There are many adjectives one can use to describe the members of the 40 Under Forty class of 2023 and their many — and varied — accomplishments. But ‘inspiring’ probably works best, and for a reason.
This was one of the main motivations for BusinessWest to start this recognition program in 2007. The goal was not to simply identify 40 rising stars each spring, but to inspire others by telling their stories, which are all different, but similar in that they chronicle success in the honorees’ chosen fields, but also strong involvement in the community.
These stories are impressive, but it is our hope, and our expectation, that they will inspire others to want to follow suit.
Let’s look at a few of these stories so you can see what we mean:
There’s Ashley LeBlanc, who told BusinessWest that it seems strange to be happy when someone is diagnosed with lung cancer. But she is, in some ways, because that diagnosis, especially if it comes early, can be one that saves a life. And helping to save and prolong life has become a kind of unofficial job description for her as nurse practice manager of Thoracic Surgery and nursing director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield.
There’s Dave Fontaine Jr., who has not only taken his family’s business, the construction firm Fontaine Bros. Inc., to new and much higher levels in terms of sales, staff, and even a ranking as one of the Boston Globe’s “Top Places to Work.” He has also become a serial entrepreneur of note as president of F2 Ventures, and taken his company and his family to a new level of involvement in the community. Indeed, collectively, they support everything from Link to Libraries to the Forest Park Zoo to the Sr. Mary Caritas Cancer Center.
There’s also Chelsea Russell, manager and CPA at Meyers Brothers Kalicka. She has quickly become a leader and mentor at the company, and has also developed its Community Outreach program, which coordinates drives, awareness campaigns, and services for organizations that include Square One, the United Way of Pioneer Valley, Christina’s House, Rachel’s Table, and many others.
There’s Andrew Brow, the restaurateur who has grown his portfolio to three eateries in Western Mass. — HighBrow Woodfired Kitchen and Bar, the Kitchen by HighBrow at White Lion Brewing Co., and Jackalope Restaurant — while also becoming quite active in the community, serving on boards at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School and Holyoke Community College, and using his talents in the kitchen to support a number of area nonprofits.
Then there’s Delmarina Lopez, who started a career in law and still uses her legal talents to help small business owners as a consultant. But she wanted to do something more meaningful with her time and energy, so she ran for, and won, a seat on Chicopee’s City Council as its Ward 3 representative.
There are 35 more stories like this, starting on page A8. Each is one is different, inspiring, and uplifting.
This is what we had in mind 16 years ago when we took an idea — to shine a bright light on the young talent in this region — and made it reality.
Like the 680 stories we’ve told, including the 40 this year, this program, and the way it has inspired others, is something worth celebrating.