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Arkansas Business Presents the 40 Under 40 Class of 2016

3 min read

This week’s Arkansas Business is dedicated to our 23rd class of 40 Under 40 honorees, those young leaders of business, government and nonprofits that our internal selection team believes readers need to know.

First, I need to point out that there are actually 42 in this year’s class because the honorees include a married couple (Austin and Ashton Samuelson) and twin brothers (Carl and Charles George). This isn’t unprecedented. In fact, there were 42 in the very first 40 Under 40 class because two married couples were among the honorees, and twin brothers pushed the class of 2012 to 41.

The Profiles: Click here to read all 42 profiles in this year’s class.

I was under 40 (barely) when I first edited this feature back in 2000, and I didn’t think of myself as particularly young. Sixteen years later, I can’t believe I was ever that young, and I’m more impressed than ever at the accomplishments of the men and women who make up this year’s class.

Some of them are already so well-known that it’s hard to believe they haven’t made the list sooner — I’m thinking particularly of Jeremy Gillam, who was recently elected to a second term as Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives, and Leslie Rutledge, the Arkansas attorney general. (She turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, but she was still eligible on the June 1 cutoff.) Another is Jamie Gates, EVP of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce/Conway Development Corp. — how had we missed him?

Other names were completely new to me, like the Samuelsons, whose Conway restaurant I had eaten at a number of times without realizing that it was the brainchild of 20-somethings. (Austin has turned 30.)

As is typical, a big chunk of this year’s honorees are from the population centers of central and northwest Arkansas. But from the very first of the alphabetical entries, Jonathan Baird of Magnolia, you’ll get to take a tour of our state. Wherever there is young talent — De Queen, Sheridan, Mountain View — we want to know about it so we can call it to the attention of Arkansas Business readers.

We also look for leadership in a variety of industries. Government, certainly, but also banking and manufacturing and agriculture and even fitness. Young entrepreneurs like Fran Free just blow my mind.

This year’s class was selected from more than 300 nominations, and that many to choose from helps assure overall quality of the class, just like a bigger school tends to have a better football team. But there is a common drawback: The starters tend to be upperclassmen. Thirteen of the 42 were either 38 or 39 when they were chosen, and only two are in their 20s.

This problem is the very reason Arkansas Business introduced a 20 in Their 20s feature seven years ago. We’ll be featuring those New Influentials in the Sept. 12 issue, so don’t forget to submit your nominations by July 1 at ArkansasBusiness.com/20. (Don’t worry: Nominees for 40 Under 40 who are still in their 20s will also be considered.)

A luncheon recognizing this year’s honorees will be held at the Embassy Suites in west Little Rock on Wednesday, June 22. The luncheon is open to those of us who never made the cut. For more details, go to ArkansasBusiness.com/40Lunch.

Gwen Moritz

The 2016 40 Under 40 Class

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