June 26, 2024

Two Alumni Named to 2024 Pennsylvania Forty Under Forty

3-Minute Read

Two York College of Pennsylvania alumni were named to City & State PA’s 2024 Pennsylvania Forty Under Forty list, comprised of young people who “possess serendipity, energy, and inspiration,” and “bring millennial (and even Gen Z) energy and notable focus to enhance myriad sectors across the commonwealth.” City & State is the premier multimedia news organization that dedicates its coverage to Pennsylvania’s state and local government, including all things politics and public policy.

David Gonzalez ’14 Jr., International Relations
Director of Economic Initiatives, York County Economic Alliance 

At 31, David Gonzalez Jr. is a seasoned director of economic initiatives for the York County Economic Alliance – a field he hadn’t even heard of when he enrolled at York College a dozen years ago. But as president of the Student Senate, Gonzalez served as campus ambassador for visiting college-presidential candidates, and the topic kept coming up.

“We looked at the town-gown relationship, and noticed there was sort of a disconnect,” Gonzalez recalls. His resulting meetings with local business leaders, the mayor and community stakeholders gave him both a close-up perspective on local government and an introduction to his current boss, then a city development director.

Having joined the Economic Alliance in 2016, Gonzalez enjoys the variety of issues he handles. “One day, we’ll be touring a manufacturing plant, the next day, a rail trail, or assessing sidewalk repairs,” he says. 

Housing has consumed a lot of his recent energy; Gonzalez recently convened 2,000 locals to brainstorm an agenda prioritizing access and affordability. His work on the county’s 10-year economic plan also includes expanding broadband access and rolling out the Trail Towns program, which leverages recreation to enhance tourism.

Gonzalez finds it gratifying that even small-scale projects can have a big impact. He cites a warehouse-turned-event space that, for just $2 million, is being transformed into a community hub.

“When you see those investments go into the community, the ripple effect is immense,” he says. “It plants the seeds for others to invest as well.”

Ashley Zimmerman ’09, Marketing
Executive Director, Northern Central Railway

Four years ago, Ashley Zimmerman left a costume apparel business for York’s Northern Central Railway, a tourist excursion outfit. “Tutus to trains,” jokes Zimmerman, now the railway’s executive director.

In truth, the magic of escapism has been Zimmerman’s calling since her childhood as a serious ballet dancer. “Dance made me who I am,” reflects the York County native. “It has taught me discipline and leadership skills – to have thick skin and push through.”

After studying marketing at York College of Pennsylvania, Zimmerman worked for Perform Group, one of the country’s largest costume manufacturers. There, she developed a new relationship management team, becoming the company’s youngest-ever director of business development.

In 2020, ready for a change, Zimmerman joined Northern Central Railway. She relished the challenge of fundraising during a pandemic, and has succeeded: In just a year, the new executive has increased ridership by 25% and brought in $3 million for the railroad. 

Less quantifiable, but no less important, is the satisfaction Zimmerman derives from cultivating jobs, tourism and joy for a community she has long called home. “You see little boys’ and girls’ eyes light up as the train comes through, watching the princess or Santa Claus on the train,” Zimmerman says. “Grandparents remember how they worked on the railroad; now they’re building memories with their grandchildren. Every day is like a Hallmark movie.”