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In Search of Rising Stars

Five hundred and twenty.

That’s how many men and women from across Western Mass. — yes, some of them now with AARP cards, or at least a few invitations to sign up — are members of a fairly exclusive club.

These are the individuals with BusinessWest 40 Under Forty plaques on their desks or their framed profile on their wall.

It’s a club that includes entrepreneurs and nonprofit managers, educators and legislators, lawyers and accountants, restaurant owners and fitness-club founders. There was even a high-school student who managed to impress the judges enough to become a member of the class of 2011.

But enough about the members of first 13 classes of honorees. We’re looking for the next group — the 40 who can call themselves members of the class of 2020.

It all starts with nominations. If you’ve nominated someone before, you know the drill. If you haven’t — and you should, because you undoubtedly know some rising stars in this region and need to let us know about them — the form can be found by going HERE.

But whether you’ve nominated someone before or not, you need to understand the importance of a thorough, complete nomination, one that will capture the attention of the judges, bring the qualifications and talents of the individual to the forefront, and ultimately bring that nominee to the stage at the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House in June.

As BusinessWest Associate Publisher Kate Campiti explains, “in recent years, we’ve seen the number of nominations rise steadily — in some years to nearly 200 individuals. That’s why it’s important to be detailed with one’s nomination and explain in clear, direct language why the individual in question is deserving of this honor — deserving of having that plaque on their desk.”

As noted earlier, honorees have come from all sectors of business and also from public service and the nonprofit realm. The only prerequisites are that nominees be under age 40 as of April 1, 2020 and that they be standouts in their field — and in the community.

The deadline for submitting nominations is end of day on Feb. 14. That’s right, Valentine’s Day. Those nominations will be sent to a panel of five judges (they will be announced early next month), and the scores will be tallied. The 40 highest scorers (after ties are broken) will comprise the class of 2020.

And, of course, 40 Under Forty is just one component of what promises to be a very exciting year of BusinessWest programs.

Indeed, the Difference Makers for 2020 have been chosen, and they will be profiled in the Feb. 3 edition of the magazine. In all, seven individuals and groups were chosen for the honor, making this a very large, diverse, and intriguing class of winners who will be celebrated on March 19 at the Log Cabin.

The 40 Under Forty event will follow in June, with Healthcare Heroes, which honors those in this region’s large and very important health and wellness field, slated for October, and the Women of Impact, now in its third year, in December.

Nominations for all of these programs are accepted year-round; the deadlines for the specific programs will be printed in BusinessWest.



Meryl Streep?

That’s who Peter Wirth, co-owner of Mercedes-Benz of Springfield, suggests, tongue in cheek (we think; we hope), should play him in a movie about his life.

“Let’s see if she can really play anything,” he writes in one of the answers to questions put to all of this year’s honorees. And when asked what figure, past or present, he would like to have lunch with, he suggests Ernest Hemingway. “I feel like he would have a few good stories, and there would most certainly be cocktails accompanying the lunch.”

The collective answers to a host of revealing questions cast a bright and intriguing light on this year’s honorees, who join the 480 who came before them as owners of some of the most prestigious plaques to be found in Western Mass. Indeed, a 40 Under Forty winner is someone who stands out among his or her peers (there were nearly 200 nominations submitted this year) and is truly a rising star amid a galaxy of them.

Indeed, contrary to popular theory, there is quite a bit of young talent in this region, and it exists across the board, in sectors ranging from healthcare to retail; from financial services to nonprofit management; from law to casino administration.

Their stories continue until you know all you need to know about Alyson Yorlano. And, as noted, to tell their stories, we used a questionnaire format, one that allows honorees to use their own words to convey what’s important to them, what inspires them, who mentored them, and yes, who they think could play them in a movie.

The answers are certainly good reading. They reveal some common denominators — everything from a willingness to work hard to get where they want to go, to a passion for family and community. And, in many cases, honesty and a good sense of humor.

As when Alex Dixon, the now-former general manager of MGM Springfield (he’s returned to Las Vegas to manage Circus Circus but will be at the Log Cabin in June for the 40 Under Forty gala), revealed that, growing up, he wanted to be governor of Nevada, an Alvin Ailey dancer, or a running back for the Washington Redskins.

Beyond witty answers, the profiles of this year’s honorees should provide inspiration for others seeking to own one of these plaques themselves, and encouragement for those who might be worried about whether we have sufficient young leadership coming of age in the 413.

Take Donald Havourd, who has thrived in a Fortune 500 corporate environment at MassMutual while simultaneously founding and growing a business, Migliore, which manufactures and distributes luxury car-care products.

Or Joy Baglio, who poured her passion for writing into the creation of the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop, growing it in only three years from a solo enterprise to one with 13 instructors teaching dozens of workshops and classes each year.

Or Dorothy Ostrowski, whose unique trajectory has taken her from the war-torn streets of Afghanistan to a wide-ranging career in the fast-paced world of emergency-room nursing, to ownership of a venerable West Springfield construction company.

We hope you enjoy reading these stories, but more importantly, we hope these 40 rising stars make you feel good about the future of this region. Because we certainly do.