The Wichita Business Journal today announces its annual 40 Under 40 winners, and — as usual — they’re an outstanding bunch.

“The caliber was very high. It was a tough decision on many,” says one of the judges, Patrick Harbert, executive vice president-community markets for Equity Bank and a 2007 40 Under 40 honoree.

A defining characteristic of the winners?

“As a group, even though they have high-paced, very busy jobs, the community service and community involvement that all the applicants had” was impressive, Harbert says. “It makes living in Wichita something to be proud of.”

Wichita Business Journal Publisher John Ek said the roughly 300 nominees and 169 participants were both record numbers.

“I’m surprised and pleased that the 40 Under 40 program continues to grow and thrive,” Ek says.

This year also marked the largest number of honorees from one organization, with six from Koch Industries Inc. or its affiliates.

Harbert called the judging process fascinating.

“The 40 Under 40 has become an honor to earn it,” he says. “Unlike other communities, I think that’s really neat about Wichita. People want to be honored and be one of the 40 Under 40.”

Harbert remembers the feeling when he was chosen six years ago.

“One, it was an honor just to be recognized,” he says. “And two, it made me feel like all my hard work and accomplishments, people had noticed it. That was the neatest thing.”

This year’s winners represent a good cross-section of industry, including from marketing, finance, real estate, startups, the whole gamut, Harbert says.

Other judges and past 40 Under 40 winners were: Chris Wolgamott, Meritrust Credit Union, Class of 2010; Kara Hunt, The Arnold Group, Class of 2009; and Laura Fent, Hinkle Law Firm LLC, Class of 2010.