March 31, 2008
McKeown named Young Professional of the Year
At 16 years old, Jeff McKeown was a high school dropout in the small central Illinois town of Monmouth, located about an hour south of the Quad Cities. McKeown was the middle son of two alcoholic parents, spending most of his childhood on welfare. With no real parental guidance, he simply stopped going to high school for about a year.
That was then and this is now. Today, McKeown is the owner of Racine’s Express Personnel Services, a temporary employment agency with 10 full-time employees that puts more than 275 employees to work at 80 companies in Racine every day. For the past two years, his company has been among the top six fastest growing franchises amongst the more than 600 agencies nationwide.
On April 8, at RAMAC’s Annual Awards Dinner, McKeown’s transformation from high-school dropout to successful business owner takes another step forward as he will be named Racine’s Young Professional of the Year. The award is given out by Young Professionals of Racine.
“I have been active in the community and work to make Racine a better place to live and work,” he said. “I have been fortunate to be in positions that are visible and that get public attention.”
McKeown is a past president of YPR. He is also a graduate of Leadership Racine and Rapport Leadership International. McKeown is also a board member of the Racine Founders Rotary Club and Racine County Economic Development Corporation. He and his wife, Meredith, have two daughters, Reagan, 6, and Georgia, 2.
As a teenager, he returned to school after a one-year hiatus, largely because of one influential teacher named Brian Cirks. “He taught me many lessons, but the most important was that it does not matter where you come from or your circumstances. Everyone has the potential to be successful,” McKeown said. “I always strive to invest in others the way that he invested in me.”
McKeown recently hired a general manager for Express to handle the day-to-day business. He’s in the process of opening a second office in Kenosha and hopes to open additional locations.
YPR Program Director Dana Grueter said McKeown befriends everyone he meets and truly fits YPR’s motto of Connect, Grow, Succeed, Have Fun. McKeown credits much of his success to his wife, a teacher in the New Berlin school district.
“Many times it feels like work and volunteering take a more prominent role than they should,” he said. “I am very lucky because Meredith and I have similar goals and beliefs about what we are doing. She picks up slack and that allows me to focus time and energy on helping others.”
McKeown was selected as the winner from three finalists, including Melinda Wilke, managing director of Northwestern Mutual in Racine, and Chris Terry, a contract salesman with Carpetland USA Flooring Center.
McKeown joins Doug Nicholson (Ivanhoe Pub & Eatery), Anne Stillman (CNH), Jay Christie (Racine Zoological Society) and John Busey (Robert W. Baird) as previous winners of the Young Professional of the Year Award.