Deborah Sawyer

AGE: 55
PRESIDENT AND CEO: Environmental Design International (website)
BUSINESS: Green engineering

In 1991, this environmental scientist set out to help developers transform contaminated city lots into usable land. In 2009, Sawyer landed a career-making project when Exelon enlisted her firm, Environmental Design International, to engineer the nation’s largest urban solar power plant on a former industrial site in West Pullman. The grid provides enough electricity for 1,500 homes—and the project provided 200 temporary jobs for local residents. The business notched $9 million in revenue in 2011, and today it employs nearly 70 environmental experts, technicians, and civil and construction engineers.

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Photograph: Taylor Castle