(This editorial was adapted from opening remarks by Business Journal editor and associate publisher Brad Bollinger at Thursday's ninth annual Women in Business Awards Gala.)

Good evening everyone. I am Brad Bollinger, editor and associate publisher of the Business Journal and on behalf of all of us at the Journal, welcome to the 9th annual - that's ninth annual (what are we going to do for 10?) - Women in Business Awards Gala.

We think we have a very special evening for you, and we invite you to enjoy yourselves and celebrate - and we do mean celebrate - our eight incredible 2009 Women in Business winners, honored as "leaders, innovators and visionaries."

Congratulations.

Before we allow you to enjoy your dinner, please join me in thanking and recognizing the supporters of Women in Business 2009, the kind of support that makes it possible for us at the Business Journal to make this something that is meaningful and that has lasting impact on the nearly 80 winners since 2001 as well as on their companies and institutions and the young women - and men - coming up behind them.

Our underwriter - partner, really, and committed supporter of this award and all it means - is Sonoma Bank and one of the most incredible women leaders I have known in my 25 years in Santa Rosa, Debbie Meekins, executive vice president and retail banking director for Sonoma Bank's parent company, Sterling Savings Bank.

Thank you.

And our presenting sponsors: Bank of Marin, Beyers Costin, Circle Bank, Exchange Bank, Kaiser Permanente and Union Bank of California.

Please thank them.

Incredibly, when we put out the word about these awards, there was an outpouring of response from the North Bay's elected officials. So in addition to the plaques the winners will receive tonight, our eight honorees will be receiving official certificates from U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, State Sen. Pat Wiggins and Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, Assemblywoman Noreen Evans and State Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Jared Huffman.

Thank you.

Finally, I also want to extend a special thanks to Elaine Petrocelli of Marin's Book Passage, one of our winners tonight, of course, for her instrumental role in bringing Sheila Murray Bethel, entrepreneur, author and expert speaker on leadership as our keynote.

Dr. Murray Bethel would be quick to remind us of the incredible gifts these winners possess. They have been successful and now are employing what they know and hold dear to influence our communities in ways never dreamed of.

And whether it's today's very challenging environment or tomorrow's boom time, those gifts will have enduring impact.