Page 12 - BusinessWest May 12, 2021
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Saluting the Region’s Rising Stars
John Gormally [email protected]
& ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER George O’Brien [email protected] • • • • • SALES MANAGER & ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Kate Campiti [email protected] ••••• SENIOR WRITER Joseph Bednar [email protected] ••••• ADVERTISING CONSULTANTS Kate Campiti [email protected]
Kathleen Plante [email protected]
Mike Nasuti [email protected]
Danielle Fox [email protected]
Jennifer Godaire [email protected]
& MARKETING COORDINATOR Cecille Youmans [email protected]
Cindy Sears [email protected]
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 When BusinessWest launched its 40 Under Forty pro- gram in the spring of 2007, there were many goals attached to that initiative.
First and foremost, we wanted to introduce 40 rising stars to the business community here in Western Mass. Second, we wanted
to tell some really inspiring stories about people doing incredible things — both at their jobs and in their community. Also — and this was not an official goal, to be sure — we wanted to assure
the sometimes cynical members of the older generations that there were strong leaders in place for this region for the years and decades to come.
As we introduce the class of 2021, all these goals come to the forefront. This is a tremendous class of young leaders, one that speaks volumes about our region. Indeed, Western Mass. is diverse, and its business community is also diverse, with a strong mix of ventures across all sectors, from technology to healthcare; hospital- ity to agriculture. Its up-and-coming leaders have chosen a number of different paths; some are entrepreneurs, others lead nonprofits, still others are professionals in fields ranging from law to account- ing; marketing to financial services. Some are professionals who are also entrepreneurs.
The class of 2021 reflects all this. It reflects something else, as well — the willingness of these young leaders to step forward, serve their community, and address the many issues confronting our region, including homelessness, poverty, illiteracy, access to health- care, and more.
The 40 remarkable stories starting on page 25 illuminate all this. They tell of young people excelling in their chosen field, and people who are making it their business to give back.
People like Dr. Jessica Bossie, the highest scorer among the nearly 200 nominees, who serves as the primary-care doctor for a program called Health Services for the Homeless and brings medi- cal care and large doses of compassion to that population.
Or Claudia Quintero, who turned her passion for social justice — and her gratitude for U.S. citizenship — into a legal career advo- cating for the rights and well-being of migrant farmworkers.
Or Crystal Maldonado, who never gave up on her dream of writing a book, and, in doing so, shared her own life and perspec- tive with teenage readers who don’t often see themselves reflected in mainstream media.
Or Matthew Kushi, an administrator at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst who also grows hot peppers and chairs Hadley’s Agriculture Commission.
Or Julissa Colón, who struggled to finish college after having her first child and now helps others achieve their dreams through Holyoke Community College’s Gateway to College program.
Or Brendon Holland, who brought a cutting-edge skillset to regional public-access television and helped keep a city and its res- idents connected during the critical months of the pandemic.
Or Chris Thibault, the first-ever posthumous winner of this award, who will be remembered for using his camera to help others tell their stories, but especially for how he shared his own — a cou- rageous battle with cancer.
There are nearly three dozen more stories of this nature involv- ing the class of 2021, a class that showcases all that is good about this region — and all that is good about the young leaders now making their mark. u
  A Step Toward Normal, but...
Going back a full year now, when Gov. Charlie Baker first started reopening this state in the wake of
the COVID-19 pandemic, he has taken a slow (some would say too slow) and cau- tious (many would say overly cautious) approach to the process.
And this pattern continues with his recent announcement that restrictions on many types of gatherings and businesses will be eased later this month, and that they will be lifted completely on Aug. 1.
From a glass-half-full perspective, this
is the news all those in the business com- munity have been waiting for — movement back to something approaching normal when it comes to where people can go and what they can do. In the class-half-empty category, ‘normal’ is coming to other states much sooner.
Indeed, many states (Florida and Texas have led the way) have been fully open for some time now. And in the Northeast, states like New Hampshire have lifted most, if not all, restrictions and are fully open for business. Even New York, which
has been as slow and cautious as Massa- chusetts, will fully reopen for business on July 1.
While, in many respects, cautious is good, we hope the governor will look at the data and the trends when it cases to cases, hospitalizations, and vaccinations, and move up his timetable for fully reopening Massachusetts. For many businesses, espe- cially those in the tourism and hospitality sector, summer is their time to shine. Los- ing another full month or more when other neighboring states are wide open is just one more heavy burden to bear.
Meanwhile, for restaurants, yes, the announced easing of restrictions will help, but they are still handicapped by the rules in place at a time when many are still struggling to keep the doors open.
But ... getting back to the glass being half-full, businesses in Western Mass. can now clearly see a light at the end of the tun- nel. They can see ‘normal’ — and not with a telescope. It’s right around the corner.
We can see a normal Big E coming in September. We can see tourists flocking
back here for foliage season. We can see businesses in the area’s many college towns — the hotels, restaurants, and bars — turn- ing back the clock to 2019. We can see the Thunderbirds playing to a packed house
at the MassMutual Center. We can see
the Bright Nights Ball and a host of other events in MGM’s ballrooms.
It’s a nice picture, and it won’t come together as easily as we might like. We have to hope people find the confidence to go back out and do all the things they did before COVID altered the landscape; recent evidence suggests they will. And businesses have to hope they can find the hired help — and everything else they need, from chicken to lumber to steel — to accom- modate the surge in business they hope is coming their way, or is already here.
Aug. 1 is still more than two and a half months away. That’s an eternity for strug- gling businesses. We’re hoping that ‘normal’ might come sooner — and the governor says he might adjust his timetable if there is enough science to warrant it) — but at least we can now see it on the horizon. v
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