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Meet the Judges

With nominations now closed for BusinessWest’s Alumni Achievement Award, it now falls to three judges — Vince Jackson, Keith Ledoux, and Cheri Mills — to study the entries and determine the sixth annual winner.

The award, sponsored by Health New England, was launched in 2015 as the Continued Excellence Award, an offshoot of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty program, which recognizes young professionals for their career accomplishments and civic involvement. Rebranded this year as the Alumni Achievement Award, it is presented annually to one former 40 Under Forty honoree who, in the eyes of the judges, has most impressively continued and built upon the track record of accomplishment that earned them 40 Under Forty status. The award will be presented at this year’s 40 Under Forty Gala. The date and location of the event are still to be determined due to reopening guidelines.

For each application, the judges have been asked to consider how the candidate has built upon his or her success in business or service to a nonprofit; built upon his or her record of service within the community; become even more of a leader in Western Mass.; contributed to efforts to make this region an attractive place to live, work, and do business; and inspired others through his or her work.

The judges will first narrow a broad field of nominees to five candidates, who will be informed that they are finalists for the coveted honor — an accomplishment in itself. They will then choose a winner, the identity of whom will not be known to anyone but the judges until the night of the event.

Past winners include: 2019: Cinda Jones, president, W.D. Cowls Inc. (40 Under Forty class of 2007); 2018: Samalid Hogan, regional director, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (class of 2013); 2017: Scott Foster, attorney, Bulkley Richardson (class of 2011), and Nicole Griffin, owner, ManeHire (class of 2014); 2016: Dr. Jonathan Bayuk, president, Allergy & Immunology Associates of New England (class of 2008); 2015: Delcie Bean, president, Paragus Strategic IT (class of 2008).

The judges are:

Vincent Jackson

Vincent Jackson

Vincent Jackson is executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, a role he took on last year. He is also the founder and CEO of the consulting company Marketing Moves, which provides companies — from Fortune 500 corporations to small businesses — with strategic and innovative marketing support. Before founding the company in 2000, Jackson worked for a decade as a senior product manager at PepsiCo, two years as an assistant product manager at Kraft Foods, and three years as a senior systems analyst at Procter & Gamble Company.

Keith Ledoux

Keith Ledoux

Keith Ledoux is vice president of Sales, Marketing and Business Development at Health New England. He has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry and has a background in sales, healthcare information technology, and strategy development. Prior to joining HNE in 2019, he served as senior advisor and board member for MiHealth in Medway. He began his career at Tufts Health Plan in Waltham, where he rose to become regional sales manager, and also held senior leadership positions at Fallon Health in Worcester and Minuteman Health and Constitution Health, both in Boston.

Cheri Mills

Cheri Mills

Cheri Mills is a business banking officer with PeoplesBank, and has worked in banking for 32 years. She began her career in 1988 as a mail runner, working up to banking center manager in 1997, and eventually discovered a love of business banking. She takes pride in assisting business owners with achieving financials goals. She is currently the president of the Rotary Club of Chicopee, treasurer of Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, and a board member with the Minority Business Council in Springfield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinion

PPP: The Feds Need to Do More

As you read the accounts of individual companies grappling with the pandemic in the June 8 issue of BusinessWest — we call them ‘COVID Stories’ — a number of themes and similarities emerge.

The first is that virtually every business in every sector of the economy was hit, and hit extremely hard by this. We talked with people in healthcare, service, tourism and hospitality, the sector known as ‘large events,’ marketing, retail, and more, and all of them said the same thing — that the floor was virtually taken out from under them back in mid-March.

Another theme is that businesses have responded with imagination and determination, finding new revenue streams, new products to develop, new ways to do things, and new opportunities wherever they arise.

Still another theme is that these new revenue streams and opportunities haven’t produced results that come anything close to what these companies were doing before the pandemic, a time that now seems like years ago, but was really only three short months ago.

Which brings us to one more common thread among the stories presented this month in a series that will continue into the summer — the fact that these companies needed help, received it, and will very likely need more help if they are going to fully rebound from this crisis.

Indeed, most all the companies we spoke with received support in the form of loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, an acronym now very much part of the current business landscape.

“Most of the companies we spoke with are not even close to being out of the woods. In fact, some are counting down the days until the PPP runs out with a certain amount of dread and a painful question: ‘what happens then?’”

Some struggled to get it and waited nervously for the money to land in their accounts. Others haven’t really touched it yet and don’t know exactly what to do with it because they can’t bring their people back to work because there is, as yet, no work to do.

The program isn’t perfect, and there are some bugs to be worked out, but overall, this measure has done exactly what it was designed to do — provide a lifeline to businesses that desperately need one. PPP has enabled companies to meet that most basic of obligations — meeting payroll — at a time when so many would not have been able to do so.

But as these stories make painfully clear, most of the companies we spoke with are not even close to being out of the woods. In fact, some are counting down the days until the PPP runs out with a certain amount of dread and a painful question: ‘what happens then?’

What should happen is the government offering another round of support to companies that can demonstrate real need — and, again, that’s most of them. The recovery is not going to be V-shaped or even U-shaped. It may be several months before there is, in fact, real recovery.

And the federal government has an obligation to help businesses get to that point. When the PPP was first conceptualized, the thinking was (we presume) that, in eight weeks, the worst would be over and things would start to return to normal. It’s still early in the game, but mounting evidence suggests that is not the case.

‘Normal’ is still a long-term goal, and it’s clear that companies will need additional support to be able to keep paying people and staying upright until better days arrive.

As one business owner we talked with said, and we’re paraphrasing here — ‘the government caused this problem by ordering a shutdown … so now, they own the problem.’ He’s right.

Already, there are far more ‘for sale’ and ‘for lease’ signs on properties across the region than there were three months ago. A number of businesses, many of them in the broad realm of hospitality and tourism, have already failed. Many more will fail in the months to come if they don’t get the support they need — not only from local consumers, but from the federal government itself.

PPP isn’t perfect, but it works. And we’ll likely need at least one more round of it to enable businesses to survive this pandemic.

Opinion

Riots Reflect Deeper Issue of Racism

Editor’s Note: In the wake of recent incidents in Minneapolis and other communities, MassMutual chairman, president, and CEO Roger Crandall issued the following letter to employees.

In response to the racist acts that have come to light over the past several weeks, I wanted to directly address the deep frustration, anger, and sadness weighing heavily on all of us, especially the African-American and black community. The tragic and senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd and the delays in bringing justice against those responsible, as well as the ugly confrontation in Central Park, have been vivid reminders of the prejudice and bigotry that continue to exist in our country.

Importantly, while we mourn for each of these victims, our hearts ache for many others previously killed under similar circumstances, including those whose names we don’t know, simply because there was no video or witness. These losses of human lives are staggering, unjust, and incomprehensible — and are taking a painful, emotional toll on our country.

The violence and riots of the past weekend are symptoms of the deeper issues of racism, inequality, and hopelessness that continue to exist in America today, and reflect the expressions of a community that feels its voice is not being heard. These issues have shaped everything from where people live to the healthcare they receive, to their access to education, to their treatment by the justice system. We see the results of this today during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people of color have shouldered a far greater impact, with the African-American and black community accounting for a higher proportion of deaths compared to other racial groups.

This is a vast, systemic problem, and I wish I was writing to you today with a crisp, detailed plan for how we will fix it. I don’t have this plan, and frankly no one does. But I can tell you instead what MassMutual is doing and what is on my mind.

First and foremost, I want to voice my — and the executive leadership team’s — support for our colleagues in the African-American and black community. Your voices, perspectives, and feelings matter to us. While I can’t begin to understand the full extent of your pain and hurt — how fear and discrimination are part of your everyday activities, or how you may worry as a parent when your child goes for a jog or enters a store — I want you to know we firmly stand with you as allies and advocates. Each of us can make a difference simply by asking how others are doing and spending time listening to their experiences, fears, and concerns, so we can learn more about what we can do as allies to take meaningful action and offer our support.

Secondly, at the heart of who we are and who we have been since our founding nearly 170 years ago is a company of people helping people. I want to reiterate that MassMutual’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is non-negotiable, and part of our core values and our promise to Live Mutual to make our world better. We will honor the memories of the victims of these senseless acts by influencing real change, and we are working with a cross-functional team, including representatives from our Passages Business Resource Group, to identify the best way to engage and act as an organization to advance how we address these complex issues.

Most immediately, Passages hosted a ‘Brave Space’ discussion recently to talk about these recent events and consider ways we can work together to build a sustainable, lasting effort to fight inequality and recognize and value the differences among us. While outside our walls, we are also actively working to unify business leaders to use our collective voices to drive change in our communities and workplaces.

In the meantime, I promise you this: MassMutual will stand with the victims of racism and hate crimes of any kind, with the people fighting oppression, and with everyone seeking to turn their sadness at recent events into actions that will build a better world. This is not the country I want to leave to my children and grandchildren. We can — and must — do better.

Coronavirus Cover Story

Baby Steps

After more than two months of a widespread economic shutdown, Massachusetts is opening its economy again — sort of. The plan, announced by Gov. Charlie Baker on May 18, allows some businesses to open their doors under tight health restrictions, while others — including restaurants, spas, and most retail — have to wait longer to invite the public inside. What’s got businesses frustrated is not knowing exactly when their turn will come — and the financial impact they continue to endure every week they have to wait.

Massachusetts is the 15th-most populous state in the U.S., yet, the day Gov. Charlie Baker released his economic reopening report, it had reported the fourth-most total COVID-19 cases in the country.

So, the reopening was never going to be a free-for-all.

“We were all very aware that, no matter what we went forward with, there will be more infection and more deaths,” said Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, one of 17 members of the governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. “While the public-health metrics are numbers, statistics, they’re also people — they’re your neighbors, maybe your mother or father.

“People want to open,” she told BusinessWest, “but they don’t want to put people at risk — themselves, their customers, their parents. The compassion is remarkable.”

That’s why it was no surprise that Massachusetts is reopening slowly and cautiously. Last week, manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and places of worship were allowed to return under strict guidelines (more on those later), and on May 25, the list will expand to offices (except in Boston) and labs; hair salons, pet grooming, and car washes; retail, with remote fulfillment and curbside pickup only; beaches, parks, drive-in movies, and some athletic fields and courts; fishing, hunting, and boating; and outdoor gardens, zoos, reserves, and public installations.

That covers what Baker is calling phase 1, with three more reopening phases to follow. Conspicuously not on the phase-1 list? Restaurants, spas, daycare centers, in-store retail … it’s a long list. And, for many business leaders, a frustrating one.

Nancy Creed

Nancy Creed says businesses in phase 1 got the clarity they were seeking, but those in phase 2 are still waiting.

“There’s certainly an appreciation for public health, but there also needs to be some common sense, and I think it’s very hard to explain why it’s OK for 200 people to be in line at Home Depot, but a small, downtown store can’t have two or three people in it,” Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, told BusinessWest.

“Certainly everyone has to be smart,” he added, “but I think there needs to be more common sense brought into the reopening. I appreciate where the governor is — the balancing act — and I think the reopening committee did a great job with outreach, but there needs to be clear guidance and some common sense.”

Others were less diplomatic.

“While protecting public health is important and something we all support, it defies logic to declare that the opening of barbershops and hair salons is safe, while claiming opening small retail businesses is not,” Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Assoc. of Massachusetts, said in a statement.

“The same is true for the opening of churches and large office buildings,” he went on. “Having two or three people in a retail shop is every bit as safe, if not safer, than the allowable businesses in phase 1. The Baker administration has consistently picked winners and losers during this crisis, and it is disappointing to see that trend continue in the reopening plan.”

As president of the Springfield Regional Chamber, Nancy Creed has been in touch with her members for almost three months now on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She, like Sullivan, understands the delicate balance the state is walking.

“When we were part of the presentation to the advisory board, the last thing I said to them was, ‘our businesses are struggling, but they are surviving this. What they can’t survive is for it to happen again.”

“Certain sectors thought they’d be in phase 1, so there’s always that frustration,” she told BusinessWest. “When we were part of the presentation to the advisory board, the last thing I said to them was, ‘our businesses are struggling, but they are surviving this. What they can’t survive is for it to happen again. So we need to be smart about it and make sure we’re doing everything we can so the reopening is successful, and this doesn’t happen again.’”

She knows that’s not easy for many small businesses to hear, particularly ones with no revenue stream at all during this time.

“This is different for everyone, but businesses are muddling through it, pivoting, doing the things they need to do for basic economic survival,” she added. “But if it happens again, I don’t think we’ll survive the second round.”

Hence, baby steps, and a multi-phase reopening that offers real hope for many sectors, but continues to draw no small amount of criticism as well.

Guidance — and Lack Thereof

According to Baker’s plan, each phase of the reopening will be guided by public-health data that will be continually monitored and used to determine advancement to future phases. The goal of a phased plan is to methodically allow businesses, services, and activities to resume, while avoiding a resurgence of COVID-19 that could overwhelm the state’s healthcare system and erase the progress made so far.

Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer before moving to the next phase. If public-health data trends are negative, specific industries, regions, or even the entire Commonwealth may need to return to an earlier phase.

Nicole LaChapelle

Nicole LaChapelle

“When talking to businesses and different groups and unions, the question was always, ‘what are the barriers right now, what are your biggest challenges, but more importantly, what do you need to see happen in order for your industry to open, and what is the timeline for that to happen for you?’”

In addition, success in earlier phases will refine criteria for future phases, including travel, gathering sizes, as well as additional openings in retail, restaurants, lodging, arts, entertainment, fitness centers, museums, youth sports, and other activities.

“Going in, the goals were, how do we safely and slowly open the Massachusetts economy?” LaChapelle said. “And that is directly tied to public-health metrics. When talking to businesses and different groups and unions, the question was always, ‘what are the barriers right now, what are your biggest challenges, but more importantly, what do you need to see happen in order for your industry to open, and what is the timeline for that to happen for you?’”

It was helpful, she explained, to seek input from myriad sectors and businesses — those deemed essential and never forced to shutter; those that had to pivot, such as retailers boosting their online presence and manufacturers shifting to making masks and face shields; and businesses that have been effectively sidelined.

“The board, at no point, even at the beginning, was like, ‘let’s get this thing going and roll it out immediately,’” she added, noting that she understands the need for companies to start ramping back up. “They may be a little disappointed, but they’ve been very understanding. There’s some education we have to do, but nobody is really upside-down about it.”

In order to reopen, businesses must develop a written COVID-19 control plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of the virus. They must also create and display posters and signs describing rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, as well as cleaning and disinfecting.

“I think there needs to be an appreciation for restaurants and small Main Street businesses that are not going to be able to just comply with the state’s protocols immediately.”

Sullivan appreciates the attention to public-health concerns, but said it offers little comfort for businesses stuck in an as-yet-undefined phase 2 — or beyond. While the reopening plan gives clear guidance for businesses in phase 1, those in phase 2 don’t even get a target date they can work toward or a set of protocols they can begin to develop. And that lack of clarity has led to frustration.

“I do think many businesses, especially smaller businesses, were kind of expecting more things to open up,” he said. “I think there needs to be an appreciation for restaurants and small Main Street businesses that are not going to be able to just comply with the state’s protocols immediately. They’ll need to plan, order some equipment, and spend some time reorganizing their business, because it’s going to be different than it was pre-COVID. And it’s not something they can do overnight. Many businesses are just looking at lead time — they want to open sooner than later, but they want lead time so they can be ready to go.”

Creed agreed.

“I think what businesses wanted, at least in the beginning, was some clarity about the guidelines, about the timelines, about the standards, about the checklists, all those things, so they can create their own plan — and that was achieved, at least for phase 1,” she explained. “But I am hearing the phase-2 people saying, ‘well, I wanted to be able to plan, but I don’t have enough guidance right now,’ so there’s some frustration.”

The Massachusetts Restaurant Assoc. said as much in a statement following the plan’s release.

“Obviously, every restaurateur is disappointed with the lack of a defined reopening date in today’s announcement,” it noted. “Massachusetts restaurants need their suppliers to have time to restock perishable inventory before it can be delivered to them. They need to notify employees about returning to work and conduct other due diligence to ensure restaurants can open effectively.”

Safety and Numbers

Across Massachusetts, the reopening plan sparked a spectrum of reactions, all acknowledging the competing health and economic interests in play, but expressing different levels of understanding and frustration — and often both.

“We realize that every employer in Massachusetts would love to hear that they can reopen immediately. But we also acknowledge that a phased reopening balances the need to restart the economy with the need to manage a public-health crisis that continues to claim 100 lives a day in Massachusetts,” John Regan, president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, noted in a statement.

Even as some businesses start to reopen and others plan to do so, the state Department of Public Health updated its stay-at-home advisory, replacing it with a new “Safer at Home” advisory, which instructs everyone to stay home unless they are headed to a newly opened facility or activity. It also advises those over age 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay home, with the exception of trips required for healthcare, groceries, or that are otherwise absolutely necessary. All residents must continue to wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not possible, and individuals are advised to wash their hands frequently and be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms. Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect.

The state also encourages working from home when possible, and Baker’s office released a list of 54 large companies — employing about 150,000 workers among them — that have issued statements extending work-from-home policies for the remainder of the spring, with numerous reporting intentions to extend into the summer and, in some cases, for the remainder of 2020.

“As MassMutual develops our plan to gradually return to the office, the health and safety of our employees is our top priority,” said Roger Crandall, chairman, president, and CEO of MassMutual, noting that his employees will return to the office no sooner than the beginning of September.

“We expect to come back in a slow, phased manner,” he added. “We will continue to monitor and reassess and will be factoring in a number of considerations — from federal, state, and local government and health officials’ guidance to a sustained reduction in cases in our operating locations, to broader available testing and our employees’ personal circumstances and comfort.”

Patrick Sullivan, Massachusetts President of People’s United Bank, is also promoting continued work from home where possible.

“People’s United Bank is assessing re-entry conditions and protocols to ensure the safety of our team members and our customers,” he said. “Our approach will balance the needs of employees with the needs of the business. As we have been successful in pivoting and adjusting to working from home, we will continue to encourage this behavior.”

Still, those are businesses that can at least operate in most aspects. Retail stores can’t so easily adjust — and have been devastated by the inability to invite shoppers into their stores.

“We are incredibly disappointed with how Governor Baker has treated retail businesses throughout the health and economic crisis. Massachusetts has been one of the most hostile states in the nation toward small retailers.”

“We are incredibly disappointed with how Governor Baker has treated retail businesses throughout the health and economic crisis. Massachusetts has been one of the most hostile states in the nation toward small retailers,” said Hurst, noting that Massachusetts stores are losing Memorial Day weekend at a time when other states have let them open up shop by now. “Retail businesses are ready and able to open safely now with a limited number of people in stores and for appointment shopping. By not allowing that until late June, many small, Main Street businesses will close forever.”

That’s not hyperbole for small businesses of many kinds. Matt Haskins, who operates the popular Matt’s Barber Shop in Amherst, said a recent grant from the Downtown Amherst Foundation has helped him stay afloat at a time when he doesn’t know when college business will return.

“Just five minutes before [receiving word of the grant], I was on a phone call discussing if Matt’s Barber Shop was going to make it or break it,” he told foundation officials. “The grant helps me think we’re going to make it.”

So will being able to open his doors again on May 25. And that’s all most business owners want right now — a target. Creed hears that, but at the same time, she’s encouraged by recent chamber polling suggesting the percentage of business owners who feel they’ll survive this crisis is rising.

“What that says to me is people are finding a way to make sure it doesn’t put them out of business,” she said, “which shows the resilience of the businesses we have here.”

Yes, they have resilience, in spades. Now, they want clarity — and some hard dates.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Coronavirus Features

The Questions Keep Coming

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created by the CARES Act to provide forgivable loans to eligible small businesses to keep American workers on the payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBA recently provided updates to its PPP guidance and also released the form application for PPP loan forgiveness, which will help small businesses seek forgiveness at the conclusion of the eight-week covered period, which begins with the disbursement of their loans.

Here are five common questions area attorneys have been hearing from business owners concerned about how PPP funds may be used in order to be forgiven.

Where can I spend my PPP loan in order for it to be forgiven?

“You’ve got to use 75% of what was loaned for payroll purposes,” said Kathryn Crouss, shareholder with Bacon Wilson. “Obviously, that’s salaries and wages, but other money employers spend on payroll costs count as well — vacation pay, parental or family leave, paid sick leave, or if there’s an employer match for plan premiums. So the definition of ‘payroll costs’ is relatively broad.

“The remaining money can be spent on other approved expenses — keeping the lights on or mortgage or rent or utility bills, those sorts of things,” she added. “Assuming you can prove to the government that you have spent 75% of the loan on qualified payroll expenses and the remaining portion on other qualifying expenses, then the loan should be forgiven and becomes a grant rather than a loan.”

In addition, she added, “if an employer brings an employee back on and that employee used to make, say, $3,000 a month, if they pay them less, they have to be within 75% to be forgiven. That’s not true for head count — they still have to have the same number of employees; not necessarily the same people, but the same head count.”

How do you measure whether an employee’s salary or wages were reduced by more than 25%?

“This may be the area that was causing the most angst among business owners, since it seemed mathematically impossible to not have reduced compensation by at least 25% if you were comparing compensation in the first quarter of 2020 — 13 weeks — to the covered period of eight weeks,” said Scott Foster, partner with Bulkley Richardson. “Fortunately, the SBA has opted to focus only on either the annualized salary for exempt employees, or the average hourly wage for non-exempt employees. Also, with respect to the salaried employees making more than $100,000 per year during the first quarter, as long as the annualized salary remains above $100,000 during the covered period, then any reduction in salary is not considered a reduction under this test.”

What about employees that were furloughed or laid off, but now refuse to return to work?

“For any employee the business has offered to re-employ in writing, and the employee (for whatever reason) refuses to accept re-employment, this will not reduce the loan-forgiveness amount,” Foster said.

Amy Royal, CEO of Royal, P.C., noted that she’s had many questions of this type. “They’re asking, ‘if I want to make sure I get loan forgiveness, how do I address a situation where I’ve offered to bring people back and they’ve said, thanks but no thanks?’ Obviously, those people have their own unemployment issues because if they’ve been offered a job and continue to take unemployment benefits, that could, in certain circumstances, be fraudulent.”

As for the employer, “if you make a good-faith offer to rehire someone with PPP money, make sure that offer is in writing,” she added. “If the employee rejects the offer, make sure you, as a business, have documented that. It will help you when you apply for loan forgiveness. That issue has been a real concern.”

Crouss agreed, noting that some employees may have legitimate reservations about returning to work — for instance, because they have a 95-year-old parent and don’t want to infect them.

“Make sure that conversation is in writing,” she said. “If they say they can’t return, get that response in writing as well, save that correspondence, and put those documents in their personnel file. Where we’re heading is, the head-count piece may be forgiven if they have that kind of documentation.”

Interestingly, Foster noted, “the application states that any employee fired for cause during the covered period does not reduce the borrower’s loan forgiveness. Oddly, this could mean that an employee that was fired for cause prior to the covered period would still count as a missing FTE during the covered period.”

My employees have nothing to do until my business is allowed to reopen and ramps back up. What if I want to save the PPP funds for after the eight-week period?

For example, Royal said, “if you’re a restaurant, you’re not open now. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’re doing takeout, but the bulk of your business is full service. So the timing has presented issues because they can’t be fully ramped up now, but they’ve got to avail themselves of the funds right now before they run out.”

Businesses may absolutely hang onto the money and use it beyond the eight-week window, she explained — but they will have to pay it back over two years with 1% interest.

“That’s a very attractive loan,” Crouss noted. “Many businesses are making that decision — which is a perfectly sound decision. This only goes for eight weeks, and when you get that amount of money, it should cover your payroll for eight weeks, but what happens if the world hasn’t righted itself? So maybe it makes sense to save it for a rainy day and think of it as a loan and not a forgivable grant.”

Do I have to claim the PPP loan as income?

“The good news is, the IRS has spoken and said no,” Royal said. However, expenses paid for with PPP funds are also not deductible. “That makes sense — you can’t double dip. The way I conceptualize this is, it didn’t happen. We’re going to pretend this period didn’t happen for tax purposes.”

—Joseph Bednar

Class of 2020 Cover Story

40 Under Forty Class of 2020

‘The class of 2020.’

That phrase will forever have special meaning at colleges, high schools, and even grammar schools across this country. Indeed, 2020 has been a different year in every way imaginable.

And the same is true of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of rising stars. When the JUDGES received their six-inch-thick packets of nominations — which detailed the credentials of more than 200 candidates — in February, COVID-19 hadn’t yet arrived in Western Mass. By the time the scores were tabulated and the winners were sent their letters of congratulations, the world had changed in a profound way.

These changes are reflected in this special edition of BusinessWest, and also in the scheduling of the gala to celebrate this year’s class. Traditionally slated for late June, it is now scheduled to be held Oct. 8 with location TBD.

As for this section, the biggest difference is the photographs. In past years, they were taken in the studio of photographer Leah Martin. With social-distancing guidelines in place and non-essential businesses (like photo studios) closed, that wasn’t possible.

So we improvised. Many members of the class of 2020 took their own photos, while Martin took to the road and photographed several honorees on their front porches and in their backyards — from a safe distance. Collectively, these photos speak not only to how different these times are, but to how people have used their imaginations and creativity to cope.

Overall, while the class of 2020 has had, and will continue to have, a different experience than those who preceded it, it is like those other classes in how it reflects the high levels of young talent now emerging in this region. And it paints an impressive picture of leadership for decades to come.

Let’s salute the class of 2020!

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40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Corporate Communications, Treasurer, and Owner, Rediker Software; Age 36; Education: George Washington University (BA)

A vital force in the success of Rediker Software, Anderlonis has helped increase international sales, increased brand awareness, developed the company’s social-media presence, and founded Rediker Cares, organizing and serving as the liaison for many volunteer events to benefit local nonprofits.

Amy Rediker Anderlonis

Amy Rediker Anderlonis    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was younger, my dream job was to work for the United Nations. I used to think that, in order to make a difference in this world, I had to work for a large, international organization. However, I now know you can also make a big difference by simply being a leader in your own community, whether through work, volunteering, or both.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Balance. I wear many hats, not just at work, but also in my personal life. In addition to Rediker Software, I am a mom of two young children and a puppy, as well as a wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, and community volunteer. Through time management and prioritization, I try to fulfill all of my roles the best I can while still finding time for my own health and wellness. There are only so many hours in the day, and it’s impossible to get everything done. Often tasks aren’t completed, e-mails aren’t answered right away, and laundry goes unfolded — and that’s OK.

What do you do for fun? I love to find cool events in the area. There is so much to do in Western Massachusetts; you just have to look. My friends and I recently went to a fun wine-and-chocolate pairing at Black Birch Winery in Hatfield, and we are planning to attend a concert this summer at Tanglewood. My husband and I are big foodies, so we like to visit highly rated restaurants and attend specialty dinners. I also love to travel with my family and explore other parts of New England and the world.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I hope I am remembered for my work in our community — that I worked hard to improve it and make it a better place, and that I gave colleagues the opportunity to do so as well. I also hope to be remembered as a good friend and mentor who saw the best in people and helped them reach their own goals.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Finance & Operations, Palmer Public Schools; Age 37; Education: Elmira College (BS)

After losing her husband to cancer three years ago, this mother of two earned her business administrator’s license in 18 months and landed the open position overseeing finance and operations for Palmer’s school system. There, she has created a new budget process, helped balance a fiscally conservative budget to meet the needs of students, simplified benefits, and helped transform the central office into a 21st-century work environment, as well as creating a before- and after-school program for students in pre-K through grade 5. In addition, she coaches multiple youth sports, supports Rick’s Place, and teaches CCD at her church.

Amanda Babinski

Amanda Babinski

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? At the start of each day, I set out to be the best I can be in each role I play. I want my kids to get the best of me and my job to get the best of me. I always want to have my best foot forward. I am really proud of the fact that I was able to successfully enter into the business manager licensure program, complete the course, and obtain my license through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. My kids have been incredibly supportive of how busy mom has been, and always ‘help’ me with my homework. I have a strong work family as well and feel lucky to be a part of the Palmer schools family.

What are you passionate about? Public service. In every job I have held, I have served others, and I am always proud to do good work for other people. I am inspired by the underdog and always want to do my part to help everyone to be successful. For fun, I love spending time with my children. We like to be outside, playground hopping, shopping, or spending time with our extended family. Time spent with my family is the best stress reliever I can think of.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be my husband. He was an amazing man, who passed away in 2017 after a courageous battle with cancer. My children and I miss him every day, and I would love to have lunch with him to check in and see how he feels about all we have accomplished since he passed.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Partner, Bulkley Richardson; Age 37; Education: Colorado College (BA), Northeastern University School of Law (JD)

Barry’s law practice focuses on advising businesses, charitable organizations, healthcare organizations, and educational institutions on the legal issues that affect them.

Ryan Barry

Ryan Barry    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? A ski bum. I accomplished that goal in my 20s, living in Crested Butte, Colorado, skiing every day and working as a chef at night.

What do you do for fun? I love backcountry skiing, fly fishing and fly tying, cooking, reading, watching British mystery shows, and being outside with my family.

How do you relieve stress? My 3-year-old running full-speed into my arms for a hug is the best stress reliever I know. A long walk or ski in the woods does the trick, too.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Some of my favorite spots include Mt. Greylock, Mt. Tom, the Deerfield and Westfield rivers, and the bike paths, playgrounds, breweries, and restaurants in my hometown of Easthampton. I love the mix of nature and community here in Western Mass.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I at least aspire to be like Gus McCrae from Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but is also the kind of person you can rely on when you’re in a tight spot. I also admire characters who react to hardship with good humor, like Sully in Richard Russo’s Nobody’s Fool.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? John Adams. I recently finished David McCullough’s great biography of him. He lived an extraordinary and adventurous life and was a fearless and principled attorney. I’d love to hear his thoughts on modern-day America over lunch and a hard cider (which Adams apparently drank every day, including at breakfast).

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Even though he often plays bad guys, the late, great Alan Rickman.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? As John Cleese said at the funeral of one of his fellow Monty Python members, “Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.” Hopefully, my colleagues will also be saying it just for shock value, but only time will tell.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

CEO, Dreamscape Designs Landscaping/Rent A Tent; Age 27

At age 13, Basile started his first company, Rent A Tent, which is a party-equipment rental company he still owns and operate today. At 17, he started a second company, Dreamscape Designs Landscaping, and continues to grow that enterprise today as well.

Marco Basile

Marco Basile  Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What three words best describe you? Passionate, driven, dependable.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Over the past 10 years, I have grown Dreamscape Designs Landscaping from a one-man operation to a company that has multiple crews servicing hundreds of commercial and residential clients weekly.

What are you passionate about? Being the best version of myself and helping the people around me succeed. I am also passionate about inspiring youth, and as the head coach of the East Longmeadow High School wrestling team, I am able to change the mindset of so many.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Every night, I create a checklist of things that I need to do the next day. My goal each day is to complete that checklist.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? As a small-business owner, it is important to support other local businesses. I have a lot of family and friends who own many great local restaurants; it’s hard to list them all. If I had to choose one place I really enjoying spending time at, it would be Nathan Bill’s. I admire how they are always giving back, and I feel good about spending my hard-earned money at places where I know that they will pay it forward.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I’ll admit I had to get a little help on this one, so I asked a friend. He said, “Marco is someone you can truly count on. He is someone who genuinely has your back and would do anything for a friend while expecting nothing in return. Marco is also one of the most hardworking people I have ever met. He is always going above and beyond in everything he does.”

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Elon Musk. I love his optimism — we both see the world as a place where nothing is impossible.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Program Development, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke; Age 33; Education: Skidmore College (BA); New York University (MBA)

As a child, Bevan spent plenty of time at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke, crediting it with helping him reach his full potential. Today, he oversees the club’s annual $1.6 million programming budget and helps supervise three full-time staff, 35 part-time support staff, and 200 volunteers.

Conor Bevan

Conor Bevan

What did you want to be when you grew up? For as long as I can remember, I wanted to give back to the community that invested so much in me. Outside of school, I spent my days as a kid walking back and forth between the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke and the Greater Holyoke YMCA, participating in various sports in the city and learning the impact of volunteerism. Along my journey, I built lasting relationships and developed valuable character-development traits. Whether it was a teacher, coach, out-of-school-time program, or mentor, each day I was given a new tool to grow into a productive, caring, and responsible adult. I came to realize that I will never be able to truly pay it forward, but I will try my best to do so. My passion for community development and volunteerism translated into a dedication to connecting people to resources. Looking back now, I am doing the exact work I dreamed of when I was a kid.

What do you do for fun? In my free time, you will find me in love with being a husband and father while enjoying the beautiful outdoors of Western Massachusetts. Whether it’s hikes in the Berkshires, listening to music at Tanglewood, cookouts at Mt. Tom, or running around Ashley Reservoir, my family and I love spending as much time as we can enjoying the fresh air.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My mom, Marlyn Bevan. I knew at a young age I was the luckiest person alive to have her in my life. She was my guiding north star for 28 years. She was a mother, teacher, coach, role model, and best friend. She taught me love, loyalty, compassion, respect, gratitude, resilience, and much more. One more lunch with my mom would be the gift of a lifetime. Outside of one more chance to gain endless wisdom, I would have another opportunity to thank her for making me the husband, father, and man I am today.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Area Retail Leader, KeyBank; Age 36; Education: Southern New Hampshire University

Carrasquillo joined KeyBank in 2018, taking over a branch at the bottom in performance and quickly driving that branch to the top of the company. A graduate of the bank’s fast-track program, he now mentors many KeyBank employees.

Julio Carrasquillo III

Julio Carrasquillo III   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Leading a team of 11 great branch managers who were once my peers, and helping them make a difference in the communities we serve by delivering financial wellness and impacting peoples lives. I’ve been in banking since 2005, holding every role from teller to personal banker to branch manager. It definitely helps me to have been in the place of so many of my colleagues and can relate to what they need to be successful. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in low- and moderate-income communities, and, having come from one, it’s been so gratifying and rewarding to help as many people as possible meet their goals with proper financial planning. Two years ago, I reassessed where I was as a leader. Helping more of my colleagues deliver sound financial advice to clients in the role of area retail leader was my target, and I executed that plan. Now I get to help other leaders grow and achieve their career goals.

Who inspires you, and why? My father inspires me. He’s had to work hard for everything he’s had, coming from very little in Puerto Rico. In his family life, he’s tireless in his pursuit of a respected and happy family legacy. In his spiritual life, he’s been the blue-collar, roll-up-his-sleeves, church deacon turned pastor. He takes on the challenges nobody else volunteers for, delivers great guidance and leadership, and is loved by the people in the congregations he’s ministered to. He’s developed a reputation of a ‘fixer,’ and I have done the same in my career. Making him proud is a daily thought for me.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Eating and drinking! Whether it’s grabbing a bite to eat at Lattitude, the Federal, or Big Mamou’s or a cigar at Cigar Room 2 and brewery hopping, there’s such a rich and diverse culture in Western Mass. that you could never do the same thing twice and still have a great time.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Julio helped me help my clients, and we had a ton of fun doing so!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Owner, F45 Training Hampshire Meadows and F45 Training Riverdale; Assistant Business Agent/HSMO, Local 455/FirstLight Power; Age 35

After completing an eight-year millwright apprenticeship program through Local 1121 out of Boston, Deane quickly rose to the top of the ranks, ultimately managing crews of 60-plus as a keyman for APM and General Electric, then serving as a superintendent on several high-stakes outages throughout the country. In 2013, he accepted a position closer to home and joined IBEW Local 455 as an in-house mechanical maintenance operator with FirstLight Power, where he oversees all maintenance projects and control of the power plant’s three hydro stations and 11 generators, and has since become assistant business agent for Local 455. He later launched a franchise of F45 Training in Hadley, where he oversees 14 employees, and is opening a second franchise in West Springfield.

Danny Deane

Danny Deane

What three words best describe you? Positive, motivated, dad.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Navigating my side business from a single startup to two remunerative, life-changing fitness companies while simultaneously maintaining a full-time career, negotiating a CBA for my union peers, and raising three kids under 5.

What are you passionate about? Positivity and fun. I approach every situation, each day, with a positive attitude. Making sure everyone in the room has a smile on their face is paramount to me. I literally sing the chorus of “Live Like You Were Dying” to my children every night before bed.

Who inspires you, and why? My wife, Jessye. She sets out every day with the intention to make the world a better place. She is the kindest person I know and my most trusted advisor. She inspires me every day to work harder, be more thoughtful, and polish my sense of humor so I can stay funnier than she is.

How do you relieve stress? Exercising, working overtime, and enjoying craft beer — pretty much in that order.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? A Saturday-morning Hollywood session at F45 Training. It’s a party with a lot of sweat, a DJ, and a bunch of amazing people who have become like family.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would like to sit at a table for three with Nikola Tesla and Post Malone. I am fascinated by the knowledge and innovation that an individual could have inside one mind. Plus, Tesla would be cool to meet, too.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

General Manager, Ernie’s Towing; Age 37

Fournier joined the family business, Wayside Auto, and its towing and recovery division, Ernie’s Towing, straight out of high school. Starting as an operator, he worked his way up through the ranks, eventually taking over management of that division. He opened a second location in Amherst in 2009, creating new jobs in a down economy. Now a standalone entity owned by Fournier, Ernie’s Towing continues to operate two locations with 35 employees. He has continued to grow the company, expanding its services to include becoming a premier AAA provider, entering into the long-distance transportation service, and securing more than a half-dozen local and state agency emergency contracts. With the Massachusetts Statewide Towing Assoc., Fournier has served as Western Massachusetts director for more than 10 years and sits on its legislative steering committee, aiming to professionalize and standardize the towing and recovery industry while advocating for the safety and well-being of consumers and industry professionals. He was vital in passing the Slow Down Move Over Law in Massachusetts, making police, firefighters, paramedics, tow-truck operators, and roadside emergency and maintenance professionals safer on the job.

Brian Fournier

Brian Fournier

What did you want to be when you grew up? Law enforcement.

What three words best describe you? Determined, thoughtful, honest.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Expanding the business from a small, six-employee company to more than 35 employees today.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To better improve my business while also keeping my employees safe.

What are you passionate about? Family.

Who inspires you, and why? My father. He is my biggest role model. He is a hardworking and very smart businessman.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy traveling, snowmobiling, and also spending time on the UTV with family and friends.

How do you relieve stress? Spending time outdoors with my family.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? He was a great leader and a thoughtful and helpful person, always concerned about his employees and leading by example.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

President, Unify Against Bullying; Age 39; Education: Westfield State University (BA)

An assistant store manager for Kohl’s with a heart for the community, Goff has long organized volunteer opportunities for the Kohl’s Cares program. This work began 17 years ago when she started with the company as a sales associate, and she was soon recognized as a top volunteer. She has since taken charge of coordinating events — and attending many of them outside her work hours — and has been recognized as the Volunteer Champion for organizing the most volunteer opportunities in her store’s region. Meanwhile, she found a specific organization that focused on an issue near to her heart, and began working with Unify Against Bullying four years ago. During her time with this organization, she has been a volunteer coordinator and part of the fashion show committee, one of Unify’s biggest fundraising events. Seeing the impact this organization was having on today’s youth, Goff chose to get more involved, serving as board secretary and recently being named board president, a role through which her vision will help lead this organization into the future. Goff’s passion for volunteering has spread to her family and friends. She and her husband, Jeremy, are founding members of the Red Thread Network (formerly Terriers Around Town), an organization that increases art opportunities for the West Springfield community and surrounding areas. Many of her family members and friends have attended and volunteered at events, most notably the Unify Against Bullying fashion show and Red Thread Network’s Yuletree Jubilee.

Sarah Goff

Sarah Goff    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What three words best describe you? Passionate, determined, caring.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Becoming the president of Unify Against Bullying.

What are you passionate about? Family and friends, and anti-bullying initiatives.

Who inspires you, and why? The Unify Against Bullying family. They are an amazing group of individuals who truly believe what makes everyone unique is what makes them amazing people.

What do you do for fun? Disney World is my happy place. When I’m not going to Disney, I make sure to have a little bit of Disney in my daily life.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? Walt Disney, of course. Walt never gave up on his dreams, and he inspired those who worked with him to be more than they ever knew they were capable of.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

President, R.J. Greeley Co. Inc.; Age 39; Education: Saint Michael’s College (BA)

Over the past 15 years, Greeley has represented many local and national corporations with their real-estate needs, and now leads the company his father founded more than 35 years ago.

Brendan Greeley

Brendan Greeley   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

 

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a rock star. I sang in a band with a group of friends from high school for years. Now I settle for an occasional karaoke, but I’d love to do it again someday.

What three words best describe you? Ready, thoughtful, steadfast.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? I could mention a big deal I helped put together or how I helped someone who really needed it, but in general, I would say my biggest professional accomplishment is all the friends I have made along the way. For me, my personal life blends together with my professional life, which makes it easy to go to ‘work.’

What are you passionate about? Finding balance. While it’s really important for me to put 100% into work, it’s even more important to put 100% into living. So how do I put everything into everything? Passion. Passion for life is the superpower necessary to output more than 100% to satisfy the demands of finding success and living a purposeful life.

How do you relieve stress? I joined a hockey team and became a hockey goalie at age 36. I was on sports teams my whole life until things started to get in the way of being able to participate, like work and family. Nothing relieves stress for me quite like being competitive and celebrating victory.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? I’m originally from Amherst, and there’s a short hike I used to do up in Sunderland on Mount Toby that leads up to a fire tower. It’s a place I’ve gone for many, many years. It’s a place I’ve frequented with many friends and family, and it’s always a peaceful place for me.

Who inspires you, and why? I’m most inspired by my children. My wife, Amy, and I have two boys, and I’m eager to show them the world. They inspire me to work hard, to be active with them, to teach them fun things, and to be the best role model I can be for them, like my parents and grandparents have been for me. They make life really fun.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Assistant Vice President, Regional Manager, PeoplesBank; Age 38; Education: New England College of Business and Finance (BS)

Not only does Guzie oversee the growth and development of four banking centers in North Central Connecticut — most recently helping bring together the corporate cultures of PeoplesBank and First National Bank of Suffield after a merger — but she also volunteers 20 hours a week with Suffield Volunteer Ambulance Assoc. as an EMT.

Jacquelyn Guzie

Jacquelyn Guzie

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a little girl, I loved babies. Any chance I got to interact with a baby, I took it. This prompted my dream job — to be an obstetrician. Later in life, I found banking was better suited for me.

What three words best describe you? Fun, selfless, passionate.

What are you passionate about? My absolute passion is my volunteerism as an emergency medical technician. It is extremely rewarding to know I can be on the front line, saving lives in an emergency situation.

Who inspires you, and why? My mother. My mom has raised me to believe that you can achieve whatever you desire and overcome any challenge that you want to take on. I have lived by this rule throughout my life as one of the best lessons learned.

What do you do for fun? Being a mom! The most fun I have in life is spent with my 4-year-old daughter, whether it is doing crafts or playing hide and seek or simply just cuddling on the couch watching Lady and the Tramp — five times in a row!

How do you relieve stress? Taking ‘me’ time at the nail or hair salon or an appointment with my massage therapist, Mary.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Obviously, who doesn’t love a good time at the new MGM?

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would give anything to be able to have lunch with my grandfather today. He passed six years ago, and I would love to just talk to him about my accomplishments in life and mostly to have him meet my daughter — he would love her.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Well, hopefully they will say that I have impacted their life in a good way along the journey.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

CEO, HitPoint Inc.; Age 37; Education: UMass Amherst (BDIC)

Not only does Hake lead HitPoint, one of the largest independent game studios in New England, with offices in Greenfield and Los Angeles and a business team in Scotland, he’s also CEO of LuckyPoint Inc., a gaming platform company; co-founded the Another Castle workspace in Greenfield; and has developed games for Disney, Ellen DeGeneres, Niantic, EA, Microsoft, Hasbro, and many others.

Paul Hake

What did you want to be when you grew up? Having an entrepreneurial mother who ran a successful business and a computer-programming father who taught me coding at a young age, it was almost inevitiable I would end up where I am. In junior high, I was already contemplating starting my own company. I knew my business was going to be something computer-related, and, in eighth grade, I started a computer-repair business and got my first taste of running a business. Admittedly, I had a lot of support from my parents in this venture, mostly around driving me to the homes of clients. The decision to run a software company dawned on me after being stumped on too many hardware-related repair problems. Around the same time, we started getting PC games at our house (no consoles were allowed in the house), including Myst and Civilization. That’s pretty much when I decided I’d start a game studio after college.

What three words best describe you? Grit, high-energy, hangry.

How do you relieve stress? For me, there is nothing like going for a long run or bike ride to reset my thinking, reduce stress, and feel refreshed. In addition to reducing stress, some of my most creative thinking happens out on the road.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? There are so many fantastic places to have fun in Western Mass., it’s not possible for me to pick a favorite. However, some of my favorite places to go with my wife, Kim, and our two kids include the People’s Pint, the front porch at Magpie, and hanging out at one of the many swimming holes on the Green River.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon. There are many reasons I feel like I relate to Lemon, though moreso in her work life than personal life (for example, I haven’t slept with James Franco). But we’re both running creative entities, working more than we should, loving cheese, and really just trying to have it all.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Patient Experience Manager, Baystate Health Inc.; Age 28; Education: Springfield College (BS); Columbia University (MPH)

Healey leads a team of patient-experience specialists across the entire Baystate Health system, providing leadership and guidance for directors and managers, addressing both barriers to care and best practices, and supporting staff development through coaching, mentoring, and leading by example, among other roles.

Kristina Healey

Kristina Healey

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a ballerina. I grew up dancing at the Hackworth School of Performing Arts (HSPA), and, being the daughter of a dance teacher, I shared that passion for dancing and performing with my mom. Even though I didn’t become a professional ballerina, I am continuing to share my love of dance as a member of the faculty at HSPA, as well as being an adjudicator at dance competitions across the Northeast.

What three words best describe you? Passionate, kind, determined.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I am a Disney fan through and through. Sure, the movies and theme parks are amazing, but it all started because of one man’s dream. Walt Disney was not only a visionary leader, but he inspired people across generations to believe and accomplish the impossible. I’ve read so much about him over the years, but I still have so many questions to ask him about his leadership strategies and his pride in the accomplishments of the Walt Disney Company since his passing.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? If you asked me this question when I was a kid, the answer would have been Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Why? Because she’s a mermaid, duh. Now, as an adult, I relate most to Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. She is a hardworking woman with big goals, a vision, and a supportive family by her side. What’s even more relatable for me is that Tiana also lost her dad at a young age, and her desire to make him proud fueled her passion for becoming a girl boss. She didn’t let any excuses or barriers stop her from accomplishing her goals, and ultimately she persevered.

Who inspires you, and why? A lot of people in this world inspire me. My family, my dad, my husband, the patients and employees of Baystate Health, my dance students and colleagues — they all inspire me every day to be the best version of myself.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Clinic Director, Center for Human Development; Age 36; Education: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (BA), Springfield College (MSW)

Hicks has immersed herself into the communities she serves. She saw firsthand the destruction the opioid crisis brought to the region and has kept the Center for Human Development (CHD) on the front lines of that fight for the last five years. As a member of various prevention and solution initiatives, she contributes a wealth of knowledge and advocacy to various coalitions throughout the western part of the state. As a licensed independent clinical social worker, certified as a dialectical behavior therapist and a recovery coach supervisor, she oversees and supervises large clinical operations at CHD’s Easthampton Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic and the Greenfield Center for Wellness, and is also the director of the agency’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy Clinical Internship Program — a program she designed to create an opportunity for the next generation of master’s-level social workers to enter the field trained in what’s considered a cutting-edge, evidence-based practice. She also leads dialectical behavior therapy groups for adolescent girls and adult women in the community who are struggling with maladaptive behaviors. Hicks also helped launch CHD’s integrated behavioral-health and wellness center in Greenfield, acting as the liaison between CHD and the Community Health Center of Franklin County to ensure that the most vulnerable people in that community are cared for. Her leadership has helped create a unique setting that co-locates primary, dental, and mental healthcare, removing barriers to care and providing a welcoming setting to all who enter.

Shannon Hicks

Shannon Hicks     Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to have a job where, if people came to me for help, I could help. I was unsure of what that job would be, exactly, but that passion and desire led me in the direction of social work.

What three words best describe you? Motivated, loyal, compassionate.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? The development of the outpatient clinics I oversee in both Franklin and Hampshire counties.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? To do the best I can.

What are you passionate about? My family and providing support to those who are in need.

Who inspires you, and why? My two children and my husband, because they are the reason I do what I do.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? That I was dedicated to the work we do and always there for them.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Senior Project Manager, Tighe & Bond; Age 37; Education: Springfield Technical Community College (AS); Central Connecticut State University (BS)

Since starting with Tighe & Bond in 2007, Holmes has worked with a diverse team of engineers to develop solutions for wastewater, drinking water, transportation, and site projects. In 2019, he successfully managed seven construction projects throughout the state with a total construction value of nearly $11 million.

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

What did you want to be when you grew up? I didn’t want to be a civil engineer. As a youngster, I was really focused on sports and aspired to build a career in a sports-related field. In seventh or eighth grade, I recall our school hosting a career fair. Essentially, parents of students would talk with different classes about their careers. One of the speakers was a civil engineer, so I attended. The speaker talked about drain pipes, rain events, and how to convey water, which was all quite boring at the time. I walked out of the room very confident I would never be a civil engineer. In high school, I took a drafting class, where I was introduced to hand drafting and the early stages of computer-aided drafting. I enjoyed that class and decided to sign up for an architectural certificate program at Springfield Technical Community College. I quickly learned I wasn’t going to be an architect, but I enjoyed many of the civil-engineering-related classes and transferred to the civil engineering program. The rest is history.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Survive. As long as I meet that goal daily, then I’ve given myself the opportunity to achieve my ambitions.

How do you relieve stress? Fishing. It’s an activity that puts me in a good place mentally. Spending the day with my son on the Connecticut River fishing for stripers during their spring migration eliminates all my stress.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy spending as much time with my family as I can. I coach multiple sports teams for both my children, which is fun and rewarding. It has allowed me to develop a deep bond with them and watch them grow as athletes and little humans. I also have fun when we travel and explore different places as a family. The memories and experiences gained while traveling have been amazing and are irreplaceable.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? We will miss waiting for him to review those documents.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Principal, Veterans Park School, Ludlow; Age 37; Education: St. Michael’s College (BA), Springfield College (MA), American International College (CAGS)

Among her many achievements, Knowles has developed standards for academic achievement, incorporated more arts into the curriculum, developed mentoring programs for students, and introduced Grow the Good, a program in which students and staff perform acts of kindness for Ludlow residents.

Melissa Knowles

Melissa Knowles

What did you want to be when you grew up? Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher. I used to force my younger brother to play school at home when we were kids. I would write on the chalkboard and take every opportunity to take charge and tell him what to do. And I always loved school supplies! When I was about 11, I started my own birthday-party business with a friend, and we would plan games and activities at birthday parties. It was my first experience actually leading a group of children, and I never stopped after that.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Being awarded the job as principal at 28 years old. Although I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave the classroom so soon, I have no regrets and am proud of all I have accomplished with my staff and students in my nine years as principal.

What do you do for fun? As the mother of two very happy and excitable boys, most of my fun revolves around spending time with them. I enjoy watching my oldest play sports, spending time outside, going on adventures or getaways with my husband and kids, and getting together with family and friends. I also appreciate when I can sneak some time on my own to shop, especially at Target or HomeGoods.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Hopefully they will say I was a leader and role model, that I was passionate about kids and education, and that I had a big heart and put everything I had into everything I did. I hope they will say I was creative and had an ability to think outside the box, not afraid to take risks, but willing to try something new or innovative — and always encouraged others to do the same. I hope they will say I was kind and compassionate and valued each and every person for who they are, that I showed everyone respect, regardless if we always agreed, and that I truly was so proud of everything we accomplished together.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Economic Development, 1Berkshire; Age 34; Education: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (BA), the College of Saint Rose (M.Ed.), University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Ph.D.)

Lamb’s work focuses on what he calls ‘wraparound economic development,’ which creates connective tissue between traditional and non-traditional participants in the region’s economic ecosystem — most notably through his development and launch of the Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, an economic-development imperative for the region’s next decade.

Benjamin Lamb

Benjamin Lamb       Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? A rock collector.

What three words best describe you? Eclectic, dad, caffeine.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? Get it done.

Who inspires you, and why? My two-and-a-half-year-old son. His passion for things he loves, his intense focus when he is learning something new, and his celebration of success make me see how even small actions and achievements can have meaningful impacts and reasons to be excited.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I’m torn between Nikola Tesla and Bill Nye. Nikola’s mind was so incredible that I would just want to glean from his brilliance. Bill Nye has inspired me since I was a child watching PBS. He made science and learning digestible, regardless of age, and has continued to be someone I deeply admire.

What do you do for fun? Find new and funky ways to celebrate the city I live in and the community I surround myself with.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? I just love getting outdoors with my family, even if it’s just in the backyard. It helps to remind me of the quality of life I get to enjoy in the Berkshires and the value of our natural surroundings here.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. She somehow fits 25 hours into the day, has a deep and unmatched love for her community and work, and is obnoxiously positive in her outlook 90% of the time. I think most who know me would recognize those qualities in what they experience with me.

How do you relieve stress? Gardening.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Who’s going to water his plants?

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Chief Technical Officer, MachineMetrics; Age 35; Education: UMass Amherst (BS)

As a co-founder of MachineMetrics, Lauzier has helped build a successful startup in Western Mass. that now employs more than 50 people. MachineMetrics has received multiple awards, including from Forbes, and its Boston office was named a top-100 place to work in Boston. Lauzier has led and grown the largest team in the company and built an award-winning product that has been recognized globally as Smart Manufacturing’s Industrial IoT Product of the Year. Active outside of work as well, Lauzier is involved with Northampton Young Professionals, Hack for Western Mass., and MTConnect’s Tag Committee, where he helped develop open specifications for his industry.

Jacob Lauzier

Jacob Lauzier            Photo by Chattman Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to build Legos. I got my wish — but my Legos are zeros and ones.

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about building experiences. For a long time, I was passionate about building software and the experiences that users have with interacting with that software, from the flow that they go through to make their lives easier to the joy they had with how the pixels were laid out on the screen. Now, I’m passionate about working with others to build a successful team that creates those experiences for our customers.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t say Steve Jobs. He was an incredibly flawed character — someone who didn’t actually build any of the technology that he’s credited for, and a person that often led through fear in ways that go against my core values. But he did inspire legions of people to design a new future, and I can’t take that away. He did this through storytelling, and I would love to just listen.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Community Outreach Coordinator, Berkshire Commuity College; Age 35; Education: Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo, Ecuador (BA)

Ruiz Leon’s job is multi-faceted, to say the least. Among her myriad roles, she conducts recruitment initiatives in the community and helps underserved populations — such as international, ESOL, and immigrant students, students of color, students with disabilities, and veterans — access a college education, while developing programming to recruit, retain, and promote the success of these populations. She also assists with Admissions Office enrollment efforts, processes visa requirements, and administers financial programs and benefits that these students can utilize. Meanwhile, her community involvement goes well beyond BCC; for instance, she has been involved with Berkshire Immigrant Stories at the Norman Rockwell Museum, and also serves as a mentor in the Rites of Passage and Empowerment program in Pittsfield, which celebrates and honors the entry of adolescent girls into womanhood and provides them with skills and knowledge they need to be successful, independent, and responsible women. She also co-chairs the steering committee for the 1Berkshire Youth Leadership Program, administering the leadership-development and career-exploration program to a new class each year.

Karen Ruiz León

Karen Ruiz León    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? Wonder Woman.

What three words best describe you? Loyal, funny, hungry.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Being there for my students and witnessing the transformational power education brings to the lives of the people we serve.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? It starts with asking myself how can I be of service in someone’s life, whether it’s helping a student, a friend, or a co-worker. At the end of the day, having a positive impact on people’s lives is so rewarding.

What are you passionate about? Social justice and equity.

Who inspires you, and why? My parents. They worked and continue working hard to provide me and my brother everything we needed to thrive, especially an education that will afford us better careers.

What do you do for fun? Karaoke.

How do you relieve stress? Snuggling with my kitty.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Anywhere with my Massachusetts family — wherever they are, there is always laughter, joy, and food!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Financial Advisor, Pioneer Valley Financial Group; Age 36; Education: Westfield State University

Since joining PV Financial Group in 2013, Leonczyk has grown his book of business by 150%, and is now responsible for 16% of the firm’s total revenue, while finding time to volunteer with organizations like the Ludlow CARES Coalition and Junior Achievement.

Peter Leonczyk

Peter Leonczyk

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always dreamed of becoming an environmental police officer. My parents instilled in me a deep appreciation for the outdoors very early on. From camping throughout New England to fishing in every body of water I could find, I’ve always felt a duty to protect and preserve the environment. As I grew up, my desire to connect and serve with my community and interest in economics and finance led me down the path of becoming a financial advisor. My desire today is to instill in my children that same love of the outdoors and serving others, creating special memories that impact the individuals they grow up to become.

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about serving my community because I care deeply for everyone in it. Coaching youth football is just another example of how my past and present interests have converged. It comes naturally for me to build strong connections with friends, community members, teammates, and clients because I’m interested in their lives and their families; I’m fueled by their stories, passions, hopes, and dreams.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I’m passionate, slightly dramatic, and I know how to deliver a good one-liner. I make friends easily, and I’m as sappy as I am sarcastic. I’m deeply committed to my family, my friends, and all the people I’ve met throughout my life.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I think about my grandfathers a lot. My mother’s father was an Air Force pilot in World War II and a helicopter pilot in the Korean War. He instilled in our family a deep respect and admiration for giving back through his 30 years of military service. My mother speaks to his honor and integrity, passing down the belief system that you should always do the right thing even when no one is watching. My father’s father served in the Navy and went on to become a master electrician. I would be honored to sit across from these men and learn more about the experiences that shaped them.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Head of Financial Insights, MassMutual; Age 34; Education: College of the Holy Cross (BA); Boston University (MBA)

As part of the Corporate Finance team, Lipke has worked to help MassMutual serve more Americans by designing a solution for Main Street investors to gain access to private equity, and has spoken in Washington on ways to expand investment access to private assets. Among his community efforts, he volunteers at Friends of Children Inc., mentoring a young adult transitioning out of the foster-care system.

Dave Lipke

Dave Lipke

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was growing up, I never could decide what I wanted to be. I often thought of being an architect, to design new buildings, or an engineer, to build new cars, or an entrepreneur, to launch new products. When I applied for colleges, I mostly applied to liberal-arts colleges, so I could take a variety of classes. In fact, I wrote in my college admission essay that, if I could live at any time in history other than today, that I would choose the Renaissance, so that there would not be such pressure to specialize in any one particular field of study.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? When I want to relax, I often read a thriller, which is one of the few things that helps me to unplug. When I am looking for inspiration, however, I usually pick up a biography, where I can learn about people who have accomplished amazing things in very different walks of life. Some of my favorites include Steve Jobs and Unbroken. While I haven’t found the solution yet, I am passionate about helping to revitalize the economy of Western Mass. Our kids are young — only 2 and 4 — but when they graduate from college, I want the Pioneer Valley to be an area they can return to without giving up any of their dreams. Hopefully we can celebrate their college graduation at the Student Prince, one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? I would choose Daniel Craig. I work in finance — not the emergency room or statecraft — so picking the leading actor from the James Bond series would infuse some excitement into the story. While I have done nothing to deserve a movie about me, I hope it would portray someone who led change or development of an innovation that made a difference in people’s lives.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Big Y Foods Inc.; Age 36; Education: Holyoke Community College (ABA), UMass Amherst (BS)

As the face of Big Y’s nutrition outreach programs, Luttrell takes on myriad roles in the chain, such as participating in more than 25 community presentations each year — in settings like libraries, schools, senior centers, and cancer-survivorship meetings — where she reaches more than 5,000 people with positive nutrition and lifestyle messaging. She also writes food and nutrition columns for local media, helped create Big Y’s Kids’ Fruit Club, which provides kids with a free piece of fruit while shopping with an adult, and has expanded community partnerships with regional wellness organizations.

Andrea Luttrell

Andrea Luttrell   

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? I’ve always been introverted and would rather be working behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight. However, working with Big Y has enabled me to push beyond my comfort levels to become confident in myself, whether in front of a camera doing a media interview or speaking to a large group during a community presentation. This personal and professional accomplishment has helped me become the registered dietitian I am today — and I think my story can help inspire others that, with hard work and determination, anything is possible. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing!

How do you relieve stress? My favorite way to decompress is through baking. There is something calming about it, and I love experimenting with new recipes. Then, I also get to share what I’m making with family and friends — and that brings me a sense of happiness as well. Besides baking, I center myself through reading or simply getting away in nature. You’ll find me taking walks with my boys, spending time at our camp, or out in a kayak. Most recently, I started knitting with a group of girlfriends. This is proving to be a great way to relieve stress.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? If I could pick one person, it would by my memere, Yolande Croteau. I was extremely close to my grandmother, and she always believed I would be accepted into a dietetic internship program, which is something that is extremely competitive but also necessary in order to become a registered dietitian. She passed away before I was able to share the news that I did get into my first-choice program, and she would have been so incredibly proud. I would love for her to see where I am today.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Deli and Bakeshop Regional Sales Lead, Stop and Shop; Age 38; Education: Holyoke Community College (AS)

Lynch has worked for Stop and Shop since 1998, starting in high school as a bagger and working his way up to his current role as Deli and Bakeshop sales lead for 138 stores in the Central Region. In 2015, he was recognized as Specialist of the Year, an award Stop and Shop gives annually to a single individual who leads and develops teams and drives sales through detailed planning and execution strategies. In 2019, Lynch was elected to the Easthampton City Council, where he serves on the finance and appointment committees. In short, he’s passionate about ensuring financial rigor and sound fiscal decision making in both his career and as a councilor. Active in the community, he has been a committed volunteer with the Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Day Parade and Road Race committee since 2015, and he sits on the Easthampton Media board of directors, helping to guide the direction of public-access television locally. Lynch is also actively involved in Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA, and he often volunteers for his city’s Parks and Recreation department.

William Lynch IV

William Lynch IV

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be an actor, and my dream was Saturday Night Live. Acting has helped me adjust to any situation, think creatively, and adjust at a moment’s notice.

What are you passionate about? I’m extremely passionate around music. I love going to live concerts and watching talented musicians share their craft. I have a lot of friends in the industry, and seeing them play live and create music helps fuel my passion.

What do you do for fun? When it rains, I play with my kids and build Lego creations. If it is nice outside, I enjoy geocaching in the woods.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? I feel I would be played by Chris Pratt. He is very versatile and has taken on many different styles of characters in his career. I feel he would capture the range of roles I take on in life, from silly dad to business manager to city councilor. He could hit the full spectrum of those characters well.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Residential Dining Operations, UMass Dining; Age 35; Education: Western New England University (BS)

A key part of the region’s university dining scene for the past decade, Mankus spent six years at UMass Amherst before successfully managing Westfield State University’s transition from Sodexo to self-operated. Three years later, he returned to UMass, where he oversees employee management and budgeting and conceptualizes creative and sustainable ideas for a dining program that generates 20,000 meals a day — and regularly ranks first in the nation in the Princeton Review. He’s also active in the community, running 5Ks to benefit various nonprofits as well as volunteering for groups like the Zoo in Forest Park and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Andrew Mankus

Andrew Mankus

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I actually set myself up for a successful day the evening before. I go through all e-mails, read them, and either close that task out for the day, or add to my to-do list for the following day. This gives me a fresh start in the morning and helps me stay productive throughout the day. Within my position at UMass, I set a goal for myself to interact with at least 50 team members and 50 students each day. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with such a diverse group of people on a daily basis.

What do you do for fun? I love to go on walks and hikes with my wife and dogs. In the warmer months, I love to go on a bike ride to the local brewery scene here in Western Mass. I am a foodie at heart and love to experience the great local food scene we have in our area as well.

How do you relieve stress? Any workout is a great way for me to relieve stress. I also enjoy getting outside when the weather is nice to play a round of golf or recreational softball. During the colder months, a competitive game night with friends can really take my mind off stressful situations, even though I am known to be highly competitive.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? Bruce Banner/the Hulk. Friends, family, and collegues would agree. I didn’t have any gamma radiation exposure or anything. I don’t think any further explanation is needed.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? For no other reason than my wife would insist on it … Robert Downey Jr., but as Tony Stark. I’ll go with it.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Owner and Head of Strength and Conditioning, Train for Life Inc. Age 34; Education: UMass Amherst (BS)

McConaha has built his business from rented-out space at Wilbraham Soccer City to his own recently expanded facility, where he brings his passion for life and vitality to hundreds of members. From that platform, he also organizes fundraising events that give back to nonprofits and families in need.

Andrew McConaha

Andrew McConaha   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was young, I remember wanting to go to school for marine biology and then work at Sea World, training seals. I was fascinated by science early on; I had a microscope in elementary school and was always looking at anything I could find underneath it. I always knew I’d be doing something related to science, and later on, I definitely knew it would also involve helping people smile.

What three words best describe you? Inspiring, vulnerable, compassionate.

What are you passionate about? I’m most passionate about uplifting others. From my work life to my friends and family, I always try to be a positive and motivating individual. As someone who has battled anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, finding the positive in every situation is something that has helped me, and I try to do for others as much as I can.

Who inspires you, and why? My mom has always been one of the biggest inspirations in my life. As a single mom, she did everything she could to be present in my life. I can’t remember a single game or event growing up that my mom wasn’t in attendance for. That’s something I’ll always cherish — that she made it a point to be present and proud of me for all that I’ve done.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? If I had my pick, I’d have to go with Matt Damon because he is my favorite actor of all time.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The main character embodies someone that always pursues their dreams by following what the heart desires most. Throughout the story, there are many failures and lessons, and as someone who feels that I’ve been through a lot for the sole purpose of helping others, I always hope to continue to be able to follow my dreams and help as many people as I can along the way.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Partner, Egan, Flanagan & Cohen, P.C.; Age 34; Education: College of the Holy Cross (BA), Seton Hall University School of Law (JD)

Recently named a partner at her firm, McDonough’s practice includes estate planning and administration, business planning, and corporate law. A military spouse, her volunteer efforts have included service to veterans, including pro bono assistance to military families in the Army Legal Assistance Office. She recently helped create a committee of the Hampden County Bar Assoc. that will be a local hub of information and resources for both lawyers and non-lawyers who have questions about issues faced by military and veteran clients and their families.

Katie Manzi McDonough

Katie Manzi McDonough    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a lawyer. I truly have my dream job.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? My goal every workday is to leave my clients in a better position than before we met.

What are you passionate about? Faith, family, well-made pizza, civic engagement, and live music.

Who inspires you, and why? My husband, Michael. His confidence in our family, himself, and me is unwavering, and his positivity has always helped me to overcome many obstacles.

What do you do for fun? I enjoy playing with my two sons, and I like hosting gatherings for friends and family. I started golfing a few years ago, and I try to play as much as I can.

How do you relieve stress? In vino veritas. Also, I love to watch The Office, which I think is one of the greatest television shows ever made.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Any authentic Western Mass. Italian pizza shop. NYC has nothing on our pizza! I am biased because I grew up in a family pizza shop in Springfield.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would be honored to have lunch with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. She is a lawyer with a fantastic career as a public servant. I think she is a great role model for women like me.

What three words best describe you? Never limit an Italian woman to just three words.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Vice President, ReevX MyBanker, Berkshire Bank; Age 39; Education: American International College (MBA)

As vice president of Relationship Management for Berkshire Bank, Molina-Brantley was recently tapped to lead the ReevX Labs initiative for the city of Springfield. Utilizing community networks he’s built over time, and in a partnership with Valley Venture Mentors, he will provide programming and educational experiences, including financial-literacy and credit-repair courses, designed to boost financial success in the community.

Ronald Molina-Brantley

Ronald Molina-Brantley   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What three words best describe you? Caring, loyal, driven.

What are you passionate about? Increasing generational wealth and entrepreneurship are two areas I’m most passionate about. For me, it’s extremely rewarding to provide support to individuals and/or businesses that have decided to take a chance on their dreams. In order to do that, the secret is sound financial planning. In these cases, I work alongside individuals and startups in thinking about how to establish short- and long-term financial goals, funding sources, investments, and other factors designed to ensure their financial success. Although financial success is defined by the individual and/or the business, their goals promote my efforts in increasing generational wealth. I do this by teaching financial literacy as an art to people that were never taught it. It is also important to mentor kids from a young age about money management, the ills of debt, compounding interest, and the importance of building multiple streams of income.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I’ve been fortunate to have some back-and-forths with Jack Welch in my youth as a caddy at Sankaty Head Golf course on Nantucket. Now that I am a more established leader, I would appreciate an opportunity to dive deeper into other aspects that would benefit from his mentorship. His recent passing is a loss for us all, but his lessons have had a huge impact on my approach to business, finance, and leadership. His work on how to succeed in an increasingly global environment, management, and Six Sigma has revolutionized the way businesses are conducted. “Before you become a leader,” he said, “success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” As Jack told me on numerous occasions, the best place to have a business meeting is on the golf course. So, for one last time, I’d have our meeting over a round of golf at Sankaty Head, like good old times.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Founder and Executive Director, Libertas Academy Charter School; Age 31; Education: UMass Amherst (BA)

Under Montero’s leadership, Libertas Academy Charter School, in its third year of operation, is on track to be one of the highest-performing middle schools in the area, with plans to expand to a high school in the near future.

Modesto Montero

Modesto Montero   Photo by LifeTouchPhotography

 

What did you want to be when you grew up? I grew up very poor, but I was fortunate to have been raised in a Christian home. My upbringing fostered a sense of focus and a dedication to finding a way to make a difference in my community in a worthwhile career. As an immigrant, I initially thought about becoming an immigration lawyer, but while in college, I worked for an Upward Bound program as a mentor and tutor, and I instantly fell in love with working with young people in communities like the ones our school serves. So I decided to teach, and have continued my career as an educator. It’s been a wild and rewarding experience that has far exceeded my expectations.

What three words best describe you? Focus, relator, futuristic.

What are you passionate about? John Wesley, an 18th-century Methodist theologian, wrote, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” This quote really captures the core of what I am most passionate about, which is fighting for social justice and equity. Not to be morbid, but when I die, I want to know that I did all the good that I could, for as long as I could.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My answer is so cliché and likely overused, but Barack Obama. He has been the most influential and consequential leader of my generation. I vividly remember the night he was elected; I cried. Obama continues to be a source of inspiration for so many black and brown kids — kids that, for so long, didn’t see themselves in our presidents or in most of our leaders. The power of representation cannot be overstated, and its impact has the type of ripple effect that can change the world. My one demand is that he brings Michelle to lunch because we know she is a powerhouse in her own right!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Owner, My PT; Age 37; Education: Springfield College (MS), A.T. Still University (tDPT)

As a doctor of physical therapy frustrated by restrictions created by health-insurance companies that hindered the care and recovery of his patients, Naro created a new business model focused on patient-based care. He takes the time to holistically evaluate a client and teaches preventive measures to avoid the recurrence of the issue, all the while focused on the treatment of the discomfort, ailment, condition, or injury. My PT has evolved from house calls to a brick-and-mortar location in Southwick. Among his civic work, he’s been instrumental in the success of a bowling fundraiser in memory of a childhood friend to benefit the Westfield Baseball League and the Babe Ruth League of Westfield, and he has begun to connect to Friends of the Southwick Rail Trail.

Tom Naro

Tom Naro

What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be a doctor, but in the fourth grade, I wanted to be a cardiologist.

What three words best describe you? Compassionate, understanding, visionary.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Opening a custom physical-therapy clinic for My PT in 2019.

What are you passionate about? Helping others be better healers for themselves.

What do you do for fun? Being outdoors hiking, golfing, or going to rock concerts.

How do you relieve stress? Exercise by stretching, running, cycling, or practicing kicks.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Nicolas Cage.

Who inspires you, and why? My mom because, as a nurse, she cared for thousands of patients at Holyoke Medical Center. She worked throughout her parenting life because she wanted to provide for her family and her children’s future.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My grandmother, my mother’s mom, because we had lunches together when I was young. She passed away when I was 6 years old. I was too young to have an adult conversation with her. She would make tuna sandwiches with potato chips between the slices of bread, and for dessert, she made an angel-food cake that was perfectly sweet and airy. I’d like to hear her talk about her life and any pearls of wisdom she had to offer.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Founder, Contribution Clothing; Age 32; Education: Bay Path University (MS)

Partridge founded her online boutique with a focus on empowering women and supporting the community through monetary donations to Western Mass. nonprofits. Since her grand opening last June, she has worked with Bay Path University to develop an annual scholarship fund, created partnerships with several nonprofits, and provided monetary gifts to Dress for Success, Empty Arms Bereavement Support, Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, and Safe Passage, all the while fundraising for events and promoting messages of empowerment to audiences of women and girls.

Kelly Partridge

Kelly Partridge

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was younger, I wanted to be an artist. I even dabbled in graphic design in my 20s, but it really wasn’t for me. However, I will say they are great skills to have as a business owner.

What three words best describe you? Determined, altruistic, empowered.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Launching contributionclothing.com has been my biggest professional accomplishment so far. Starting a business is terrifying, and I was able to overcome that fear, take my passion for social justice, and create a mission-driven boutique that partners with some amazing local nonprofits. I’m excited to see it grow and to see the impact it can make within our community.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? This doesn’t always happen, but I really try to focus on self-care. Life gets busy, and it is really easy to get wrapped up in all the to-dos. Caring for myself first needs to be a priority.

Who inspires you, and why? I can’t choose one person. I would have to say anyone who has the ability to rise from a negative situation with a positive attitude and a goal of making themselves better because of it.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? My great-grandmother, Della, who passed away when I was a teenager. She grew up during the Great Depression and rarely talked about her life. I’d love the opportunity to know more about her, and my family’s history.

What actress would play you in a movie about your life? I really like Sophia Bush and what she stands for. She’s a big advocate for female empowerment, education, and environmental rights. I think it would be really cool to be represented by someone like her.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Vice President of Programs, YWCA of Western Mass; Age 38; Education: Springfield College (BS)

Pizarro began her career within the nonprofit sector as a sexual-assault and domestic-violence advocate at the YWCA. After a few years at the YWCA, she transitioned to Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services in Springfield and worked primarily with families experiencing mental-health and/or substance-abuse issues. After a year there, she transitioned to the Center for Human Development, where she remained for more than a decade. During her tenure at CHD, she quickly rose through the ranks, was appointed to Field Operations manager, and successfully ran a number of programs and helped countless individuals and families obtain affordable, permanent housing. Pizarro has been employed at the YWCA for almost three years now, overseeing 22 distinct programs and 150 employees. She has served on multiple task forces to design solutions to end homelessness and find affordable housing, especially for women.

Aisha Pizarro

Aisha Pizarro   Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? My biggest accomplishment has been working with my employees and watching them grow into the leaders I know they are. Being in a position to help young men and women grow, particularly women of color, is by far my legacy.

Who inspires you, and why? First I would have to say my wife and children. My wife motivates and supports my work, while my daughters remind me that life is forgiving and laughter is necessary. Without them, I wouldn’t be half of the person that I am today. I am forever grateful for the human beings they are. I am inspired by the resiliency that my clients show, and I am humbled that I am afforded the opportunity to work with our community.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? I would like to have lunch with my father and father-in-law, who have both passed on. I would love to have a chance to show them how much their granddaughters have grown, talk current politics (who’s in the White House), have a cup of coffee over a newspaper, talk COVID-19, talk about the state of the world. I would love to tell them how a Puerto Rican girl from a small barrio in Bayamon was selected for 40 Under Forty.

What do you do for fun? I am the fun!

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Planning & Development, City of Chicopee; Age 34; Education: Delaware Valley University (BS); Cornell University (MS)

Pouliot (pictured at left) has been involved in numerous key projects in Chicopee, including brownfield redevelopment, the City Hall rehabilitation, multiple park renovations, initiation of the “Envision Our Chicopee: 2040” plan, and much more.

Lee Pouliot

Lee Pouliot    Photo by Leah Martin Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? A marine biologist.

What goal do you set for yourself at the start of each day? I’ve learned to expect the unexpected on a regular basis.

What are you passionate about? Taking on that project no one else wants to focus on. Easy projects quickly get champions and get completed; I’m attracted to the really complicated projects that take time and cross-sector collaboration to advance. Projects that can be transformational over the long term keep me focused.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Establishing Chicopee’s Community Street Tree Planting Volunteer Program. We work with the Forestry Department to train resident volunteers to plant bare-root trees in the fall or spring.

What do you do for fun? Play clarinet, design and install gardens, read, write, and spend time with our adorable niece, Noelle Grace.

How do you relieve stress? The gym and fitness, which is also how I force myself to leave the office on time.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? Concerts at Tanglewood, which combine my love of music and my love of nature. How often can one go to a live classical concert under the stars?

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? J.R.R. Tolkien, who is one of my favorite authors. He wrote in a way that painted vividly detailed pictures, and I would love to listen to him explain how life experiences influenced his writings and imagination.

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Neil Patrick Harris.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? I asked my team to respond: “I can’t believe he wanted to be a tree this bad.” “Lee made our community better by making sure we all played by the same rules. Lee had a wonderful way of easing discussions that resolved many conflict-of-interest situations between different parties. Lee was certainly underappreciated and underpaid!” “Always looked good in gold spandex and a feather boa!”

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Director of Sales & Pop-Up Shops, Johnny Cupcakes; Age 30; Education: Framingham State University (BA)

Among her myriad roles — both with ‘the world’s first T-shirt bakery’ and volunteering in the community — Rodrigues travels the country monthly to conferences and events, working to inspire companies and organizations to collaborate with the Johnny Cupcakes brand.

Kyle Rodrigues

Kyle Rodrigues      Photo by Rachel Elliot Photography

What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted nothing more than to be a fashion designer, so it’s pretty wild that, after working up the ranks in industries ranging from toys to candles to web development, I finally landed myself in the most fun clothing company there ever could be.

Who inspires you, and why? My parents are my biggest inspiration. Both of my parents worked so hard and taught me the value of that at a young age. Work to live!

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Landing my job. I was ready for a change and reached out to the owner of the company, Johnny, via e-mail. I gave him my ‘Portuguese pitch’ as to why I would be an excellent employee, a hard worker making his life easier, and why he should hire me. Fifteen minutes later, he FaceTimed me, and the rest is history. I always tell others to put yourself out there because the worst that happens is you are in the same spot you are right now, and the best is getting everything you ever wanted. Also, this past year, after hearing of the devastation in Australia from the fires, I sent my team an e-mail to see if we could produce a pre-order to help raise funds for relief efforts. After two weeks, we sold more than 1,000 T-shirts and raised $100,000 AUD to donate between three charities.

What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? It would be my grandmother so I could tell her about visiting her village and how much I love her.

What’s your favorite hangout or activity in Western Mass., and why? It used to be going out for karaoke and dancing with my best friend and sister, Erikka, at the Huke Lau. RIP Huke!

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? I relate to Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation the most, professionally and personally. She is always the most positive through adversity, and she is a fiercely devoted friend.

What three words best describe you? Optimistic, outgoing, resilient.

40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Amherst Town Councilor; Lecturer, UMass Amherst; Age 32; Education: Elon University (BS), UMass Amherst (MS)

Ross, a lecturer at UMass since 2014, won a seat on the Amherst Town Council at age 31 and, in his first two years, has focused on developing efforts to increase housing production and density in order to increase affordability and environmental sustainability.

Evan Ross

Evan Ross     Photo by Greg Bernier

What did you want to be when you grew up? As a child, all I wanted was to be a paleontologist. I was inspired by Laura Dern’s heroics in Jurassic Park and wanted to follow in her footsteps. Later, as I learned what paleontologists actually do, I was less interested.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Winning a seat on Amherst’s inaugural Town Council. Prior to my campaign, I hadn’t really engaged with local politics. I entered the race with very little name recognition or existing support. But I worked hard, engaged voters, built relationships, organized volunteers, and in the end was the top vote getter in my district.

Who inspires you, and why? I’m inspired by the public officials who broke through barriers and overcame systemic oppression to win their seats. I’m especially inspired by those who ran unapologetically on their identities, instead of away from them. These include Danica Roem, the first openly trans person elected to the Virginia General Assembly, beating an incumbent who had authored anti-trans legislation; Deval Patrick, Massachusetts’ first black governor, who grew up the son of a single mother in a public housing project on the South Side of Chicago; and our local Alex Morse, the youngest and first openly gay mayor of Holyoke, who made his LGBT identity an asset instead of a liability. As an openly gay elected official, their successes motivate and inspire me.

What fictional character do you relate to most, and why? On days when I’m feeling motivated and ready to get things done in local government, I harness my inner Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. Other days I feel more like Selina Meyer in Veep. But most days, I’m really just the little boy in Jurassic Park, incessantly annoying you with nerd talk until you walk away (and, yes, that’s two Jurassic Park references).

What actor would play you in a movie about your life? Considering mannerisms and my past hairstyles, I think Liza Minnelli would be an appropriate choice. But to be honest, the role is beneath her.