickly that any down moments are usually spent with his family — his wife Kim and two children, Abriana and Alex. “I just love them, and having two young children to play with is a blast.”

Bither moved to Western Mass. after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He started his career at Hamilton Standard, but as a side project began developing a software application called EyeBatch, which processes several images at one time, often for use on the Web.

He said EyeBatch began to generate a nice side income, which in turn motivated him to start his own business. Now, Atalasoft sells six core products worldwide and employs 15 people. Bither expects that number will be closer to 100 in just a few years.

“That’s all organic growth — we hire people as we need them,” he said.

The fast pace at which Atalasoft is evolving has also allowed Bither to make philanthropy a major part of his business. After losing his father to brain cancer, he and his family became involved with BrainTrust, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life of those with brain-related conditions. To give back, Bither donates 100% of the profits of EyeBatch to the group.

“They offered my family a lot of help, and BrainTrust is a small charity, so it really benefits,” he said.

And, it’s just one more way Bither stays busy — a business owner, bicyclist, blogger, and now, benefactor, as well.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 28. Attorney, Lyon & Fitzpatrick LLP

With degrees in Political Science and Law — and experience campaigning for political candidates in Massachusetts — Michael Gove is enthusiastic, to say the least, about politics. Just don’t ask him to run for office.

“I’ve always been a big believer in the political process, and I’ve always had a blast campaigning,” he said. “There are so many issues out there that can only be resolved through the political process, so it’s important that people stand up and tell the people representing them what they believe.”

That said, “I could see myself on a board of selectmen, something small, but wouldn’t want to be governor. I don’t like the horse trading, or trading away my principles and making compromises. I’d rather focus on an issue I believe in and work for that.”

In many ways, Gove is working for the public right now, one person at a time, as an attorney with Lyon & Fitzpatrick LLP who specializes in business law, estate planning, and housing law.

“I originally wanted to be a prosecutor,” he said, “but I found I really enjoyed working with people planning ahead for things” — a job description that ranges from helping businesses plan 10 or 20 years down the road to making sure young couples with children plan a secure future for their family, or helping senior citizens protect assets when preparing for nursing-home care.

Gove is planning on a larger scale, too. A member of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, he was asked by PVPC Director Tim Brennan to co-chair the Valley Development Council, a board hard at work on Valley Vision II, a comprehensive land-use plan for the region.

“It’s a huge project, and it has taken two years to get to where we are now,” Gove said. “We’re going to urge the commission to support it and push principles of smart growth, energy conservation, mixed-use buildings, mixing residential and commercial building, and mass transit.”

The first Valley Vision endeavor, he said, was released several years ago and then “left to collect dust.” The current council intends to make the second effort a living document, to be updated as the years go by.

After all, to succeed in the future, you have to work at it now — whether you’re a politician, a city planner, or a retired grandmother who doesn’t want to lose her life savings.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007 Cover Story
Age 37. Vice President of Operations and Facilities Management, Cooley Dickinson Hospital

Richard Corder has spent the past few years leading two major construction projects: a $50 million expansion of Cooley Dickinson Hospital — and a tree fort he is building with his 10-year-old son, Harrison.

He is extremely proud of the fact that, with regard to the former (completed just a few weeks ago), he could consistently report that it was on time and on budget. And he’s equally proud that, when it comes to the latter (still ongoing), he can say neither. “There never was a schedule, and there never was a budget, which is good, because having either would take a lot of the fun out of it.”

Corder has managed to pack several different kinds of fun into his balance of life and work since he came to CDH as director of Guest Services in 2000, and has since been promoted twice. A native of Nottingham, England who immigrated to the U.S. in 1993 and spent many years in the hospitality sector before seguing into health care, Corder likes brewing his own beer, collecting and drinking fine wines, cooking, arranging flowers, and sailing, which is one of his few regrets about relocating to the Northampton area. “I can only do it maybe once or twice a year.”

Being farther away from the ocean than he would like is about the only thing Corder can complain about these days. He’s enjoying every aspect of being a husband and father of two, and has found a great measure of fulfillment in his work at CDH, especially the expansion project, which he called a career milestone.

Actually, he summoned a good number of adjectives to describe the massive addition, planning for which began soon after he arrived at the hospital. “When I look back on my career thus far, it’s probably been one of the most exciting, rewarding, challenging, frustrating, joy-filled, professional endeavors I’ve been involved with.

“To have been permitted this opportunity is something I’ll never forget,” he continued. “I’ve learned a lot personally, and we’ve learned a lot as an organization.”

As for the tree house … “my wife was walking around for a year saying, ‘I could have bought a new couch,’” he joked. No word yet on when it will be completed. As he said, there’s no timetable, and he likes it that way.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 34. Executive Officer, Springfield School Volunteers

Faith. That’s what Denise Cogman says moves her forward in life, and is what gives her strength in her position within the Springfield School system, managing close to 3,000 volunteers and enriching the lives of the city’s many students.

A little faith also went a long way when Cogman began searching for a career; she said the path she embarked on was markedly shorter than she expected it would be. As a student of social work at Western New England College, Cogman said she was in the midst of a hectic senior year — completing an internship advocating for homeless families, studying for final exams, and serving as a resident assistant.

“One day, mock interviews were being held on campus, and it reminded me that I needed to get my résumé together,” she said.

Cogman went to WNEC’s career services office with a simple request — “help me?” — and got more help than she’d bargained for. A staff member noticed Cogman’s internship scribbled among the notes she’d brought along, and said she’d just gotten a tip about a position with similar responsibilities within the Springfield school department.

“She just got on the phone, and the next thing I know, I have a part-time job in the homeless tutorial program,” said Cogman. “I still didn’t have a résumé, though.”

She excelled in the part-time position, and was offered a full-time program-manager job soon after. Just last year, the executive officer position opened up, and Cogman submitted her now-completed résumé.

It’s a position with many diverse responsibilities; Cogman is charged with developing an annual plan for school volunteers, managing the department’s budget, and spearheading recruitment initiatives. A current goal is to increase diversity among her volunteers, in order to better mirror the constituency her department serves.

“That’s one goal we’ve really worked hard on, reaching out to African-American and Latino communities,” she said.

Cogman still marvels at how quickly her career track has moved along, but added that a position in education is a good fit for her personal values.

“I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, and that’s a big part of what we do — teach people,” she said. “When I want to share something about myself, I always return to that. Faith and family — that’s who I am.”

40 Under 40 Class of 2007 Cover Story
Age 34. Assistant Vice President

Her maiden name is Liptak, and Amy Caruso has dedicated herself to living up to it.

In the Westfield area, she explained, the name Liptak, with its mere mention, brings large doses of history, tradition — and expectation for service to the community. Indeed, her grandfather, Louis Liptak Sr., was the long-time director of a city landmark, Stanley Park, who also donated time and energy to numerous groups and could be counted on to play Santa Claus every year at gift-distribution programs for needy families. Countless other members of the family have given back in a number of ways, including Caruso’s recently deceased second cousin, Adam Liptak, who was a long-time city councilor, Kiwanian, and, coincidentally (or not), another Santa Claus.

Caruso played the flute at his funeral service in March — she’s been an accomplished flautist for many years — but she’s honored her cousin and her family name in many other ways. Now an assistant vice president in MassMutual’s Financial Products Division, Caruso donates time to several groups and causes, always with the goal of doing what her former boss and mentor, the late Richard Stebbins, longtime president of BayBank, told her to do. When contemplating how to give back to the community, he said to find ways to make an impact.

“He told me I could either do a lot of little things or a few big things that would make a difference,” she explained, adding that she is attempting the latter though involvement with such groups as the Hampden Hampshire Housing Partnership (HAP), which she serves as a Fund Development Committee member.

In her capacity at MassMutual, Caruso is a compliance officer and oversees new product launches. She joined the company in 2000 as a participant in its Executive Development Program, rotating through various marketing, sales support, and operations roles in Retirement Services, Disability Income, the firm’s broker-dealer, and Annuities.

During that progression, and at previous career stops at Baybank and Sovereign Bank, she always found time to get involved with such groups as the Springfield Symphony Orchestra Marketing Committee, the Brightside Angels, the Westfield Community Band, the Western Mass. Chapter of the Hugh O’Brien Youth Foundation, the YMCA of Greater Springfield, and many others.

Needless to say, Louis Liptak Sr. and Dick Stebbins would be proud.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007 Cover Story
Age 39. Vice President of Marketing, Spalding

Dan Touhey was working in marketing for Bayer, specifically on ways to promote Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine — and, in his words, looking for a way out.
A recruiter called him about a product manager position at Spalding, but did so with a cautionary tone. “He told me I had good experience, but not industry experience, and the company wanted someone who knew the business,” Touhey recalled. “I said, ‘I’ll tell you what … I’m a fanatic about basketball and sports in general; if you get me in the front door, I’ll do the rest.’”

He did, and Touhey has.

Over the past decade, he has played a lead role in rebranding Spalding, developing the tag line True to the Game, and rolling out (literally) many new products, from the Infusion™ line, which puts the inflating pump inside the ball, and the Neverflat™, a name that says it all. In so doing, Touhey has helped Spalding, known primarily as a “golf company” when he arrived, return to its roots as a leading sporting goods manufacturer.

Touhey’s work takes him across the country and around the world, but he still makes time for civic involvement. After a year of hard training, he ran in his first Boston Marathon last month as part of Tedy’s Team (named for New England Patriots linebacker and stroke victim Tedy Bruschi), on behalf of the American Stroke Assoc. That’s a cause he embraced after his father suffered a stroke last year. “I always wanted to run the marathon, but never had the inspiration,” he said. “Now, I have plenty.”

Touhey is also on the advisory board for Good Sports, a group that takes donations from sporting goods manufacturers and gives them to communities and individual schools in need, and started coaching tee-ball this spring, with the older of his two boys taking a roster spot.

A basketball player in high school and also during his last year in college (spent in Ireland), Touhey is a big believer in teamwork. He credits others at Spalding and Lenox-based Winstanley Associates for helping create ‘True to the Game’ and launch products that help the company live up to that slogan.

But he is the leader of the team, and has been since he was able to make his way through Spalding’s front door.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 38. Owner, Our Town Variety and Liquors

Convenience stores need to be, well, convenient.

And Meadowbrook Food Center, the neighborhood variety store located a quarter-mile from James “Chip” Harrington’s Ludlow home, simply wasn’t. Instead, he said, it was poorly laid out, generally overpriced, and stocked with too many dust-collecting items. Harrington, a community corrections officer for the state who was looking for some kind of investment property in 2003, was intrigued.

“The store had been here for 50 years and had a lot of potential, but it wasn’t being managed properly,” he said, and when it went up for sale, he and his wife Noel, a registered nurse at Baystate Medical Center, jumped at the opportunity to turn the business — which they renamed Our Town Variety and Liquors — around. They cleaned up the property, streamlined the inventory to focus on liquor and the most commonly sold grocery staples, and lowered prices.

“We were completely out of water when it came to this, so it was a big learning curve,” he said — but a lucrative enough one that he left his state job in 2005 to devote himself completely to the store, which, since the change of ownership, has seen annual non-lottery sales rise from $300,000 to $750,000, and lottery revenues increase from $600,000 to more than $1 million.

“It was a very disorganized store and didn’t have much of a flow to it. Customers have to clearly see everything, identify what they’re looking for, and get out; that’s the purpose of a variety store,” Harrington said. “We’re in a good location, and the customers are there. We just needed to give them what they’re looking for.”

Harrington has found much of what he’s looking for over the years in Ludlow, serving on a number of town boards, beginning with his election to the Recreation Commission at age 22. He moved on to the Board of Selectmen at age 24 and currently chairs the Ludlow School Committee.

“I’ve always had an interest in government and public service. And this is a great town with great people,” he said. “Being a business owner in town only fueled my desire to be more involved. And I can’t say no … which gets me in trouble with my wife.”

Worse, there’s no place to hide from her at the variety store. After all, the customers can see everything.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007 Cover Story
Age 33. Owner, the Western Mass. Sports Journal

13:50. That’s the time, in hours and minutes, that Tad Tokarz posted in the first Ironman triathlon he raced in two years ago. That’s how long it took him to complete the 1.5-mile swim, 120-mile bike ride, and 26-mile run. Tokarz remembers his time, but it is of no real significance to him. “My goal was to finish, and I did.”

He also remembers the winner’s time — sort of. “It was around 8 1/2 or 9 hours … which is simply incomprehensible.” That’s a word that many might apply to Tokarz’s performance as well, especially when one considers that two years before the race, he couldn’t swim more than two laps in the pool and didn’t own a bicycle. “It was just something I set my sights on, and I accomplished it.”

This is essentially the same approach he’s taken to an intriguing entrepreneurial venture called the Western Mass. Sports Journal, which, as the name implies, provides coverage of sports at a variety of levels, but always with a Pioneer Valley slant. Tokarz, who by day is the assistant principal and director of Athletics at Springfield’s Central High School, thought many of the good stories at his school and many others in the Valley were simply not being told. So he created a forum in which they could.

The Journal, now located in the Scibelli Enterprise Center at Springfield Technical Community College, and grown through the help of administrators there, has become almost another full-time venture for Tokarz, who must still find time to train — he starts each day at 4:30 a.m., is in the gym by 5, and works out twice each day during the summer — and also for community involvement. He’s on the board of the South End Community Center in Springfield, and donates time and energy to the Ludlow Boys and Girls Club and the Jimmy Fund, among other groups.

He told BusinessWest that the strict workout regimen has helped him organize his time and stay focused on goals and strategies to achieve them — both at Central High and the Journal. “Nothing worthwhile ever comes easily — when I trained for the Ironman, that was a year-long endeavor; we used to go on bike rides for eight hours,” he said. “That experience translates directly to the work I do in school and in publishing.”

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 31. Senior Manager, Wolf & Co.

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While playing baseball at Holy Cross, Daniel Morrill saw his friends keeping busy by helping needy children. He recalls being both jealous and inspired.

“I played baseball for four years there, which didn’t allow me any time to do community service,” he said. “A lot of my friends were involved in a program where they met with underprivileged kids in Worcester once a week, and one of my friends had a little brother through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I wanted to do that, too.”

Morrill eventually did get involved, so effectively that he was named the Hampden County Big Brother of the Year in 2004. That’s typical of Morrill, who has made a habit of swinging for the fences in both his work and the community. Even as the Forty Under 40 goes to press, he’s on the move at Wolf & Co., the Springfield-based CPA and consulting firm. Before this year, he had worked as a senior audit manager, handling the audits of more than 125 clients throughout the year, including large, multi-state, publicly held bank holding companies.

“I’m in the midst of an exciting transition right now, moving into professional practice as a senior manager,” he said, a position that includes both in-house training and overseeing in-house consulting with other partners and managers on technical issues.

It’s a career he relishes, although he freely admits that he was drawn into the Economics and Accounting programs at Holy Cross partly by the fact that graduates of the program usually had no problem finding work after college. “It wasn’t difficult getting a job coming out, and when you’re 18, that’s appealing,” he said.

Getting a job is one thing, but moving quickly up the ladder is another. Still, Morrill is no longer letting work or play (golf) get in the way of serving the community, whether through an annual bowl-a-thon that draws some 50 participants from Wolf & Co. or working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, where he has served on the board of directors for several years.

“I realized the impact you could make on a young person’s life,” he said of his experience there. And making an impact, both on the job and away from it, is what the Forty Under 40 is all about.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007 Cover Story
Age 31. Editor, Turley Publications

Sarah Tsitso has always surrounded herself with words.

She says she can’t imagine a career that doesn’t involve writing, and has a strong respect for and commitment to community journalism. Beyond that, she’s an avid reader who founded a book group for women last year, to serve as an outlet for those looking to delve deeper into literature, or others who needed an audience to share their insights into favorite books (she’s a fan of the Brontë sisters: Emily, Anne, and Charlotte).

An unexpected gesture from her grandfather best puts Tsitso’s love for language into perspective, however. He presented her with a vintage Oxford English Dictionary, a gift that brought her to tears.

“Who cries over a dictionary?” she joked. “I guess it’s because language has always been treated with so much importance in my family. Words are in my blood.”

But building vocabulary isn’t Tsitso’s only interest. She champions a number of causes, including women’s rights (she’s a member of NOW), environmental preservation, and responsible government. And although she completed her coursework toward a bachelor’s degree at Simmons College in four years, she had five majors in that time: Philosophy, Environmental Science, Political Science, Secondary Education, and, finally, American Literature.

“Journalism was my third job out of college, and I fell in love with it,” she said. “There is time to learn, and to tell a story.” She began as a reporter at Turley Publications in Palmer, which owns 15 community newspapers across the region. Soon, Tsitso was promoted to editor, and has worked with three different papers since then, either growing long-held publications or launching a new one.

She’s twice been recognized by the New England Press Assoc. for her work, and continues to study the craft through professional development, having recently attended the American Press Institute’s prestigious management-training program. Tsitso also enjoys teaching, both formally and informally. She leads journalism courses for adults and children, and regularly celebrates words in all their forms with her two-year-old daughter, Vivian.

“Vivian is a huge reader,” she said, noting that while Vivie isn’t ready for Brontë, they’ve started with a different Charlotte — one who lives on a farm with her best friend, a pig named Wilbur.

“We’re doing the chapters together at night,” said Tsitso. “But no matter what time of day it is, there’s always a book in her hand.”

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 33. Editor, The Women’s Times

As she talks about all that’s going on in her life, professionally and within the community, and her efforts to squeeze it all in, Audrey Manring uses words and phrases that give new meaning to the saying about time being money.

“You scrimp and you save,” she said, describing her efforts to make maximum use of the 24 hours in a day. “Maybe you cut back on sleep … you do whatever you can just to make the time.”

This tall order got considerably taller a year ago, when Manring was named editor of The Women’s Times, a publication with a mission that suits her professionally and personally.

“It’s a nice marriage of what’s interesting to me intellectually and the kind of work I feel is important: amplifying women’s voices, telling their stories, and looking at issues of concern regionally and nationally, but from a very locally grounded perspective,” said Manring, who had several interesting stops before returning to the Berkshires in 2002.

After graduate school (at the University of Scotland), she was a freelance writer, with bylined articles in Information Week, among other publications. Before that, she was a research and writing assistant for the New York Times bestseller Flyboys.

In her current capacity, Manring wears many hats. She does some writing and art direction, considerable editing, and work done in collaboration with Publisher Eugenie Sills to brand the publication, shape its editorial philosophy, and make it more visible across Western Mass.

While doing all this, she finds time for a long and intriguing list of community work. She was, for example, co-founding director of the PapaInk Children’s Art Archive, which has collected and archived roughly 30,000 pieces from around the world. Manring is also a mentor with the South Berkshire Youth Coalition Mentoring Program, which serves high school students at risk; sits on both the steering and marketing committees for Voices from the Inside, a literary arts program for incarcerated women; and is a volunteer with Construct Inc., an agency working with housing and homelessness issues in Great Barrington.

When asked about future career goals and aspirations, Manring said she considers herself a writer first and foremost, one who would like to freelance for some national publications and someday pen her own novel. To do that, she knows she’ll need to really scrimp when it comes to her time.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 37. Owner, Speak Easy Accent Modification

In business, perception is often reality. So Erica Walch decided to change reality for people for whom speaking English is not first nature.

“When I was teaching English as a second language, many of my students said, ‘I wish I could change my accent,’” she said, citing many accounts of people with non-intrusive accents being perceived as more fluent than they are, while skilled English speakers with difficult accents are often thought to be non-fluent.

“I found out there are programs that teach accent modification,” she said, “so I brought my own English-as-a-second-language expertise to it and put together a company.” That venture, Speak Easy Accent Modification, launched in December, has seen Walch meet her early client goals, and she is in discussions with an international consulting firm to provide training for 150 non-native English-speaking employees.

Walch’s passion for language also led her to institute the first Italian-language courses at Springfield Technical Community College. Second-semester students of the course communicate electronically with Italian pen pals, and Walch is trying to implement a virtual student exchange with a sister school in Italy.

As for Speak Easy, with immigrants arriving in Western Mass. all the time, there should be no shortage of future opportunities as word spreads.

“The population growth in Western Mass. the past three years has been due to immigration,” she explained. “If not for that, the population would have decreased. So I think that’s an optimistic sign for my business.”

Speaking of folks on the move, Walch’s other passion is Springfield itself — specifically, convincing young, successful business people to make the City of Homes their home. To that end, she has promoted various aspects of Springfield as past president of both the Mattoon Street Historic Preservation Association and the Armory Quadrangle Civic Association, and helped implement the Second Saturday Walking Tours with the Springfield Museum Association.

“I want professional, middle-class people to relocate and choose Springfield to buy a home, rather than, say, Wilbraham or Hampden,” she said. “This is where I live, and I’ve always felt it’s important to be involved in civic life. This city has so much to offer. It’s a great place to live, but it gets a bad rap.”

Kind of like a bad accent obscuring eloquent words. It turns out Walch is working to change perceptions in more ways than one.

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 39. Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, Noble Hospital

Todd Lever has big things in mind … for his generation.

“I’ve had a number of mentors over the years, and I’d like to do the same for others who are trying to break into different careers,” Lever said of one of his goals: to start a regional networking group for members of Generation X. He even has a name in mind: Xecutives.

“With the aging of the Baby Boom generation, there will be a leadership transition between Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, and an increased need for leadership and networking.”

It’s a typically ambitious plan for Lever, who seems to be happier the more thinly he spreads himself. His current job, overseeing a range of marketing efforts at Noble Hospital in Westfield, is only the latest in a series of public-relations roles in health care, including stints at Health New England, Baystate Health, and the Sisters of Providence Health System. In the meantime, he has cultivated relationships with several regional nonprofits in the human services sector. “I’ve never wanted to market widgets,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to have some close human connection to my daily business activities.”

It’s a mission Lever has taken beyond his own career through an entity called Western Mass. Strategies, his consulting practice that focuses on marketing, public relations, and government affairs within the local nonprofit sector. “I had been participating in a human services advocacy group, and I found a number of executive directors taking about a need for public relations and advocacy capacity within their organizations, because they couldn’t hire anyone on their own,” he said. “So I set up my own boutique consulting business, working for several organizations.”

Lever has been, in many ways, a public-service Renaissance man, from his Political Science studies at UMass and his election as a Southwick selectman at age 24, to his eight years of editorial writing about political and interpersonal issues for Southwoods magazine and his more recent role as a public affairs analyst on the Tony Gill Show on WAIC radio.

Still, his work keeps returning to the fields of health and human services. “I’ve been given fantastic opportunities to have some daily interaction with people and to try to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

All this, with nary a widget in sight.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 28. Farmer and Owner of Red Fire Farms, Granby

Ryan Voiland’s tomatoes aren’t just tasty. They’re award-winning.

Voiland, who owns Red Fire Farm in Granby, has been entering his tomatoes in state-wide competition for a decade, and has taken home the second-highest number of accolades in the Commonwealth.

It’s not just one prize crop that continues to shine, either. Voiland said his farm produces about 75 different varieties of tomatoes, including heirlooms and hybrids, in addition to cucumbers, onions, carrots, several lettuces, and other fruits and vegetables. All of his produce is certified organic.

The business has grown from one tiny farm stand in Montague, which Voiland started in middle school and still maintains today, to more than 50 acres of land on which he produces crops for retail and wholesale buyers and for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) co-ops in Western Mass. and Boston.

In addition, Voiland promotes agriculture as a viable career path for people of varying ages. He started with a catchy name for his business — the farm’s homestead burned to the ground in 1922 after being struck by lightning, and Red Fire is a popular variety of lettuce he cultivates. He also began a radio show titled Farm to Fork, and offers apprentice and training programs.

Voiland said his parents (who aren’t farmers) have been supportive of his choice to pursue a career in agriculture, helping him with the necessary infrastructure on his first rented plot of land, which he started farming in high school and maintained while pursuing a degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Now based on land he largely owns in Granby, Voiland said his diverse farming model was a deliberate choice that differs from many farms of similar size.

“We grow practically every type of vegetable that can grow in this climate,” he said. “A lot of farms are more specialized, but that’s part of the beauty of our farm. We’re so diverse, we can ensure against catastrophic crop failure. A bad year for lettuce doesn’t mean the other crops will be affected.”

The model seems to be working thus far. Red Fire Farm is gradually expanding in terms of acreage, service area, and staff.

“It’s all part of a strategy,” said Voiland, who’s proving that though their work is sometimes difficult, farmers can still bring home the bacon with lettuce and tomatoes.

Jaclyn C. Stevenson

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 36. Partner, Moriarty & Primack, P.C.

Patrick Leary isn’t one to dip a toe in the water when a diving board is close by.

His total-immersion experience came as an undergraduate at Fairfield University, when some fellow students told him about their experiences studying in Europe.

He was intrigued, even though he spoke only English. “I thought I’d like to take that on and see what it’s all about to go abroad,” he said. “But it’s a real leap to do that when you don’t know anyone and don’t know the language.”

He decided on the University of Salzburg in Austria, a campus where the main language was German. To adapt, Leary was first plunked into the Berlitz School of Languages in Munich, Germany for a crash course. “They spoke to you in German, seven or eight hours a day, for three weeks straight,” he said. “I learned some basic German, enough to get by. It was a learning experience.”

During those years, Leary was a little more tentative about his career path, having already switched from a Biology major to business courses. “During my senior year, I was given an ultimatum: Accounting or Finance. I selected Accounting, and I’m glad I did. I really enjoy it.”

Specifically, Leary enjoys helping his firm’s business clients with their audits and financial reporting, as well as special situations such as new product rollouts and corporate acquisitions. “To me, it’s all about providing our clients with advice to help them grow their businesses and hopefully make the right decisions — and to be a sounding board, in many cases.”

That’s a role Leary has extended to seminars he conducts on business issues such as fraud, cash-flow planning, and managing risk. He also provides commentary during the tax season on WGGB Channel 40.

He recalled one seminar hosted by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. “It was a fairly intimate group, and it was more than just me standing up and speaking; it was a lot of give and take. And some of those people have called me since then. They’re not clients, but they want to pick my brain a little bit, and I’m happy to do that. I can draw on my experience and hopefully help them move their businesses where they want to go.”

When the complexities of business finances can sometimes seem as incomprehensible as … well, German, that’s not a bad resource to have.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 36. Attorney (Associate), Bacon & Wilson/Morse & Sacks

Mark Tanner has taken a circuitous route to the legal profession and his current role as president of the Hampshire County Bar Assoc.

Indeed, upon graduating from the New Mexico Military Institute in 1990, he enrolled at UMass Amherst (where he met his future wife and fellow Forty Under 40 honoree, Sarah) and majored in Hotel/Restaurant Management. After working in that field for a few years, he concluded that its fast pace and long hours were ideal — for someone else.

“I didn’t want to be 40 and working until 4 in the morning,” he said of his decision to first pursue an MBA (at the University of Colorado) and his Juris Doctor at the University of Wyoming. He served as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx before returning to Western Mass. and joining the Northampton firm Morse & Sacks, which merged with Bacon & Wilson in 2005.

Today, Tanner is making prudent use of all those hours he would have spent in the kitchen or the back office. While devoting much of that time to his family and especially his two young daughters, he is also building a law practice focused primarily on plaintiffs’ personal injury, land use and zoning, and general commercial disputes. Meanwhile, he is also very active in the community, starting with Dan, the 12-year-old to whom he serves as a Big Brother.

Other involvement includes work with the Hampshire County United Way, the People’s Institute, a nonprofit day care center in Northampton, and board duties with CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), a group that promotes the buying of produce from farmers in Hampshire and Franklin counties.

And then, there’s the U.S. Army Reserves, in which Tanner holds the rank of captain. “If you stay in, they just keep promoting you,” he joked, noting that he has not been called into service for some time. Years ago, however, he devoted considerable time and energy to the Reserves, serving as what’s known as a “chemical officer,” calculating the effects of a nuclear fallout.

As for the Bar Association, Tanner is wrapping up his one-year stint as president, more time that has been well-spent, he believes, adding that he has focused on re-invigorating the group’s committee structure and, overall, making the organization bigger — and younger.

In short, while he’s no longer in the restaurant business, Tanner has a lot on his plate.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 36. Owner, Bueno y Sano and Rolando’s restaurants

It all started with a late-night stop at a Mexican joint on Nantucket.

Bob Lowry, then a recent graduate of UMass-Amherst, came away from that visit with more than a full stomach. He also took some inspiration for an entrepreneurial venture. Upon returning to Amherst, he noticed a ‘for rent’ sign in a storefront, and began putting some numbers together in his head.

“I figured I needed to sell $600 worth of burritos a day to break even,” he said. After that, Lowry’s plan unfolded rather organically. He said he’d never made a burrito in his life, but had a sense that he could make a good one. He’d never considered being a restaurateur before, but thought he might make a good boss.

His hunches turned out to be right on the money. He opened his first location in Amherst in 1995, and the healthy, hearty burrito eatery was a hit — especially among the late-night crowd.

“When I opened Bueno y Sano, I thought, ‘this is me. This is exactly what I was meant to do.’ And I love what I do.”

Today, Lowry has two Bueno y Sano locations, in Amherst and Northampton, and is in the process of opening a third restaurant with a new theme in Amherst. It will be called Rolando’s, named for his long-time general manager, and will specialize in roast beef and falafel. In addition, his brother is planning to open a third Bueno y Sano in Burlington, Vt.

The business has opened the door to community service for Lowry, who began working with local nonprofits, initially providing fundraising dinners. He now sits on a number of local boards, including Northstar: Self-directed Learning for Teens, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Hampshire Health Connect.

Even with so much on his plate, Lowry maintains a laid-back view of the world.

“I have it pretty good because I have a great staff,” he said. “I’m not a slave to my places.”

Looking ahead, Lowry said he hopes to maintain that peace of mind, and to keep having fun at work. That said, Lowry is still one of the busier ‘Type B’ personalities you’re likely to meet.

“People who know Bueno y Sano know I’m hard to find,” he said. “I’m usually out finding some other crazy project.”

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 39. President, Cowls Lumber Co.

Today, Cinda Jones heads up the oldest family business in Western Mass. — but she didn’t exactly begin at the top.

“I started in the family business at age 10, cutting plastic yellow triangles for foresters to use as boundary markers,” said the ninth-generation president of Cowls Lumber Co. in North Amherst. Not surprisingly, that wasn’t enough experience for Jones, who went on to hold natural resource non-profit management positions in Maine and Washington, D.C. for a decade after college, before returning home to take the reins at Cowls. “The family insisted I get useful before coming back,” she said.

Now, as president, Jones oversees natural resource management on the company’s timberland in 31 towns in Hampshire and Franklin counties. She also manages the company’s real estate division, as well as its sawmill and planing mill that manufacture up to 3 million board feet of pine, oak, and hemlock annually.

In addition, this often blunt-spoken libertarian — well-known these days for her efforts to protect private timberland from federal government regulation — is helping other business owners by trying to make Amherst a more, well, useful resource for businesses. As the current president of the board of directors of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, she’s working to help local companies be more competitive with Internet and big-box competition, and to jump-start a “buy local” campaign. 

“It’s really not a hard sell,” she said, “because local folks are really dedicated to protecting our local flavor. They know if big boxes put their downtowns out of business, they won’t like the look or feel of what’s left.”

Her favorite cause, however, is promoting the availability of “workforce-attainable housing” in the Pioneer Valley, noting that “it’s unbelievable to me that people who protect and teach our families can’t afford to live here.”

Jones herself won’t be chased away, not even by the lightning strike and fire that burned Cowls’ old sawmill in 2002. She and her brother and business partner, Evan, have since built a new mill, turning what she calls “my most awful experience since returning home” into a positive. Features in the new mill include interpretive panels about sustainable forestry and lumber manufacturing, and an observation deck from which visitors can watch logs turn into lumber.

As for Jones, she’s come a long way from turning sheets of plastic into triangles.

Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 32. Founder and Owner of V-One Vodka

Paul Kozub was captain of the basketball team at Skidmore College.

A small forward, he could shoot a little (he scored 35 points in two different games while in prep school), but his forte was, and still is, defense. “I could jump pretty high, and I’m left-handed. Most people shoot right-handed, so when they get in the shooting position, my hand is right there,” he explained. “So I was often called on to try and shut down the other team’s top scorer.”

More often than not, he did. And he believes his exploits on the court have helped him achieve success with one of the Pioneer Valley’s more intriguing entrepreneurial ventures — a vodka label, V-One, that started in his bathtub, was perfected (and is now produced) in Poland, and now adorns shelves in liquor stores and bars across Western Mass. and one region in California.

“Having an attitude of not being afraid of the big guy has definitely helped me,” he said, drawing a direct parallel between the taller players he defended in college and the giants in the vodka business. “Companies like Grey Goose and Belvedere have all this money to develop and market their product; how the heck am I going to compete with that?

“I’ve competed by just not being afraid.”

This ‘no fear’ approach should serve Kozub well as he prepares to take the training wheels off a business he has grown through small, measured steps. He recently hired his first full-time employee, a salesperson who will help the company penetrate the Connecticut market and move on from there.

The addition to the staff should also help relieve some of the burden from Kozub’s shoulders. He has been a virtual one-person show since launching V-One in late summer 2005, and still services some 300 clients personally. That doesn’t leave much time for things outside work, but Kozub makes time for his church, a few men’s basketball leagues, and 13 nieces and nephews.

They were all in attendance at Uncle Paul’s wedding on Cinco de Mayo — he took that day off, but the honeymoon will wait until the winter, when the vodka business slows down — an event that no doubt featured some seriously good martinis.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 31. Attorney (Associate), Robinson Donovan

Tony Dos Santos can draw a number of parallels between winning public office and building a law practice. And he should know — he’s an associate at Springfield-based Robinson Donovan and a selectman in his hometown of Ludlow.

Success in both realms comes down, in part, to contacts, he explained, noting that having friends and family in Ludlow and acquaintances that go back to grade school and Little League helped him become the top vote-getter among candidates for selectman during the election of 2006. Similarly, contacts can help an attorney grow a client list, and this was the reason he returned to the Pioneer Valley after working in Hartford upon graduation from law school.

But having contacts alone isn’t enough — both in law and town government, he said, adding that, with regard to both constituencies he serves, listening is a required talent, as is looking out for the clients’ long-term interests. Dos Santos has been doing that since he launched his career in law — something he always envisioned himself doing — in 1999.

When he made the move from Hartford to Springfield and Robinson Donovan, he became a memorable part of the firm’s new advertising campaign. In a play on words, the advertisement announcing his arrival focused on the fact that he no longer had a commute, and said he had “lots of talent, but no drive.” He’s still taking some ribbing on that spot, but it has greatly subsided.

When he’s not working or serving his community as selectman — the latter requires often long hours and work ranging from budget meetings to ribbon-cutting ceremonies for new businesses — Dos Santos likes to play golf. He’s an 18-handicapper who plays mostly at Ludlow Country Club, which is also a business client (again, connections). And he knows he had better get some rounds in now, because he and his wife, Shelley, are expecting their second child in August.

Dos Santos said there is talk of changing the governmental structure in Ludlow, with one option being a move toward a mayor, a step taken by many area communities. What such a development might mean for his political career, he’s not sure. He’s focused on today — and on making more of those connections he spoke of.

George O’Brien

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 35. Managing Director, The Jamrog Group

Amy Jamrog took out her first small-business loan at age 7.

The financing was from her mother, and was used to purchase yarn and crochet needles to create hand-crafted Easter bunnies — a talent she learned from her grandmother and spun into a seasonal job.

“I would start in January,” Jamrog remembers. “I crocheted like a maniac, and went door-to-door, selling bunnies.” Her first year in production, Jamrog netted $50 after repaying her mother, and proved at a very early age that she innately possessed a number of key business skills, including creativity, perseverance, and that hard-to-acquire entrepreneurial drive.

She’s since tailored those skills into a successful career in financial planning, founding the Jamrog Group, the Northampton office of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, in 2006, and tripling the company’s size since that time. She is also a motivational speaker with a national reach, another talent she’s enjoyed since childhood.

“I just love motivational speech in front of large crowds,” she said. “I speak a lot within my industry, encouraging people to think more holistically about planning, how we teach people to be empowered by their money, and how to have fun doing it.”

Jamrog also speaks on the topic of philanthropy, another passion, and her engagements have taken her to Toronto, San Francisco, Jacksonville, New York City, and several other markets.

Her next goal is to publish some of the concepts she typically speaks about and uses to help counsel her clients, perhaps by penning a book. “I feel like I can take my creative side and my entrepreneurial side and create something extraordinary,” she said, adding that her life is one that includes a few different worlds.

Indeed, in addition to financial planning and public speaking, Jamrog also has two sons and is active in community service, having received Northwestern Mutual’s Community Service Award twice.

“But my life has become a wonderful Venn diagram,” she said. “I don’t struggle with balance because I see no separation. It’s not work and home, it’s just my life. There is no between.”

Still, she said it’s inspiring to be recognized for her achievements to date, and for those yet to be sewn up.

40 Under 40 Class of 2007
Age 31. President and Founder, Atalasoft Inc.

Bill BitherBill Bither says he doesn’t really have anything he’d call “free time,” just time spent doing many different things.

When he’s not running his software development firm, Atalasoft, in Easthampton, which is growing at an astounding rate of 75% annually, he’s working to recruit technology talent to Western Mass. through his involvement with the Regional Technology Corp. He’s also a prolific blogger at BillBither.com, and encourages the practice among his employees.

But Bither isn’t always chained to his keyboard; he’s also a competitive cyclist who commutes to work by bike, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle within his company, too; Atalasoft’s team meetings are often held in motion on nearby bike paths.

“Sometimes I need to come up for air,” he joked, adding quickly that any down moments are usually spent with his family — his wife Kim and two children, Abriana and Alex. “I just love them, and having two young children to play with is a blast.”

Bither moved to Western Mass. after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He started his career at Hamilton Standard, but as a side project began developing a software application called EyeBatch, which processes several images at one time, often for use on the Web.

He said EyeBatch began to generate a nice side income, which in turn motivated him to start his own business. Now, Atalasoft sells six core products worldwide and employs 15 people. Bither expects that number will be closer to 100 in just a few years.

“That’s all organic growth — we hire people as we need them,” he said.

The fast pace at which Atalasoft is evolving has also allowed Bither to make philanthropy a major part of his business. After losing his father to brain cancer, he and his family became involved with BrainTrust, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life of those with brain-related conditions. To give back, Bither donates 100% of the profits of EyeBatch to the group.

“They offered my family a lot of help, and BrainTrust is a small charity, so it really benefits,” he said.
And, it’s just one more way Bither stays busy — a business owner, bicyclist, blogger, and now, benefactor, as well.

Jaclyn C. Stevenson