Labor Dept. snub leads to real innovation
February 13, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Chicago lost a bid
for a $15 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of
Labor to study regional work force innovation and economic growth.
bid was a collaborative effort led by Jack Lavin, director of
the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; Paul O'Connor,
executive director of World Business Chicago, and Jerry Roper,
president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
Says a disappointed
but undaunted Roper, "We deserved to win because this region
is so valuable to the Midwest and the nation."
North central Indiana
won. So did western and central Michigan, northeast Pennsylvania,
central and eastern Montana, Denver, Kansas City and the Florida
Panhandle. Even California won, but Chicago lost.
Thirteen grants worth
$195 million were allocated by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao under
the WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development)
Initiative. The program aims to help regional economies plan and
"partner together and leverage their assets and resources
to develop a more highly skilled workforce that can act as the
lynchpin to attract new economic development and employers,"
according to a Labor Department press release.
It's part of the "competitiveness
agenda" President Bush presented in his State of the Union
address. The Council on Competitiveness, a group comprised of
CEOs, university presidents and heads of labor organizations,
acted as an adviser to the Labor Department.
You might think Chicago's
migration from metal bending to the knowledge economy makes us
a natural to win a grant. We're the capital city of the Midwest.
Think again. Chicago lost. Chicago has huge political muscle.
It's not clear if we flexed it to win. We have the speaker of
the House, two prominent senators, an influential governor and
the nation's top Democratic mayor. But we lost the grant.
Is it a big deal? You
bet. Future job opportunities will come from the innovation economy.
In today's hotly competitive global marketplace, we must be aggressive
if we're going to succeed.
Says Council on Competitiveness
President Deborah Wince-Smith, "Regional prosperity depends
on a region's capacity to support innovative firms, institutions
Roper and Lance Pressl,
president of the Chicagoland Chamber Foundation, aren't giving
up. They want to work with the Council on Competitiveness and
plan Chicago's future without the Labor Department grant. They're
seeking funding from the commercial sector and from the Chicago
Community Trust to launch a scaled-down effort.
a program called Innovate Now," says Pressl, who hopes to
convene 80 business and community leaders in March to gauge the
region's innovation and competitiveness.
Pressl wants to "conduct
a formal innovation assessment with the Council on Competitiveness
between March and September." He hopes that will lead to
Chicago serving as a host city for one of four planned Council
on Competitiveness Regional Summits.
"Regions are the
battlegrounds for turning our nation into an innovation economy,"
Pressl says. He thinks it makes good sense that Chicago should
be at the vanguard of the battle for American competitiveness.
ourselves up from this loss and agreed to continue our efforts,"
Technology Development Alliance hosts its Monday morning
meeting today at the ITEC-Evanston, focusing on homeland security
in open-source tech companies will be the topic
Tuesday when the Illinois Venture Capital Association and the
Illinois Information Technology Association convene at the UBS
Conference Center. Presenters include: Duchossois Technology partner
Dan Phelps, Univa Vice President Vas Vasiliadis, SpringCM CEO
Christine Mason, IBM Software consultant Lee Bliss and ShopperTrak
CTO Craig Mohan.
Society for Information Management president and Metropolitan
Pier and Exposition Authority CIO, hosts MIT senior research scientist
Andrew Lippman for a talk on Viral Innovation and Communications
at Wednesday's luncheon at Spiaggia. Watch for Lippman to describe
how the new "hundred-dollar laptop"
will close the digital divide.
CDW CEO John
Edwardson keynotes the University of Chicago Graduate
School of Business alumni entrepreneurship conference Thursday
at the Gleacher Center. The program showcases successful entrepreneurs
trained at the U. of C.
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.