They don't make 'em like they use to.

That's a phrase that old coots and people on the white side of gray hair often say with a grumble. Usually those words are aimed at the next generation, which, along with their music and fashion, always seems to fall short of the expectations of their elders.

Well, not so this time.

They don't make under-40-year-olds like they use to. Lucky for us.

For those of you who question how much you've accomplished -- and for those of you who have any self doubt -- quit reading now. 

This group of leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs, and volunteers will make you both proud and feel more than a little bit humbled.

Reading through some of the accomplishments and stories is impressive. It's hard to think that they've accomplished all of this before their even considered middle-aged, let alone middle careers. 

While that might be a hard pill for some of us north of 40 to swallow, it's inspiring at the same time. As I read through many of these wonderful resume and stories, I couldn't help but think, "I don't know if folks of my vintage did quite as many remarkable things." 

I suppose they did, but one of the things that stands out about this group is their broad, more compassionate world view. That's not a statement of politics. It's more a reflection of their beliefs. If there's one theme that seems to run through the stories, it's a strong sense of mission and giving back. From the farmer who helps the next generation of farmers because he was the recipient of wise counsel to the lawyer who is helping empower women in the community, this group seems to be driven by the idea of sacrifice, giving and community.

This group also seems less concerned about following a traditional career path -- one that prescribes very precise steps. Instead, we find a doctor who was determined to obtain her medical degree by age 26, even though some would have doubted the possibility. One is a successful retirement planner while having an entirely different simultaneous career as a photographer. A generation or two ago it would have been an either-or kind of thing. But folks like him (and you'll have to read to find who I'm talking about) are parlaying those different dreams into one career reality.

That's another key factor about this group of leaders: They all seem to have an entrepreneurial spirit. They're not afraid to take chances, and almost all seem ferociously loyal to the Billings area. While others may have landed here along their career track, we find that many of these professionals were raised here and wanted to come back. For them, Billings is a place with still unmined potential. And yet Billings offers the convenience and connections of a larger city with the added benefit of knowing your neighbors.

The entrepreneurs here have all taken risk and seem invigorated by the challenges. One of our winners started up two businesses simultaneously, took his company to a disaster area -- all while his wife was pregnant. He seems to love the challenge of finding success and seems to want to give back naturally. 

It's hard to imagine a better, more diverse group of people. And, if they're this good at 30 or 40, can you think of how lucky Billings will be 10 years from now? 

They don't make 'em like they used to.

And Billings should be darn glad about that.