(This editorial was adapted from opening remarks of Business Journal Editor Brad Bollinger at last week's fourth annual Forty Under 40 Awards at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.)

We are very excited this evening to honor our winners. You, the winners, are from a wide variety of industries, organizations of all sizes and from many walks of life across the North Bay. The youngest among you is 24. Can anyone here guess the oldest?  That was a test. Importantly, you represent a new generation of leadership and vision for the North Bay.

Before we get on with the program, I wanted to make some very brief remarks to let you know how important you are and how important recognitions like tonight are to our future.

Last Friday I had the opportunity to visit Roseland University Prep charter high school in Roseland in Santa Rosa and met a very inspiring young man. His name is Fernando and, though very recently it looked like life may have turned out quite differently for him, he is headed in the fall to the University of the Pacific to study civil engineering.

After congratulating him, my first thought was how do we make sure Fernando comes back to this community after he finishes his education to work in his chosen field, because if we do not have the jobs and are not attractive to him, we will lose him.

I ask all of you here, will that happen for Fernando and will that happen to young professionals like yourselves?

Or will the people and leadership that are already here slam the door shut, content to keep what they perceive as theirs? Will local, county and state leaders continue to make it more and more difficult to start a business or expand a business here? Will they continue to saddle you with more taxes and debt and regulation?

I worry a lot about this question because you are our future. I can work until I am 75, but it will make little lasting difference to the prosperity of this region for the next 20, 30, 40 or 50 years and beyond. You are the key to our future, and we all need to make sure there is room for you to continue to grow and prosper and not have to leave the area to live your dreams.

Speaking recently at the memorial service for Hugh Codding, the late builder's contemporary, Henry Trione, noted that, yes, he was among what is referred to as the greatest generation. But he said he was also part of the luckiest generation, to be here at a time of great progress, investment and prosperity.

Here's wishing that yours, too, will be the luckiest.