Cullens working hard to keep GlobalComm here

May 8, 2006


Van Cullens, CEO of Aurora-based Westell Technologies. isn't a household name in Chicago. Motorola CEO Ed Zander, Abbott Labs CEO Miles White or CDW CEO John Edwardson have more cachet.

But we ought to roll out the red carpet for Cullens. He's working behind the scenes to keep GlobalComm, the global telecommunications show at McCormick Place.

GlobalComm will bring 20,000 attendees from 90 countries to Chicago June 4-8. Attention cab drivers, hoteliers and restaurateurs: GlobalComm will generate $28 million in local revenue.

We might have fallen to No. 3 as a convention town in 2005, but Cullens is doing his bit to keep us ahead of New York and GlobalComm out of reach of No. 2 Orlando and No. 1 Las Vegas.

Says Matt Flanigan, president of the Telecommunications Industry Association, the show's organizer, "We've committed to come back to Chicago for 2007. We're reviewing our options beyond."

It takes a team

Cullens will say GlobalComm is a team effort. He'll point to the yeoman work of the TIA's Flanigan and his staff. You bet Flanigan is top-flight. He does the heavy lifting. But I want to credit Cullens.

Cullens runs a $270 million broadband telecom equipment manufacturer, and he chairs the TIA board of directors. He thinks Chicago is the right place for GlobalComm.

"Chicago has location," Cullens says. "It's a transportation hub. Chicago is a sophisticated city with a great exhibition facility and cultural amenities. It's a real city where real business gets done. It is an ideal location."

Keeping GlobalComm beyond 2007 is an uphill fight. "We're dealing with some very competitive cities," Cullens adds. "Chicago has everything we need, but we have to get out there and make it happen."

Chicagoan's can support GlobalComm. Show up. Nothing short of the future of communications will be on display at McCormick Place. Registration cost is $195. For more information, point your browser to

China matters

"Shanghai is one of the most futuristic cities," Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center President David Weinstein says. He describes the city like a scene from the movie "Blade Runner:" "Your breath is taken away by the high-tech skyscrapers."

Back from a trade visit to China, Weinstein exhorts Chicago's burgeoning entrepreneurs to do deals there. "You can't ignore China's GDP growth," he says. "The individual savings rate is 40 percent. The market opportunity is mind-blowing."

Weinstein was impressed by Chinese intellectual prowess. He praises their educational system and commitment to math and science training.

"People there know about Chicago," Weinstein adds. "Both Chicago and Illinois have a presence in Shanghai. Now that American Airlines has a direct Chicago to Shanghai flight, we can be a global gateway and promote bidirectional commerce.

"We have many Chicago entrepreneurs doing business in China," Weinstein adds. He points to Neuros Audio founder Joe Born and Midwest Entrepreneurs Forum President Jerry Mitchell who are cutting deals there.

Top on Weinstein's list of China sights was Motorola's research lab. "It was beautiful to see a hometown Chicago organization doing global business, developing the next generation of Wi-Fi software for their phones in China," Weinstein says.

Weinstein says Mayor Daley is ahead of his time in his efforts to push Chinese language education in Chicago Public Schools. "You leave China thinking Chicago must be multilingual, not only speaking Spanish, but also Chinese," he urges.

Trusted computing

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the world's top training and research centers in computing. Microsoft recruits more software engineers there than on any other campus.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Richard Herman and computer engineering professor Bill Sanders, director of the school's Information Trust Institute are in Chicago to host an all-star cast of computer security experts.

Sanders says, "We want to showcase UIUC's breadth in security and dependability research." He aims to make sure large-scale computer transactions in financial services or defense are safe.

Headlining Sanders' roundtable at the University Club is AT&T Labs chief scientist David Belanger.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners