Metcalf trades Village Board for expanding business

Posted On: May 2007

Newspaper clippings and photographs lining the walls of Jeff Metcalf's Kaneville office trace his nine-year career in public office.

The newspaper articles date back to 1998, when Metcalf first joined Elburn village government. They track various events and elections in which he participated. The photographs show him standing with U.S. President George W. Bush and U.S. Congressman J. Dennis Hastert, formerly speaker of the U.S. House.

Metcalf, who completed his second term as village trustee on Monday, said his interest in politics is no secret. But, his interest in the business he owns and operates, Record Information Services Inc. (RIS), is stronger.

"It was a difficult decision, to not run," he said Friday. "With my business growing, I wanted to pay attention to this."

Before the election, Metcalf said the expansion of his business was the reason he was not running; but he admitted Friday that he and his wife discussed the possibility of his running for re-election. After learning that another resident had filed a petition to run for trustee and discussing the situation with Village President Jim Willey, he decided not to run.

"Once the filing deadline passed, I thought, 'It's done,'" Metcalf said. He added that the possibility that Willey, a family friend, may not run again was another reason he decided to leave office at this time.

Metcalf's public service and work overlapped shortly after he moved to Elburn. He started his business out of his home in St. Charles in 1993 before moving to Elburn. Getting involved in the business community led him to help raise money for the Day in the Park fireworks, which was how he met Willey and his wife Cathy.

Metcalf got his start in local government in 1998. After helping with the fireworks, Willey suggested Metcalf consider a position that opened on Elburn's Cable Commission. Metcalf accepted and soon was offered the opportunity to serve on the village's Planning Commission.

In 1999, Metcalf was among six candidates for village trustee. He was elected along with now-former trustees Walt Tupy, Dennis Ricke and John Peterson that year, said Metcalf.

"There were a lot of candidates that year," he added.

Metcalf continued to serve on the Cable Commission until it was dissolved.

In the meantime, his businesss grew. Metcalf relocated RIS from home to a storefront at 114 N. Main St. in Elburn, currently occupied by Edward Jones. About two years later, RIS moved across the street to the second floor above The Grocery Store at 107 N. Main St., said Metcalf.

During his two terms on the Village Board, Metcalf was involved in a number of projects that have transformed parts of Elburn for the better. He helped make decisions on the current Public Works building on East North Street, Prairie Park, the Metra station and the soon-to-open Jewel-Osco store at Routes 38 and 47.

Metcalf earned a reputation for holding developers' feet to the fire, especially when they sought special incentives to locate a store in Elburn. From time to time, he was known to tell developers, "Welcome to Elburn; get your checkbook out," he admitted.

Metcalf recalled one meeting in which representatives from Jewel-Osco tried to convince village officials to give them a large tax rebate for building and opening the big-box grocery store in Elburn. Metcalf rejected the idea, despite the fact he and his wife have shopped at Jewel most of their lives.

"I said, my wife does the shopping and we don't mind driving to St. Charles, and we'll continue to do so," he said.

The former trustee admitted a bit of pride for his part in attracting a Metra station to the village. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) built the station in 2005, and service officially started in December 2005.

"When you take the Metra train, you can see my name on the plaque," he said.

The development of Prairie Park added an amenity that many people in Elburn had wanted, he said.

"We all had a vision that Elburn didn't have enough parks," said Metcalf.

The Village Board had been working to acquire land for a new Public Works building, since the department had been working out of inadequate facilities in the village's industrial park, when the opportunity presented itself to purchase an additional parcel of land west of where Public Works would be located, said Metcalf.

Acquiring the land that is now Prairie Park presented a couple of opportunities. Not only could the village create a nice open space for the public to use, but it opened the way for a connection between the Meadows Apartments and downtown Elburn, said Metcalf.

"Anytime we have the ability to acquire land for parks, (it's good)," he said. "We're turning retention ponds into soccer fields by setting up soccer nets. ... Just to create a nice place to live."

While he has put his energy into helping make Elburn a better place, Metcalf also worked to grow his business. RIS grew from three to 35 employees in the past 14 years, he said.

RIS gathers public records-including real estate transactions, foreclosures, auctions, mortgages, new businesses, tax liens, driving-under-the-influence (DUI) convictions and criminal arrests-and generates reports for various clients, said Metcalf. Those public records make up a "data doughnut" that his business mines for information.

"I decided there had to be a niche for public information," he said.

The business has grown from simply collecting the records and compiling reports. RIS has six venues for customers to request public records: a publication, a website, bulk-data sales, a public-library Web server, a political marketing Web service and a consumer website, said Metcalf.

RIS produces The Record, a group of publications that cover public records from DuPage, Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties.

The company's website, www.public-record.com, allows customers to subscribe and request various records. For example, if a real estate broker wanted to compile a list of homeowners with high interest rates, he or she could print off a list, mailing labels and letters directly from the website to target those people for sales pitches, said Metcalf.

Bulk-data sales provide information, such as real estate transactions to newspapers or court information to credit-reporting companies like Experian, said Metcalf.

RIS's public-library website currently serves 120 libraries in the Chicago area. The libraries pay for the service, which allows patrons to search public records from their local library, Metcalf said.

In a fashion similar to what the company's website does for real estate brokers, RIS has a system set up for politicians who wish to send information to their constituents. Metcalf said the system was designed to line up addresses with individual political districts, rather than by ZIP code, since more than one district may lie within a given ZIP code.

The most-recent addition to RIS is its consumer Web service, which offers information from 15 Illinois counties dating back six years, said Metcalf. The service will scan through all RIS's databases to generate reports, which consumers can buy online for $4.95 per record, he explained. The consumer website generates between $150 and $200 per day, he said.

RIS currently collects public records from Kane, Cook, DuPage, Kendall, Champaign, Peoria, Tazewell, Madison, St. Clair, McHenry and Winnebago counties. Metcalf hopes to eventually expand the business to all 102 counties in the state.

The company's website records about 1 million hits per month, said Metcalf.

For more information, visit Record Information Services Inc.'s website at www.public-record.com, e-mail info@public-record.com or call 557-1000.

by Eric W. Walter

Posted On: May 2007

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