The Economics of Naperville After Dark

Yesterday in the Naperville Sun, staff writer Mike Mitchell wrote an interesting piece entitled, “Like Night and Day” which provides a chronological account of Naperville’s transformation after dark.

First of all I would like to thank Mike for this piece as he sheds light on what I consider to be an increasingly important asset in strengthening Naperville as a well-rounded community which appeals to all demographics.  While our community has done a terrific job creating appeal with families and retirees, the next step is focusing more on young professionals, artists and entreprenuers.    

Economic Development Impact  

In my mind, the biggest reason it is important that Naperville not be the type of community that “rolls up” it’s sidewalks after dark is economic.  The true economic value is not simply rooted in the influx of tax revenue but most importantly in the impact on economic development.   Simply put, when corporations look to place their roots in a new community, a big piece of the equation is finding an attractive place not only where their current employees would consider re-locating but a community which attracts an abundant workforce pool of young and talented professionals to draw upon. 

In Search of Young Talented Knowledge Workers 

In Richard Florida’s work, “Rise of the Creative Class”, he speaks of the proliferation and demand for knowledge workers in our new economy.  Florida illustrates our migration from an industrial economy to the information economy, which largely is built upon the value of creativity, innovation, fresh-thinking, knowledge, problem-solving and ideas. 

Companies that succeed will attract the best and brightest of today’s knowledge workers.  Where do knowledge workers want to live?  Typically in communities which provide not only an abudance of cultural and social opportunities but a sense of uniqueness and authenticity.

A Well-Rounded Community 

Historically, a surplus of suburbs have largely become homogeneous in catering to families and retirees while at the same time suffering a perception of social stigma in the eyes of young professionals.  In his piece yesterday, Mitchell spoke of Naperville’s “split-personality” after dark.  I would certainly agree that Naperville is different after dark, but it is something I believe we should embrace as a strong sign that Naperville is increasingly becoming a well-rounded community which appeals to all demographics.  To me, these are pieces of the next great chapter in Naperville’s history.  Even more, with the arrival of Jilly’s we are now giving more “seasoned” Napervillians a great reason to spend more time downtown at night.  I’ve yet to visit the new Naperville location, but have been to the original Jilly’s on Rush Street in Chicago and was always enjoyed the wide demographic which as always present.

Originality and Authenticity  

In my mind, the rise in Naperville as a nightlife destination is a very small piece in the puzzle to attracting more young professionals to the community as it is not simply about alcohol consumption, dancing and cover bands.  I envision a Naperville which makes financial investment in attracting resident artists and entreprenuers which builds upon the strong foundation which has already been set in Naperville.  A Naperville which is viewed as not just a destination for a great dinner and good drinks but also for original arts performances, exhibits, experiences and opportunities.  Hip, fresh, creative, authentic, inspiring and unique would be words I would love to see added to the abudance of other wonderful things we are able to say about our community. 

As I alluded to earlier, the foundation has been set by a multitude of leaders within this community over the years of whom we owe a debt of gratitude.  Now more than ever we must come together as a community to envision the future of our world-class community. 

Originality is the foundation for authenticity.  The question we must continue to ask ourselves is whether Naperville is becoming more original or less original as our community continues to evolve.  As time marches on, the less original and authentic the “experience” of being in Naperville becomes, the less interesting our community will garner from all levels of future prosperity.

Communities such as Arlington County, Virginia and Austin, Texas serve as great examples of what is possible with the right vision, energy and community support.  I believe in Naperville, I’ve seen the energy and creativity that exists within our community… with the resources, talent and visionaries we have living amongst us… anything is possible.


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