THE Herald-Whig teamed with the Young Professionals of Quincy organization to first recognize 20 exceptional business and community leaders under the age of 40 in 2007.
The goal of the initiative, called 20 Under 40, was to acknowledge the personal and professional contributions of young men and women from all walks of life who were making significant differences in communities in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri.
The public salute to the next generation of leaders also was designed to encourage others to follow in their footsteps to further enhance the economic conditions and quality of life in the region.
Fast forward to 2018, and 20 Under 40 has taken on an exciting new look while continuing to fulfill its original mission.
The Herald-Whig expanded its partnership with YP also to include WGEM and the Quincy and Hannibal, Mo., area chambers of commerce to solicit a record number of nominations from which to select this year's honorees, who are showcased in a special section in today's edition.
Moreover, Mercantile Bank, Mark Twain Casino, Blessing Health System, Titan International and Quincy Medical Group sponsored a reception last week at the Oakley-Lindsay Center for this year's 20 Under 40 class, the first of what will be an annual event.
The increased public support for the initiative has not gone unnoticed.
"When people feel appreciated, connected and supported, they are more likely to stay in Quincy and Hannibal," explained Latonya Brock, executive director of the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce.
That's important because Census Bureau statistics show that young people have been leaving rural America for education, excitement and careers in larger cities since the 1950s.
However, there has been a renewed focus in recent years locally by economic development, civic and educational leaders to enhance career opportunities in a variety of fields to better retain and attract more young people.
And quality of life clearly remains a major selling point for this region, especially for those who prefer the slower daily pace or are married and plan to have children. And, importantly, many of those young people have found that they have greater opportunities to play vital, ongoing roles in their communities, either through work or volunteer efforts.
That latter point was underscored last week by Herald-Whig Publisher Ron Wallace in addressing this year's 20 Under 40 class.
"These 20 people have demonstrated their desire to excel personally and to contribute to the betterment of our community," Wallace said.
We congratulate this year's 20 Under 40 honorees, their futures bright, and we also appreciate the continuing contributions of past recipients.
Meanwhile, the efforts of partners and sponsors will ensure that we will continue to be able to highlight the efforts of those who hold the region's future in their hands.
"This shows everyone in the region that we're better if we work together," said McKenzie Disselhorst, Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.
This region is blessed to have so many young people playing critical roles in our communities. And all ages working together is a winning formula for West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri.