Noted for his vision and pioneering instincts, Rick Kearney has been an entrepreneur since an early age. He started his first company while still in high school. Although he spent a few years in corporate America, he preferred to engineer his own destiny. He is currently Chairman of Mainline Information Systems, Inc., a company he founded in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1989. Starting with a handful of people with computer programming skills, he nurtured the company into Florida’s number three high-tech company, as rated by Florida Trend magazine.
Mainline was on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States for five years in a row; for three years the company ranked in the top 25. Rick was featured on the cover of the June 2000 Inc. issue and again in the Inc. 500 “Hall of Fame” in the October 2000 Inc. 500 special edition.
For many years, Rick has served as a board member for ITFlorida and was chairperson from 2003 to 2005. Originally founded by the Florida legislature, ITFlorida was designed to provide its members with access to lawmakers, businesses, capital, and domestic and foreign technology leaders.
For his active visionary leadership in his community, Rick was recognized with the Tallahassee Distinguished Leader of the Year Award and the Jim Moran Enterprises 2000 Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2001, Rick received the inaugural Ethics in Business award from the Tallahassee Rotary Club. In 2005, he was honored by the Jim Moran Institute at its Entrepreneurial Excellence Showcase and Awards Banquet, where he was the recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Decade Award. The following year brought Rick more recognition for both his entrepreneurial and philanthropic pioneering efforts. On June 22, 2006, he was honored with the prestigious Ernst & Young Florida Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the field of technology.
Rick was the driving force behind Tallahassee’s “Digital Canopy,” a public-private partnership operating in downtown Tallahassee, the state capitol building and in the Tallahassee International Airport, which provides wireless service at no charge to citizens and visitors alike. He also funded the cascading waterfall at Tallahassee’s Cascade Park, a downtown recreational area that opened in 2011.
Rick also developed Summit East, a high-technology, high-amenity smart campus located in Tallahassee that supports forward-thinking companies and their employees. What was once a part of Rick’s dreams is now a reality, providing a leading technology-enabled, employee-centric workplace that houses numerous local businesses in addition to Mainline.
While accomplishing many business successes, Rick always focused on the community and the needs of the less fortunate. In his own words, “There’s always a Johnny Appleseed. Somebody has to plant the first seed or build the first house.” And build he has.
In 2013, Rick broke ground on Westgate Community, a new development that will address the critical need for low-cost, safe and secure housing for Tallahassee individuals and families who are transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing. Westgate is a natural offshoot of the Renaissance Community Center, which Rick founded with forty other local business partners in 2012 to serve as a one-stop shop for basic needs for Tallahassee’s homeless community. Rick offered the upfront funding of a new homeless shelter which officially opened in April 2015. The new shelter is named The Kearney Center, a facility for comprehensive emergency services. It represents the merger of The Shelter and the adjacent Renaissance Community Center under one roof while simultaneously working with dozens of service providers.
The issue of poverty and the conditions surrounding it has always weighed heavily on Rick. He was one of the founders of Good News Outreach, a local social service outreach started in 1986. This outreach continues in Tallahassee with an award-winning program providing quality housing for low-income moms with kids, a team of volunteers who provide daily food and other assistance to the poor and elderly, a program for reintegrating released prison inmates successfully into society, and a clinic for indigent mothers.
Rick has also traveled beyond the country’s borders to witness poverty firsthand. While serving on the board of directors for the humanitarian agency Catholic Relief Services, he visited Brazil, Peru, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
Rick believes that education holds the key to success and has provided significant grants to Leon County Schools, Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University.
Because of these efforts, Rick was named Philanthropist of the Year in 2012 by the Northwest Florida Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Rick was also awarded Social Worker of the Year in 2013 by National Association of Social Workers Big Bend Region.
Rick is now leading the effort to build Tallahassee’s (and possibly the nation’s) first sustainable, supportive, tiny home community utilizing state of the art building techniques, green infrastructure and built-in community activities.