News & Events
Where It All Begins: Yorkville Developer Ratos Uses Waubonsee Education to Enhance Local Communities
Jim Ratos likely will never provide medical care, screen the latest Hollywood summertime megahit movie, or prepare a restaurant-quality dinner or even a sub sandwich for his neighbors in and around Yorkville or Sugar Grove.
But anytime those who live and work either side of U.S. Route 30 in southwestern Kane County and northern Kendall County enjoy any of those services, they just may owe Ratos thanks.
For almost three decades, Ratos, of Yorkville, a 1975 graduate of Waubonsee Community College, has worked tirelessly to make the region he has long called home both more convenient and economically vibrant, and to bring home to those he has long called neighbors a range of local enhancements.
For that dedication to the entrepreneurial spirit and to the local communities, Waubonsee Community College has recognized Ratos as its Featured Alumnus for the month of June.
Ratos, 58, first came to Waubonsee in 1973, fresh out of high school, but with one goal in mind:
To one day own and operate his own business.
The seeds of that desire were planted during his childhood and nurtured as he worked alongside his father, George Ratos, in family restaurant businesses, including the former House of Plenty Smorgasbord in Sugar Grove. The restaurant served as a local landmark for more than three decades, from the time it opened in 1971.
While at Waubonsee, Jim Ratos studied business and political science. But he said the education came to life when he brought home what he had learned and applied it to the real-world crucible of business.
After earning an associate degree, Ratos launched into business on his own, running his own restaurant for a time near Ottawa.
But in 1982, he returned to Sugar Grove, and launched a different business, venturing into construction and land development.
Beginning with various apartment buildings and some small projects in and around Sugar Grove, Ratos’ business eventually grew into the company that, since 1985, has been known as Parkway Development.
Parkway’s thrust in the decades since has been focused on one primary goal: to bring to the area around Yorkville and Sugar Grove the amenities and services residents in the past needed to drive relatively far distances to larger communities to obtain.
“When I came to Yorkville 34 years ago, there was one doctor,” Ratos said. “Just one.”
In the years since Ratos launched Parkway Development, however, the partnerships Parkway has fostered or in which the company has participated have added numerous offices now housing a variety of medical specialists, including those practicing family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, oral surgery, chiropractic, dentistry, cardiovascular care, audiology, and many more, including a number associated with Edward Hospital in Naperville.
But Ratos and Parkway didn’t stop at health care providers. The buildings Ratos and his partners have developed and built in and around Yorkville have also drawn a host of other professionals, including lawyers and accountants, to the community, while also providing space for a number of restaurateurs to increase the region’s dining options.
Among others, Parkway’s projects have added restaurants to Yorkville ranging from Jimmy John’s Sandwiches and Legends Sports Bar & Grill to the Lakeview Grille restaurant and banquet facility, owned and operated by Ratos’ son, Jimmy.
Most recently, Ratos and Parkway have partnered with others to develop the Kendall Crossing retail plaza. Located at the corner of Route 47 and U.S. Route 34, Kendall Crossing has added the NCG Cinemas, a 10-screen movie theater, and will soon add a Lighthouse Crossing child care facility, with space for as many as 230 children.
And all of the projects have also boosted the tax base in the communities, bringing in untold millions of dollars in sales and property taxes to local governments.
“We’ve brought a lot of people to the area, and believe we’ve made things better for those who are here,” Ratos said.
In coming months, Ratos said he intends to turn his attention to the area right around Waubonsee Community College, as Parkway seeks to develop the corner of Route 47 and Waubonsee Drive, bringing another gas station, as well as more retail and restaurants to Sugar Grove.
Ratos acknowledged the difficulties recent years have brought to the line of work he has pursued.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “But we were able to go with the market, and we fared the last recession very well.
“Now, with things on the rebound, we’re poised to make a good comeback.”
Ratos credits his success in large part to the support he received through the decades from his wife, Mary.
“Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to be out doing what I needed to do,” he said.
However, Ratos also credits his success in part to the education he received at Waubonsee, particularly noting the skills he learned to enhance his abilities to better understand people and business and to communicate.
“I got a lot out of those classes, and I’ve used what I got out of there to the best of my ability,” Ratos said.
He said the Waubonsee education was particularly valuable as it allowed him to earn a degree, while staying close to home and gaining practical experience while working.
Ratos said he knows community college isn’t for everyone. But neither, he said, is four years at a university far from home.
He noted three of his children, daughter, Nicole, and sons, Peter and Tom, attended four-year colleges and graduated with at least bachelor degrees, and are now pursuing careers. But his son, Jimmy, followed in his father’s footsteps, earned an associate degree from Waubonsee in 2004 and has been in business ever since, calling his Waubonsee education “a good backbone” for his entrepreneurial pursuits.
“In this family, our kids, we value education,” Ratos said. “It’s where it all begins.”