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Gregory Celestan, CEO, Celestar, No. 225
Raised by blue-collar parents in Niagara Falls, New York, Gregory Celestan wanted a ticket out of town and he needed a way to pay for college. He enrolled in West Point Military Academy and became a foreign area officer, someone who studies the language and culture of a region for military intelligence, specializing in Russian studies. In 2004, Celestan retired having served 20 years and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. He recalls watching large defense contractors at work and thinking “I can do that better,” so after the end of his service he founded Celestar, which provides intelligence support to government organizations. Though larger companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing do a lot of similar contract work, Celestan says, “the government likes working with small companies like us because we’re flexible.” The challenge is building a team with both the technical expertise and the security clearance.