A Role Model on Many Levels

Two decades ago, BusinessWest launched a new recognition initiative. We called it our ‘Top Entrepreneur’ award. (We would have called it ‘Entrepreneur of the Year,’ but that phrase was, and still is, copyrighted.)

And besides, most of the people we’ve honored over the years weren’t recognized for accomplishments in a given year, but instead for what they’ve done over a lifetime — or at least to that point in their career.

We started this award to honor those who are continuing what would have to be a called a tradition of entrepreneurship, not only in Springfield, but across the region. It’s a tradition started by people like Milton Bradley, gunmakers Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson, Everett Barney, inventor of the clip-on ice skate, and many others, and continued by people like Peter Rosskothen, co-creator of the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House (honored by BusinessWest in 1997) and the extended Sandri family in Greenfield (honored just last year for the expansion and diversification of their energy business).

In the process of telling these stories, what has become clear is that the winners, while entrepreneurial at heart, are committed to much more than making money. Each one has been passionate about giving back, and in a number of ways.

This year’s honoree, Delcie Bean, is no exception. He’s being honored, in large part, for his exploits with Paragus Strategic IT, a company that can essentially trace it roots to when Bean was 14 years old (that was just 14 years ago, by the way), and is now a fixture on Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing technology companies in the country.

But his story goes much deeper, and it should serve as an inspiration to all business leaders in this region — and well beyond.

Indeed, Bean made it clear in his wide-ranging interview with BusinessWest (see page 14) that, while he’s passionate about growing his companies and taking them to the next level, that energy also applies to his desire to play a large role in the revitalization of Springfield and the region as a whole.

He’s off to a very solid start, not only through the creation of Tech Foundry, a unique educational facility designed to address the Valley’s nagging skills-gap problem, but also through his involvement with Valley Venture Mentors and other groups and initiatives focused on creating what’s been called an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.

As part of these efforts, Bean mentors young entrepreneurs, both formally and informally, and helps individuals (especially young people) determine if they have the many skills and attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur.

As he mentioned to BusinessWest, Bean has a number of mentors himself, or business leaders who inspire him. Chief among them is Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, who is committed not only to continually growing his company, but also to playing a direct part in efforts to revitalize sections of Las Vegas, which was devastated by the Great Recession and its aftermath.

“It’s rare that somebody with that much money, where there’s so little that he’s going to gain from this personally, is so passionate about a city and its revitalization,” Bean said of Hsieh.

Rare indeed, but this is the philosophy that also drives this year’s Top Entrepreneur.

Who knows where and to what levels his business exploits will take him in the years and decades to come? As he mentioned, to continue growing at its current and profound rate, Paragus will certainly need to expand its footprint well beyond Western Mass.

What seems apparent, though, is that, when it comes to returning this region to its status as a center of entrepreneurship, innovation, good jobs, and vibrancy, Bean is in it for the long haul.

And the Valley will certainly benefit as a result.

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