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On the move

Howard Manly | 3/3/2010, 3:05 a.m.
Westnet CEO Gordon Thompson meets with his staff at his company’s headquarters in Canton. WestNet Inc.

“One thing that I’ve learned is that you can’t take the people that you work with for granted,” Thompson says, “Every thing that I have earned at Westnet is thanks to the staff. It’s a blessing.”

What Thompson doesn’t like to talk about is his own ability to perform whatever is necessary, everything from driving delivery trucks to taking purchase orders.

Thompson has received help along the way. One such contact was Milton Benjamin, the chief executive officer of Initiative for a New Economy (INE), a group whose mission is to improve the state of minority owned businesses.

Thompson was very appreciative of their work “INE is always available to us, playing a pivotal role … on issues ranging from customer acquisition to technology to business strategy,” Thompson wrote. “It’s a feeling of great comfort.”

It was INE that helped Thompson land Partners Health care as a client.

Business accomplishments aside, what makes Thompson one of the city’s best kept secrets is his advocacy for at-risk and in-need inner city youths.

Ten years ago, he started Mass Youth Committed to Winning (MYCW), an education-based athletic program for children in fifth to tenth grades. The mission of the group is clear: “To inspire and teach.”

“When we started, I was doing everything, from driving the bus to mentoring the kids to coaching basketball,” Thompson said.

Though still actively involved, Thompson said he had to turn over day-to-day operations. But his imprint is still tangible. MYCW started at Roxbury Community College with a handful of kids and now has nearly 100 participating in its educational and athletic programs.

“We knew back then these young kids were headed for trouble,” he said. “Most of them didn’t have fathers in the home and, as a result, had little sense of right or wrong.”

In addition, Thompson explained, they were learning at way below standards. He said he was “astonished” to learn that some of his charges were in the seventh or eighth grade — but being taught third-grade math. “We wanted to keep teens from going down the wrong path.”

As with his business, Thompson believes in taking a hands-on approach.

“You can’t help anybody unless you have your own act together,” he says.