DIRECTOR OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, FRANKLIN COUNTY
Hometown: Lansing, MI
Education: BS in Business Management, Michigan State University
Community Involvement: Previous board member of an arts festival, state homelessness organization, and a health center network. Currently involved as a participant with multiple groups related to tourism, workforce development, downtown revitalization and community development.
Russ Kinyon once saw an epitaph for a couple who was deeply involved in their community and in philanthropy. It read, “Because They Cared.” “I’ve always been inspired by that,” he said. Describing his dream job Russ explained, “It is one that would involve collaboration, problem solving, and strategic planning. I strive to improve the quality of life and experiences for those in our community.” In his free time, this self-described “old soul” relaxes with big band and older jazz music—the music of his grandparents’ generation. “I’m very nostalgic,” he admitted. “I know very little about pop culture and trends.”
What’s your biggest professional success?
I helped develop a process that identified and connected large global corporation needs with smaller local companies that could adapt to supply them. The goal was to keep business local and give small companies a chance to meet hard to reach buyers. Over the last five years, this initiative has resulted in over $5B of statewide economic impact. I’m also proud of the work I’ve done with education institutions to better connect with business and entrepreneurship opportunities.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Living and working in the Adirondacks makes it easy to get away for small adventures and find peace and quiet when you need to recharge. I enjoy travel and I get away often for short trips.
What’s the most exciting trend happening in the community right now?
There is a renewed sense of optimism and collaboration in our communities. We are seeing a move away from provincialism and silos toward cooperation among regional and local groups to promote mutual and community success. We’re looking at what complementary roles we can play and how we can work together to expand the pie and raise all ships.
What can the North Country do to make this region more appealing to a younger generation?
The first thing we can do is to listen and give them a stronger voice in our communities. There’s a gap and opportunity for more younger involvement and representation in many of our community organizations and boards. I would like to see stronger young professional groups that encourage community and political involvement. This can help influence development and culture that will appeal to younger generations.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
In 2011, I spent a year in Nicaragua working for a university and assisting rural communities with entrepreneurship and economic development. My year’s work centered on improving finance options for coffee farmers, teaching at the university, and strategic planning for entrepreneurship opportunities.