City's tech sector
may soon be singing new tune
May 2, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
What's the name of
that old Phil Collins song? "In the air tonight." It's
not spring fever. It's not the Bulls in the playoffs or the Sox
record start. Something is happening to Chicago tech. Something
is in the air.
you notice Archipelago? The electronic exchange is being acquired
by the New York Stock Exchange. A 2003 winner of the Chicago Innovation
Award is poised to reinvent the venerable NYSE.
hey," as the late Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse used to
chant. Chicago just hit one out of the park.
The local establishment is shifting. The Illinois Senate approved
the $200 million Illinois Opportunity Fund by a 49-6 margin. If
the bill passes the House and Gov. Blagojevich signs it, venture
capital will go to stimulate local tech-based businesses.
organic is occurring. It encompasses the private sector, government,
universities, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Each group
seems to be working together as if choreographed to music.
trip to Washington on Wednesday. Flanked by Jim Thompson, former
Republican governor, and Bill Daley, Midwest chairman of JP MorganChase,
Blagojevich met U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman. His purpose:
to sell Illinois as the site for the $1 billion Rare Isotope Accelerator.
16,000 construction jobs plus the downstream opportunity to transform
scientific exploration into commercial businesses. Those businesses
could be fueled by the Illinois Opportunity fund, and provide
opportunity for unemployed manufacturing workers whose jobs move
governor told Secretary Bodman he could save $100 million placing
RIA at Argonne National Labs where there's existing infrastructure,"
says Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce
and Economic Opportunity. Bodman visits Argonne on Friday for
the dedication of the $72 million state-of-the-art Center for
Nanoscale Materials, and more conversation.
tech chorus grew larger last week. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
President Michael Moskow convened a technology growth conference
Tuesday, and played host to 80 local advocates seeking to hasten
to build on Blagojevich's $1 million investment bringing the BIO
2006 conference to Chicago next April.
Cleveland-based, Forest City Enterprises creating a biotech and
nanotech innovation campus worth $155 million at the Pfizer campus
former head of the Economic Club of Chicago, is offering his facilities,
staff, ideas and his bank's good name to host events on tech growth.
Something different is in the air.
White-Petteruti, executive director at the Commercial Club of
Chicago (which represents the city's business elite), and you
start to wonder. Is a new Chicago School of tech growth emerging?
and the Midwest must continually reinvent themselves to sustain
a high standard of living," says Moskow. "Though change
is inevitable, growth is optional."
For the first
time since the dot-com days, the powers that be in Chicago are
talking tech growth. They're discussing ways and means. They're
talking smart. They're talking about doing things in ways that
uniquely fit Chicago.
no prescient, pony-tailed guys pounding the table saying, "Sears
is going to die. The Internet revolution is coming." There's
no generational conflict. This isn't young kids in black T-shirts
up against Brooks Brothers.
are a melting pot just like Chicago. There are young tech entrepreneurs
and worldly La Salle Street lawyers.
needs vibrant tech
Bloom, a law partner at Bell, Boyd & Lloyd observes, "We
aren't converting our university research into technology jobs.
In Illinois we lost 1 in 6 manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2003.
Those jobs are not coming back."
If Chicago is to prosper, we need a vibrant tech sector.
Bloom is one
of 11 self-appointed task force members from the Economic Development
Council, a local advocacy group singing Chicago's praises.
to play a different Phil Collins song when Chicago talked tech.
It was called,
"Against All Odds."
tech scene that song's out of vogue.
Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.