Gray strives to bring new approach to City Hall [The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.]
(Daily News of Newburyport (MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 04--AMESBURY -- Ken Gray has brought a goal and results-oriented approach to the businesses he's run for his entire career, and now he hopes to bring a similar approach to the city's top elected office.
Gray, 63, of 60 Merrimac St., Unit 912, is challenging four-term incumbent Mayor Thatcher Kezer in tomorrow's city election. While he has only lived in Amesbury for four years, Gray said he has fallen in love with the Amesbury community and wants to see it succeed.
Yet at the same time, he said he has grown dissatisfied with the current administration's unwillingness to acknowledge or address serious problems, which prompted him to step forward in hope of turning the city around similar to the way he has turned around businesses in the past.
Gray has spent his entire career in the private sector, and while he has been successful, he did not come from a wealthy background. Neither Gray's father nor grandfather made it past the eighth grade in school, and when he graduated from high school, he was told that if he wanted to go to college, he would have to pay for it on his own.
"I took out college loans, I worked my way at two jobs through college," Gray said. "I went to Northeastern because they had a co-op program and I could work my way through, and even in the offseason I worked two jobs."
All the work eventually paid off. Gray graduated from Northeastern University in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, and he went on to work at a number of engineering jobs before securing a position as regional manager at Micro Component Technology, Inc. in 1983.
Gray would really make his mark in the semiconductor world during his time as vice president of sales and marketing for ASECO Corp., a position he held from 1990 until 1998. At the time he was hired in 1990, the company had only $1.5 million in sales, but within three years, sales improved to the point where ASECO was able to go public, and by 1996 sales had increased to $50 million.
Nick Gullett, a consultant who has worked with Gray in varying capacities for 30 years and worked for a competing company at the time, said Gray was one of the primary people responsible for turning the company around.
"He essentially built that company to a point where they were able to sell it, and really took an unknown product and brought it into the market place," Gullett said.
Gray would later take on a similar position at Delta Design, Inc. in the late '90s before ultimately starting his own company, Northwave Technology, in 2001.
One of the main reasons why Gray started his own company is because he was growing tired of the stresses of travel. The majority of ASECO and Delta Design's sales were in Asia. Gray said he used to travel to Singapore at least four times a year and would spend at least two weeks in the country at a time. He said he did this for 12 years, and eventually stopped counting how many times he'd been there after the 40th trip.
"All of those trips I'd go from Boston to Chicago to Tokyo to Singapore," Gray said. "The elapsed time is 24 hours, and you don't have to change your watch because it's the same time when you get over there, it's just 12 hours different."
Between these trips and the regular trips to San Diego, where Delta Design's corporate headquarters were located, Gray decided he had to make a choice. He could leave behind his home and move to the West Coast, or stay and start a company of his own. He chose to stay.
Since its inception, Northwave Technology has grown to become a successful business. It sells a product called the EM 1 that automates the process of developing test processes, which is a key component in the manufacturing of computer chips. Each unit sells for between $100,000 and $200,000, and Gray said his business counts three of the world's four largest semiconductor manufacturers among its customers.
Gray said he likes the freedom that having his own company gives him, saying he can work better hours and spend more time with his family, including his four young grandchildren. It also allows him the ability to indulge in his other passions, like Boston sports and antique cars.
"He loves old cars," said Bryan Kirby, a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch in Boston and Gray's son-in-law. "He's got a Thunderbird, a 1957 Thunderbird, and he's always had some kind of classic car for as long as I've known him."
Kirby described Gray as a man of integrity, and when he sets his mind to something and he has a goal, he's dedicated to it. When asked if they were surprised by Gray's decision to run for mayor, both Kirby and Gullett said they weren't surprised at all.
"He's got the personality that allows him to interface with people. I think it's a perfect fit for him to be honest," Gullett said. "He's a good leader, by no means wishy-washy, he's definitely got an opinion on how things need to be done, and he'll work tirelessly to make things happen."
If elected, Gray said he would hand over control of Northwave Technology to his daughter, who he said has become more involved in recent years and has expressed interest in taking over the family business.
Gray said he's optimistic about his chances in the election and is looking forward to the campaign's end. But as difficult a campaign season as it's been, he said that if he wins, the real work would be only just beginning.
"It's been very difficult, and very stressful, but the job ahead is daunting," Gray said. "I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done, but we need to start somewhere."
(c)2013 The Daily News of Newburyport (Newburyport, Mass.)
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