SuperComm to spread some sunshine here

February 2, 2004


Warm thought on these sub-zero days: It will be sunny when SuperComm 2004 arrives at McCormick Place June 20. SuperComm, a top global telecommunications trade show, moves here from Atlanta for a three-year stay.

"We arrive in Chicago at a time when the telecommunications industry is in recovery," says Jack Chalden, show general manager. "We expect 30,000 attendees from over 100 countries to participate." Welcome news for Chicago's tech sector and tourism industry.

"Mayor Daley and Jerry Roper at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce were instrumental in bringing the show to Chicago," says John Janowiak, senior director, International Engineering Consortium, the Chicago-based group providing the educational content for SuperComm. Show owners, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the US Telecom Association (USTA), credit the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, World Business Chicago and the trade unions for playing team ball.

Tech backers for Barack

"There's an enormous opportunity to bring more dollars back to Illinois," Democratic Senate contender Barack Obama promised a group of supporters at an event organized by three leaders of the city's tech community.

Organizers of the event were: Steve Beitler, chairman of the Illinois Venture Capital Association and senior managing director of Dunrath Capital, a local private equity firm; David Jacobsen, partner at Sonnenschein, and Katherine Gehl, former special assistant to Mayor Daley for technology and now an investment adviser with Bernstein Investment Research and Management.

Obama, a state senator, told the group he first came to Chicago to help displaced South Side steel workers get retrained. To bring new jobs to Illinois, he supports Gov. Blagojevich's proposed $200 million Illinois Opportunity Fund, designed to stimulate venture investing.

Beitler, an early backer of Obama, says, "Barack's been an advocate of venture capital in the Legislature. Venture capital and private equity lead to innovation. That means new start-ups, which lead to new jobs."

Electrical Lamborghinis

John Estey, CEO of S&C Electric Co., is working to secure the 1,700 jobs his company provides in the city's Rogers Park neighborhood.

He's also trying to bolster the country's antiquated electric power grid.

Estey's company makes electrical equipment for big utilities and private companies that have to move a lot of power around at high voltage. Customers include Intel, Disney World and Commonwealth Edison. Estey makes stuff that's like the circuit breaker in your home except on a much bigger scale.

When Estey builds a product, he has to test it to assure it will work. "People's lives [and the electrical infrastructure] depend on this equipment," he says.

You can't just plug it in and test it. "It would be like testing a Lamborghini on Pratt Blvd.," quips Estey. You have to go to a test track.

The problem, there aren't any test tracks in the United States So Estey packs his products on trucks or rail cars, and ships them to Canada or Holland.

Estey has a proposal for the federal government. Given last summer's blackout and the strategic importance of the electric power grid, maybe there should be a test track in the U.S. He'll share the construction cost for a state of the art advanced technology center located in Chicago.

"S&C Electric is willing to commit approximately $15 million worth of equipment, land, infrastructure and engineering effort. To finish the project will take another $20 million," says Estey, who offers to split that last portion with the feds and operate the facility without subsidy. In today's uncertain world, Estey thinks it's smart to have a testing facility at home.

Makes sense to me.

Bose Speaks at IIT

Former Motorola CTO Dennis Roberson, now vice provost for new initiatives at IIT is "bringing in some friends" to share ideas.

When you're the former CTO of Motorola, your friends include entrepreneur Vanu Bose who's making waves with a new start-up specializing in "software radio," an innovative approach to cellular telephony.

You'll have to show up at McCormick Tribune Campus Center at 4:30 p.m. today to learn more. Bose is the son of Amar Bose, the pioneer in sound systems and speaker technology. Admission is free.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago based tech-writer and consultant, and senior vice president for Hostway Corp., Chicago.



 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners