MCI chief to rock IT Resource benefit

March 21, 2005


Whether Verizon or Qwest prevails in the contest to buy MCI, Chicago's IT Resource Center wins.

That's because Deborah Strauss, IT Resource Center executive director, snagged MCI CEO Michael Capellas to keynote her annual benefit dinner Thursday at the Hyatt Regency.

Capellas sits in the middle of the year's most controversial tech deal. He's a veteran CIO turned CEO who sold Compaq to HP. Capellas is also known as the rock 'n' roll CEO for picking a song of the day to motivate MCI employees. He also has played 1970s rock prior to Wall Street analyst calls.

"He's known to bound up to the podium with his MP3 player playing rock songs," says Strauss.

Capellas should draw a full house to support the IT Resource Center, one of the tech community's most vital assets.

Founded in 1983 and backed by the Chicago Community Trust, the IT Resource Center provides two critical services. It assists nearly 300 not-for-profit organizations with low-cost technology training and consulting services. It also helps close the digital divide by providing grants and training to more than 100 local community technology centers.

"Non-profits need technology for efficiency, accountability and communications," says Strauss. Often they can't afford the technology. Her center helps non-profits stay focused on their mission rather than worry about the technology.

Thanks to Capellas, the IT Resource Center will be rockin' on with its mission in 2005.

Wrong direction?

"Brainy state heads in the wrong direction" is how Small Times magazine describes nanotech in Illinois. The magazine ranked Illinois No. 7 on its new list of the Top 10 Nanotech Hot Spots.

The rap is that Illinois has the scholarly might but not the entrepreneurial chutzpah to transform research into startups. We're just not cashing in on all that gold in our universities and federal labs, and that foreshadows fewer jobs and less wealth in Illinois down the road.

Whatever happened to Gov. Blagojevich's 2003 plan to make Illinois into a Silicon Prairie starting with nanotechnology?

Seems the governor shifted his focus to support Illinois firms in the homeland security business. Last week he announced two $100,000 grants for employee training and development to Arlington Heights-based TechAlt Inc. and Burr Ridge-based Midco Inc.

TechAlt provides solutions for secure communications for first responders. Midco provides technology for integrated communications across multiple technology platforms to secure voice and data networks.

With all the investment the federal government makes in nanotech research in Illinois, wouldn't it be smart to push for more commercialization of nanotech too? Just asking.

Robots compete at UIC

Basketball isn't the only form of March madness. Robots will battle this weekend at the University of Illinois Chicago Pavilion. Thirty-seven teams of aspiring engineers from high schools across the region built the robots to compete in the eighth annual FIRST Midwest Regional Robotics Competition. The winners vie for national honors in Atlanta in April.

IIT Vice Provost Dennis Roberson, Motorola EVP Dennis Carey and former Baxter CEO Vern Loucks are big backers.

"Historically, our region is one of the strongest in the country," says Roberson. "Teams from Rolling Meadows and Hammond are among the top 10 out of nearly 1,000 teams nationally."

Roberson is particularly excited about a team this year from South Shore High School. The good news: Chicago's robots don't need steroids to compete. They just need smart engineering.

Bits & bytes

State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka announces the first three investments for the state's $50 million Technology Development Fund today. Three Illinois venture funds are expected to receive investments. Topinka plans to invest $15 million to $18 million this year, with the entire $50 million committed over three years.

Michael Callaghan, CEO of Opus Group, won the Rising Star Award at the Illinois Information Technology Association's City Lights awards. John Jasper, CEO of SEI Information Technology, Oak Brook, won the Lighthouse award.

American Electronics Association CEO William Archey comes to town tomorrow to talk about America reclaiming its competitive edge and the challenge for science and technology.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.



 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners