What do these people have in common?

One is responsible for managing Sonoma County’s Highway 101 expansion. Another was a key player in bringing Horizon Air to the Charles M. Schulz--Sonoma County Airport.

Yet another is the top executive of a major Napa printing company. Several manage major wineries and vineyards. Another was a founder of a human resources management company. There are prominent medical doctors, leading law partners, CPAs, a city manager, an economics professor, a bank CEO and executives and owners of business insurance companies from the North Bay. Another is a grocery executive and community volunteer. Another leads a top regional construction company. Others lead major North Bay nonprofits.

What they have in common is this: they are all under the age of 40 and are winners of the Business Journal’s Forty under 40 competition honoring young business professionals from Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties. The winners for 2007 and 2008 were listed in a special report in the Journal April 14 and are the subject of an online photo gallery at northbaybusinessjournal.com.

The point here is not to promote the contest but to highlight the achievements of these two groups.

Indeed, these men and women represent the future of the North Bay. They are talented, energetic and hopeful. And while some of us may be willing to rest on our economic gains and the status quo, many of them are not. They want to grow their companies and their careers and the North Bay economy along with them. And they want to improve their communities.

And there are more of them on the way. The 2008 Forty under 40 were selected by the Business Journal editorial staff from 120 nominees, every one of them with impressive credentials. Meanwhile, the Santa Rosa and San Rafael chambers of commerce have had very positive response to the recent formation of groups for young professionals.

So, while some of us may sit and fret about the future, you can bet these 30-something business leaders are intent on shaping it.***

An aside: A look behind the home resale numbers for March shows a marked uptick in activity in Sonoma County, particularly in the lower price ranges below $500,000.

Multiple Listing Service data shows the number of existing homes in that price bracket under contract to be sold nearly tripled to 300 and sales rose markedly as well. In homes priced under $400,000 where foreclosures and distressed properties are concentrated, the increase in homes under contract was even more dramatic, up nearly tenfold.

Yes, prices are not what they were a year ago and certainly not what they were two years ago.

But it’s reasonable to expect improving sales figures in the coming months as those deals close escrow.***

Correction: Fifty-one percent of the 2,400 wineries in California are set to pass from one generation to the next, transition into professional management or be sold, according to management consultancy Scion Advisors and Silicon Valley Bank’s Premium Wine Division. Last week’s column [Trends converge, April 14, p. 30] had an incorrect figure.•••

Brad Bollinger is editor in chief and associate publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at bbollinger@northbaybusinessjournal.com or 707-579-2900, ext. 201.