This morning, Tucson’s young leaders were lauded for professional and community achievements as mere twentysomethings and thirtysomethings.
“Being a good leader is not a matter of being a good business person,” Giffords said. “It’s being able to reach out and pull others up beside you.” But when asked about her proudest accomplishment, politics or her extensive community service did not surface. “I’m really proud of being able to return to Arizona and help my family in 1996 and take over a tire business that had serious challenges,” Giffords said. She rescued El Campo Tire Warehouse and sold the family business in 2000.
Tucson Business Edge, a Tucson Citizen publication, identified the 40 most accomplished up-and-coming business and community leaders who have yet to reach that milestone 40th birthday.
This is the first crop of “40 under 40″ winners, and nearly all were in the same room this morning at the Manning House to be honored by Tucson Business Edge. The speciality publication plans to create the list annually, Business Edge Editor Teresa Truelsen said.
The judges who culled 200 nominations from the community down to the winners also chose a Man and Woman of the Year from that list.
The two top winners, John L. Lombardi and Gabrielle Giffords, represent two different aspects of what “40 under 40″ wants to achieve.
Giffords, 35, already is a full-fledged leader, a state senator who was the youngest woman elected to the Arizona Legislature when she was a House representative.
Lombardi, 37, just moved his emerging high-tech business out of the proverbial garage a few months ago and has just six employees at Ventana Research Corp.
Lombardi foresees that his projected $1.5 million in revenue this year could reach $5 million next year.
Down the road, he may just have 100 employees at his South Tucson plant across from Tucson Greyhound Park.
“The big plan I have is the way we are going to hire,” Lombardi said. “My plan is future employees will be hired with scholarships at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona.
“They would be going to Pima part time and work for us part time. Then they will go to the U of A and work for us part time.”
That’s what “40 under 40″ is recognizing: thinking outside the box to succeed as well as improve the community.
“Being a good leader is not a matter of being a good business person,” Giffords said. “It’s being able to reach out and pull others up beside you.”
Giffords has made the national “100 to watch” list put out by the Democratic Leadership Council.
Organizations such as the Mental Health Association of Arizona and Arizona Planning Association have named her legislator of the year, and Scripps College named her alumna of the year.
But when asked about her proudest accomplishment, politics or her extensive community service did not surface.
“I’m really proud of being able to return to Arizona and help my family in 1996 and take over a tire business that had serious challenges,” Giffords said.
She rescued El Campo Tire Warehouse and sold the family business in 2000.
She had left Tucson for college eight years earlier and was working for Price Waterhouse in New York City.
She left the big time to help her ailing father and the Tucson business.
“When your family needs your support, you drop everything,” Giffords said.
Lombardi started Ventana Research four years ago to produce environmentally friendly liquids derived from green tea to polish disc drive reader heads in the manufacturing of computer hard drives.
He said he recently landed a contract with a well-known Japanese company that he declined to name.
He anticipates more deals from big-name companies and the U.S. government.
“It’s not just doing hard work,” Lombardi said. “It’s doing what you really like. I’m not just doing science. I’m doing something commercializable.”
Asked what got him on the “40 under 40″ list, Lombardi said, “I think most of it is a strong work ethic. The other thing is to surround yourself with competent people. Some are more competent than yourself.”
Asked about future leadership roles, Giffords didn’t recite the predictable governor-congresswoman-vice president aspirations. “I don’t have my whole future plotted out,” she said. “It’s hard in politics to have a career plan.”
Lisa IIka Abrams, 36
Melissa Amado, 39
Chris Baker, 33
Judy Bernas, 38
John Carruth, 38
Rachel Chánes, 31
Kimberly Clifton, 36
Monica Contreras, 34
Paul Cunningham, 30
Michael R. Descour, 36
Jennifer Eckstrom, 28
Ray Flores Jr., 36
Brett Genger, 32
Gabrielle Giffords, 35
Rodney B. Glassman, 27
Andrew Greenhill, 36
Adelita S. Grijalva, 33
Garrett Ham, 39
Michael C. Hein, 38
Frank Hernandez, 30
Joe Higgins, 36
Luis Ibarra, 35
Josh T. Jacobsen, 27
Cindy Jordan, 33
Julie S. Krell, 36
Tomás León, 37
Alaina G. Levine, 30
Oscar S. Lizardi, 37
John L. Lombardi, 37
Michael Mandel, 27
Edmund Marquez, 31
Farhad Moghimi, 37
Deanna L. Nuñez, 39
Miguel Ortega, 38
Lynn Polonski, 39
Sanjay Ramakumar, 35
Teresa Rosano, 33
Magdalena Verdugo, 37
Jon Volpe, 37
Al Wynant, 38