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Drumroll please.

And the winners of the 2010 40 Under 40 awards for Billings Business are …

Oh, sorry. At the risk of losing life and limb, I can't disclose the winners, although I have already received numerous calls and e-mails from people who have nominated a co-worker, friend or family member.

If you're dying to know the 40 Under 40 winners, you'll have to wait for the February issue of Billings Business. This annual special section has developed such a loyal following that people begin asking about it months ahead of time.

While it's too soon to reveal the winners, I can tell you a little bit about the hundreds of nominations that we have received by the time the nominating period ended Nov. 9.

It's no secret that our pool represents rising young stars in just about every profession. There are medical providers, contractors, financial advisers, educators, health and fitness specialists, architects, real estate agents, marketing professionals, accountants and academics. Some wear Carharts to work. Others wear scrubs or a suit and tie. Some nominees have day jobs and operate a business on the side. Some work for government or a nonprofit organization. About half of the nominees own their own business. Most have some kind of managerial experience. All are high achievers in one way or another.

One person was nominated by employees who credited him for greatly improving company morale. Others have been recog-nized for their contributions to charities and nonprofit organizations.

With so many deserving nominees, it goes without saying that picking the winners is the most difficult part of the process.

There are no hard and fast rules regarding who gets chosen. The selection committee, of which I'm a member, strives for a broad cross section of the business community. In general, being nominated more than once doesn't improve your chances of winning, but it's nice to know you have so many supporters.

After nominations close, we narrow the field down to 50 or 60 semifinalists, who are asked to fill out and return a question-naire. Once those questionnaires are reviewed, the final selection takes place and the winners are notified.

When several equally qualified individuals are considered, the person who writes a memorable response to the questionnaire is often the one selected.

Sometimes complications arise. In the past, we have had to eliminate some terrific nominees because they didn't return the questionnaire in time; either they were out of town or swamped at work

A couple years ago, one of our best nominees took herself out of the competition because she would have turned 40 just weeks before the section was published. In an era when cheating is rampant, that kind of honesty is refreshing.

So keep your eyes peeled for the 2010 40 Under 40 special section. We're changing a few things, and we hope you enjoy it.