Pilsen native eager to help others achieve

February 6, 2006

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

George Burciaga, CEO of smarTECHS.net, was born and raised in Pilsen near 18th and Carpenter. He graduated from Kelly High at California and Archer in 1993, determined to make a difference. While a student at Robert Morris College and later at DePaul University, Burciaga took a part-time job at Union Beverage Co. at 35th and California doing low-level IT jobs.

That's where Burciaga met his mentor, Richard Wallace, the operations head at the beverage distribution company. "He saw I had the drive and the will," Burciaga says.

"I was determined to find a position where I could help myself and others," he adds.

Wallace inspired Burciaga to open his first company, Sunrise Technology Inc. in 1997. Burciaga proved capable of both managing technology and recruiting clients. Sunrise began by helping install networking gear, work stations and software. If something broke, Burciaga came and fixed it.

His first client was Nesbitt Burns Securities, a sub of the Bank of Montreal, which owns Harris Bank.

"They hired me to do IT coordination," Burciaga says. With Y2K on the horizon, they soon had him trouble-shooting tech problems across the country.

The experience motivated Burciaga to launch smarTECHS. net at 18th and Indiana, which employs 39 tech consultants.

"We help clients with on-site tech service," he says. "We resell hardware and software and we do Web development."

David Weinstein, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, is encouraged by smarTECHS' ability to break through and work for larger organizations, such as Comcast and MB Financial Bank.

"George is a great Chicago entrepreneurial story in the making," says Weinstein, who also is impressed with Burciaga's civic commitment. "He's making a concerted effort to give back."

The 31-year-old entrepreneur started the "Follow Me Program." Burciaga visits Chicago Public Schools, including Kelly High, urging students to go to college.

His company funds seminars on financial aid and field trips to familiarize students with local colleges.

Burciaga has a challenge for Chicago's established companies.

"I'm willing to work with any corporation that wants to make a difference in Pilsen and Little Village," he says. "I'll do what I can and try to match what they offer."

George Burciaga's e-mail address is george@smartechs.net.

Tablets for De La Salle

Tablet PC's are becoming de rigueur for freshmen at De La Salle Institute, at 35th and Wabash, according to Brother Michael Quirk, president of the private Catholic college prep that boasts five of Chicago's mayors, including the current Mayor Daley, as alums.

"We believe we're the first high school in the city going to tablets," says Quirk, who sees tablets as powerful and more flexible classroom tools than desktops or laptops.

"Tablets are more adaptable to daily student life," Quirk says. "We want to assure our students continue to produce college caliber work, and are ready for the rigors of a top university."

Quirk believes kids living in the city deserve the best technology.

"We are trying to make this affordable," says Quirk, who's spreading the payment for the computers over four years. "We have a need-based financial aid system that will help those who can't afford a tablet PC."

AeA launches scholarship

"Illinois' high-tech corridor requires a strong supply of quality engineering students," says PCTEL CEO Marty Singer, who chairs the Midwest Council of the American Electronics Association. Singer and the AeA launch a new scholarship program today with the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Scholarship Program aims to provide funding and internships for 10 budding engineers at IIT. Each student will receive a $2,500 stipend that is renewable annually provided they maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

They'll also be eligible for an internship opportunity with a Chicago area AeA member tech company.

"We're excited to launch this program in Illinois," says Ed Longanecker, executive director of AeA Midwest. "In other regions, like the Pacific Northwest, AeA offers nearly 50 scholarships annually. They're sponsored by companies like Xerox, HP and Intel. We hope to grow the STEM program here to that level."

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.

 

 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners