Mayor Steve Chirico Upbeat about Naperville’s “robust” Economy and High Living Standards
NAPERVILLE, IL- Fresh into his new term as the mayor of Naperville, the largest local economy outside Chicago, Steve Chirico has spring in his steps. “Naperville’s economy is robust, jobs are plentiful and commercial building vacancy is down,” Chirico told Hi India in an interview at his well-appointed but understated office.
Mayor Chirico’s enthusiasm comes in the midst of a new study that says Naperville is number one city in Illinois and sixth in the country in terms of home ownership. The study by Insurify, a website that
provides online insurance quotes, says home ownership in Naperville is 74.2 percent with an average household income of $116,482. Those statistics put Naperville behind Centennial, Colorado, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Pearland, Texas, Palm Bay, Florida, and West Jordan, Utah. A striking feature about the study is that Naperville tops nationwide in this study of cities with a population of more than 100,000 in terms of the average household income.
With its excellent public education, libraries and hospitals coupled with neighborhood safety Naperville remains a highly attractive destination for new residents. However, Chirico pointed out that the city has “already reached its borders” in terms of its population spread. “We are currently about 148,000 residents in Naperville, and we will probably top out between 150,000 and 152,000,” he said. That would mean at some point, fewer homes will be available and prices of homes could go up.
Asian Americans, including Indian Americans account for a little less than 13 percent of Naperville’s population. Of the little more than 26,000 Asian Americans, Indian Americans constitute a substantial number touching perhaps upward of 10,000. More often than not, Indian Americans are drawn to Naperville mainly because of its excellent public-school system in school districts 203 and 204.
Chirico said that Naperville is an ageing community where seniors are paying into its public education system. That is because their children have grown up and by continuing to live here and paying their
taxes, they help civic services such as public schools. He also pointed out that one of the reasons seniors find Naperville attractive is because of its efficient healthcare. “Asian Americans are a vibrant community in Naperville who contribute to the vitality of our city,” Chirico said. However, he expressed concern that “Civic engagement among Asian Americans is a challenge.” “Members of the community do not get easily involved in city affairs even though it is essential they do because the city’s policies affect everyone equally,” he said. He also said that the various boards of the city do not represent its demographics. “One of my first tasks is to appoint members of various communities to the boards that accurately reflect who we are as a city,” he said. He said part of the reason the board memberships seem lopsided is because oftentimes members of Asian American community do not volunteer.
In that context, he made an important socio-cultural point, saying, “We are only once incident away from having a problem. Say for instance, the police shoot and kill a member of the minority community
as a last resort and we do not have adequate outreach into various communities through these boards, then we have a fundamental problem. We have to ensure that the city is sensitive to this concern
because our much-admired neighborhood safety can be quickly undermined by this.”
Asked why he thought Indian Americans and Asian Americans do not get involved in civic affairs more vigorously, he said, “Maybe it has to do with the expectations that the people of have of the government in India and elsewhere. It is a different relationship here in America compared to elsewhere.”
There have been barely 12 or 13 board members of Indian origin in the first four years of his term, he said, adding that as he begins his next four years, he wants to increase that number significantly.
Even as he goes about increasing diversity of various boards, Mayor Chirico says he is pleased with the economic profile of the city. He particularly mentions the large presence now of the leading Indian
Grocery chain, Patel Bros. He recalls how during the India Day Parade in 2016 he connected with Rakesh Patel of Patel Bros. and assured him Naperville would do “everything to make their entry here seamless.” Now that the store is here on Ogden Avenue that part of Naperville has become a thriving Indian American hub.
Although Chirico said Naperville is happy with big sized stores, it pays equal attention to “mom and pop” establishments because they are vital to the economic stability of various neighborhoods.
“Commercial building vacancy in Naperville has gone down from 14 percent to 10 percent,” Chirico said. He said once it reaches seven percent, it would be considered effectively full.