2015 Lehigh Valley Business
40 Under 40 Awards

This awards program celebrates 40 of the Greater Lehigh Valley's most accomplished young businessmen and women who have been making headlines in their field and who share a commitment to business growth, professional excellence and to the community.

On June 10, 2015 over 200 people gathered together with Lehigh Valley business and sponsors to honor 40 young Greater Lehigh Valley executives.

Kristi Gage '05

Kristi Gage '05
Executive Vice President Gage Personnel West Reading Achievements: Serving as the third generation of leadership for staffing company Gage Personnel and taking it through a period of growth, including the addition of new locations and divisions; serving as vice president of Greater Reading Young Professionals, on the Berks County Workforce Investment Board and on the board of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership. What is your favorite song? “‘Happy,’ by Pharrell Williams.” What yet-to-be invented device do you see yourself using in 20 years? “Advi, a spinoff of Siri, but from the makers of Advil. Designed to reduce stress levels and headaches by providing positive affirmations throughout the day and telling people when it’s time to take a quick break for some fresh air and a fresh perspective.” Who is your most influential role model? “My boss when I began my career at the City of Reading in human resources. She taught me a great deal about how to gain confidence in the business world and encouraged me to trust my decision-making instincts.”

Jeremy Melber '03

Jeremy G. Melber '03
Director of Business Services Southern Lehigh School District Center Valley Achievements: Maintaining staff and programming for Southern Lehigh School District, despite repeated cuts in revenue and state aid; overseeing the district’s budget, capital reserve accounts, capital planning, investments, debt structure and other matters; serving on the board of Lehigh Valley Health Network and in leadership roles with other nonprofits, such as the Carbon County Hospital Authority and Masonic Lodge 242. What yet-to-be-invented device do you see yourself using in 20 years? “A hologram video-conferencing device.” What song would be on the soundtrack to your life? “‘Don’t Stop Believin’,’ by Journey.” What is the most significant promotion you’ve earned so far? “Being named to my current role. It gave me the opportunity to move to the Lehigh Valley, and expand my circle of friends and professional contacts.” What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in your career? “The importance of team building and negotiating. Everyone is going to have different opinions, and it is important to create a middle ground, and not just stand firm on your opinion.”

Steve Mertz '01

Steve Mertz '01
Vice President, Business Banking Firstrust Bank Allentown Achievements: Working to expand Firstrust Bank’s presence in the Lehigh Valley market; assisting local businesses and entrepreneurs start and expand businesses in the Lehigh Valley; raising funds and awareness for spinal muscular atrophy, and contributing to make the Pennsylvania chapter of CureSMA one of the top chapters for fundraising nationwide. Who is your most influential role model? “Very early in my career, I had the chance to work with a leader who helped to shape my view on dealing with clients and understanding their reactions to certain scenarios. She taught me how to deal with stress, and to actually have fun at work.” What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in your career? “Knowledge is extremely important, but it isn’t everything. My family is a strong supporter of higher education, but every chance I get to speak with a college student about work, I tell them it’s more about relationships, relationships with your customers, your co-workers and the leadership in your organization. You need the knowledge, but it is much more useful when you develop strong relationships.”

Ryan D Oestreich '08

Ryan D. Oestreich '08
Senior Vice President MassMutual Eastern Pennsylvania Center Valley Achievements: Establishing himself as a successful financial adviser despite the headwinds of the financial crisis; collaborating with other professional services providers to develop relationships; serving on the boards of the Lehigh Valley Consortium of Professional Organizations, the Liberty Bell Shrine Museum and the Alumni Association of Albright College, his alma mater. What would most people be surprised to learn about you? “I used to write poetry back in college, and I was published more than once in our school’s literary magazine.” How do you ensure a balance between work and personal life? “I work with my wife, Melony Oestreich. While that often means that we see more than enough of each other on a daily basis, we try to make time to share little moments, such as eating lunch together. We also try to avoid talking about work at home—when we can help it.”

Richard Stump III '01

Rich Stump III '01
President Suburban Testing Labs Reading Achievements: Adding jobs and growing revenue at Suburban Testing Labs, a third-generation, family-owned business; investing in new technology to differentiate the company, which provides analytical lab testing services; serving on the boards of the Pennsylvania Association of Accredited Environmental Laboratories and Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce; leading Suburban to adopt a portion of the Schuylkill River. What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in your career? “As a small-business owner, you’re always chasing the next milestone. But even when you get there, there’s never a time when things magically get easier. Even though you may reach your desired goals or benchmarks, for every problem that’s solved, usually another one arises that is greater in complexity. And the solution to that is to continuously bring in new talent that has been at your level to help foresee challenges and proactively work to solve them.” When is it appropriate to text for business? “Always. Don’t even try calling me. Texting is the best way to reach me.”


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