If you aspire to become more involved in Naperville or simply keep up with community developments, chances are the name Ray Kinney will surface. Whether reading about him in the Naperville Sun or having a conversation with fellow Napervillians who have said “you should really talk to Ray Kinney”, it became clear very early on that Ray is a well-rounded and respected community leader within Naperville.
After the interesting turn of events I recently chronicled while on vacation in South Haven regarding my chance meeting with his sister, Cindy, from Kalamazoo ( World of Naperville on Vacation in South Haven, Michigan) , Ray and I touched base and connected for a cup of coffee downtown at Einstein Bagels last week to talk about our favorite topic, Naperville. As a result of that conversation and hearing more about his long-term passion and committment to Naperville, I talked Ray into being the first to be profiled for the World of Naperville’s Community Leader Series.
For those who may not know, Ray Kinney is a long time resident of Naperville and President/owner of Minuteman Press and Maclyn Group. He has been very active as both a member and leader within the Naperville Chamber of Commerce since 1984 and currently sits on a number of boards including the North Central College Board of Trustees, the Naperville Development Partnership and the Naperville Heritage Society. Throughout the years, Ray has received many awards for his strong commitment to Naperville, including Small Business of the Year, Business Man of the Year, Kids Best Friend Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naperville Jaycees (source: Naperville Chamber of Commerce website).
Within minutes of meeting Ray, it’s easy to see his strong passion for Naperville, volunteerism and community involvement shine through. Below is some Q&A stemming from our conversation.
SM: What was the original motivation behind your involvement in our community and what continues to motivate you today?
Ray Kinney: I was first exposed to the benefits of community service as a student at Naperville Central High School where one of the requirements of a class was to do some volunteer work. I chose to work with clients from Little Friends at the Naperville YMCA, helping to teach them to swim. During that semester, I learned that you can find great satisfaction in giving of your time and talents. After High School and a very short stint at college, I found myself working at the Naperville SUN and living near the train tracks. At the time, the Naperville Chamber was housed in the same building as the SUN in downtown and I went to a few Chamber meetings to meet some people and see what it was all about. Through those encounters, I found an opportunity to get involved with people that cared about Naperville and I became interested in getting more involved. The Exchange Club was just being formed and planning the first Ribfest and I jumped at the chance to help. I met some wonderful people and formed some great contacts and soon volunteering for me became a passion. The Naperville Jaycees provided me with ample opportunities to push myself, learn new things and develop leadership skills – the type of on the job training that is hard to replicate in a classroom. The friendships I formed in my early 20’s while volunteering still guide me today, and many of the people that I met in those early days are my friends, clients and people I know have the interest of others at heart. While it is often difficult to step aside and let new people have an opportunity to be more involved, I have been in awe of what people can do if given the opportunity. I hope my children learn that it is the obligation of everyone to help those around them – both near and far and to give of themselves and their talents to improve the community and the lives of others.
SM: What do you think/hope Naperville will look like in 2027?
Ray Kinney: My crystal ball is on the fritz, but I do hope that in 2027, Naperville is still considered a great place to live, work and raise a family. The community is much the same as it was in 1979, yet it is quite different – the people are what make Naperville a great place and I would hope that we can say the same thing in the future. Downtown will be larger, that is a given, with the Water Street Development and the expansion to the north will guarantee that while the downtown may look different, my hope is that it doesn’t feel different. I would hope we can find a way to keep the unique blend of independent stores along with the national retailers and the restaurants a success. With North Central College’s Fine Arts Center set to be opened next year, the character of downtown will begin to add the much needed cultural amenities like theatre, music and concerts that will alter the way we use the downtown. A destination center for all kinds of interests and tastes, the future looks bright indeed. Now if we can just find a place to park!
SM: What are the biggest challenges facing Naperville in maintaining the vibrancy and present popularity we enjoy?
Ray Kinney: It is often said it is easier to get to the top than to stay on top and I believe that to be true in many cases, and Naperville is no different. Increased competition from within our borders and large scale lifestyle centers in surrounding communities all will have an impact on where we choose to spend our time and our dollars. The economic engine that is the Naperville economy, including downtown, needs to stay wary of the developments not only outside of Naperville but internally as well. Issues like traffic congestion, property taxes, public safety, all will affect our region and to stay on top we will need to come together as a community to work on solutions that work for all of us.
SM: What is the secret of Naperville’s success?
Ray Kinney: I don’t believe Naperville was an accident, nor is there a secret formula to creating a community that is successful. It started with Joe Naper and the early settlers and the type of community they dreamed of being. There are however a few important decisions along the way, that made it work – like making the train tracks run north of our downtown, can you imagine downtown Naperville with an at-grade railroad crossing? The vision of the folks that built Old Main in an effort to bring North Central College to Naperville created an environment that helped put Naperville on the map. But most importantly? The people make this town what it is – past and present, from the early settlers to present day, we have been blessed with residents that understand what community is all about, from Naper to Nichols, from Knoch to Moser, from Fredenhagen to Rubin, to you, this town called Naperville is truly special. The Naperville Spirit is what makes it happen, yesterday, today and hopefully, tomorrow!
Stay tuned for future installments of the Community Leader Series at the World of Naperville. SM