Page 21 - BusinessWest 40 Under Forty 2024
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 Nicole Kerrigan
Vice President, V&F Auto Inc.: Age 34
      Growing up in a family auto-repair and mainte- nance business, Nicole Kerrigan was certainly interested in making it her career, but she wanted
to keep her options open.
She first majored in management at Western New
England University, then switched to accounting, “mainly because, if I got into the business and it wasn’t what I thought it would be, I had a plan. Also, I’m very close to my family. If the business created a conflict, I didn’t want to sacrifice my family relationships.”
It turns out she needn’t have worried.
“As a third-generation leader of V&F Auto, she has brilliantly carried forward her family’s legacy while injecting a fresh and innovative approach into the business,” wrote Michael Bennett, executive coach
with the Automotive Training Institute (ATI), one of myriad people who nominated Kerrigan for 40 Under Forty. “Under her leadership, V&F Auto has maintained its exemplary reputation and is experiencing substantial growth and evolution.”
Kerrigan calls ATI a vitally important factor in
her growth and education, and today, she takes on numerous roles at V&F, from leading day-to-day operations overseeing the company’s social media and marketing; from communicating with customers to interviewing and hiring — and much more, including, yes, some accounting.
“I love creating relationships, overcoming challenges, and creating solutions, so my team can do their job better,” she said. “My role is to create opportunities for my team and give them the resources they need to grow and lead — to have a livelihood they are happy
with and have a place they are proud to work for.” Her colleagues say she’s acing that test. “Nicole
has taken the reins in a field dominated by her male counterparts and propelled the business at V&F Auto Inc. to new heights,” Sales Manager James Dowd said.
Kerrigan is active in the West Springfield community, volunteering for a number of nonprofit and municipal organizations and events, even winning
a leadership and team-development
award from the Parks & Recreation department. And she’s especially proud of her role as a
cheerleading coach for
West Springfield High School for the past 15 years, first for the JV squad, then at the varsity level.
“I love the sport in general — it gives me great joy,” she said. “And I like the competitive aspect
of cheerleading — not necessarily the sideline cheering, but being able
to create routines and compete and watch the kids thrive each year, watch their skills get better and better and help them grow.” BW
—Joseph Bednar
Mariah Kurtz
Owner, Kurtz Consulting: Age 30
Mariah Kurtz understands the impor- tance of municipal government, especially in a very small town — and
especially at a time of great challenge.
Over the past five years, she found herself in both, first as assistant town planner, then town
planner, in Erving, population 1,665.
“I really jumped into municipal government
on the hard mode. I was still getting to know the town when COVID hit,” she recalled. “I had to pivot ... I guess I learned flexibility.”
Her role in such a small community was expansive. “It turns out, in a rural town, it’s
not just reading and approving permits all day; there just aren’t that many permits to approve. So you end up doing a lot of other things. Like, this culvert needs to be replaced. How does that work? Who do we work with? How do we pay for it? Or, we want to plan an event to get people to come to the park, so we work with the Recreation Department to do that.
“The work was really exciting to me, talking to residents and learning what their needs were and what their desires were for their small town to flourish,” she added. “That was magical.”
Growing up in a family construction business — Westfield-based Kurtz Inc. is a notable name in Western Mass. — taught her the complexities of building and development
on a small scale, and majoring in sustainable
community development at UMass Amherst gave her a broader, more holistic perspective. “Instead of, ‘where do we pour the concrete?’ it’s ‘why do we do that, and how do we take into account the landscape?’”
That perspective guided Kurtz in Erving,
and even more so now, a few months after launching her own grant-writing and consulting business, based in Greenfield and serving small businesses, nonprofits, farmers, and, yes, small towns.
“This way, towns don’t have to employ a full- time grant writer or planner, with the salary and benefits that go with that,” she explained, adding, “I actually never wanted to work in municipal government. For a lot of my peers
at UMass, that was the traditional track, being a town planner in a local municipality. But I didn’t see that for myself.”
She is gratified, however, at effecting positive change in the region.
“With some projects, you see progress right away. I’ve done some public art projects, and there it is — you see it. But other projects take 20 years to see the difference in the environment,” she explained. “I’m most excited about helping people make those projects happen — and make their dreams happen.” BW
—Joseph Bednar
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