Building Bellingham’s future: Meet the top seven young professionals working hard and doing good in Whatcom County

By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal

They are the future of business in Bellingham. They include an insurance broker, nonprofit directors, a radio personality and a graphic designer. They are the top seven young professionals in Whatcom County for this year.

Each was chosen as the winner of the new Top 7 Under 40 contest.

In September community members sent in their nominations, and out of 70 nominees, a panel of judges has determined the top seven for this year. The judges considered each nominee based on their character, community involvement, initiative and tenacity, leadership, professional accomplishments, selflessness and vision.

The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Whatcom Young Professionals and The Bellingham Business Journal teamed up to create the award.

“I thought we got some amazing nominations,” Chamber CEO and President Guy Occhiogrosso said. The hard part was narrowing it down to seven. “It was a difficult process in that there were a large number of deserving candidates,” he said.

Of these seven winners, one will be chosen for the top prize. The final winner will be revealed at the Top 7 Under 40 Award event, which will take place at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 520 Flora St. in Bellingham.

The introduction of this award just happens to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Whatcom Young Professionals, an offshoot of the chamber.

Both Occhiogrosso and Troy Wills, area manager and vice president at First Federal, the title sponsor of the award, were charter members of the group.

“I’m passionate about seeing the young professionals grow in this community,” Wills said.

For him, the Whatcom Young Professionals was a springboard that helped him launch his career. He is also excited about this new award.

“It’s such a great way to bring new blood and new energy into the business community,” he said.

It’s important that college students in the county don’t feel they have to move to Seattle to get a job after they graduate, Occhiogrosso said. This award is one way to demonstrate that.

“Young professionals in our community are the future leadership. We need to invest in our young professionals so we can keep them here,” he said. “We also showcase that this is a place where young professionals can not only survive but thrive.”

Click below to read profiles of all the winners:

Amelia Mendenhall

Bradley Lockhart

Emily O’Connor

Jack Lamb

Mandy Richards

Nicole Burdick

Riannon Bardsley

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