Entrepreneurial center clicking on all cylinders

July 18, 2005


This morning the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center names Click Commerce founder and CEO Michael Ferro Jr. co-chairman of its board of directors. Ferro replaces Andy McKenna Jr., president of Schwartz Paper Co.

Ferro's fellow co-chair at the CEC is Motorola Vice President Jim O'Connor Jr., who is responsible for accelerating the commercial adoption of Motorola's global array of technology.

O'Connor brings Motorola's global muscle to the Entrepreneurial Center, and Ferro provides proven entrepreneurial credentials. Doors will be opening for Chicago's emerging enterprises.

"The CEC is one of the best things for entrepreneurs," says Ferro, who believes helping entrepreneurs build relationships with established companies that lead to sales is more important than raising venture capital.

Build the business first

In the dot.com days entrepreneurs developed business cases and raised money for unproven ventures. Ferro's dead set against that model.

"We're not out telling people to build PowerPoint presentations and raise money. We're telling people, build the business," says Ferro. "We're going to help them raise money."

Introducing qualified entrepreneurs to established corporate executives is Ferro's priority. He points to Abbott Labs CEO Miles White as an example. "If the entrepreneur has something that fits Abbott Labs and they are a proven company, we can get them that meeting," says Ferro.

Ferro owns an entrepreneur's resume that shows he can deliver on that promise. He's vice chairman of the Economic Club of Chicago. He sits on the board of the Executives' Club, the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. He's a member of the Commercial Club. He also serves on several charitable boards.

"Ferro adds fire power that will take us to the next level," says CEC President David Weinstein. "We want to be viewed as a national model for entrepreneurial resource centers."

Weinstein says that over the past two years, the CEC helped 65 entrepreneurs secure over $30 million in sales to established companies. The CEC also helped local entrepreneurs execute 30 transactions collectively valued at over $9 million. For fledgling enterprises that kind of help can be life-giving.

With Ferro and O'Connor guiding the board and Weinstein at the helm, the CEC appears headed in the right direction. Weinstein is quick to credit Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Roper for the unit's success.

Roper took the lead in incubating the CEC within the Chamber's walls and hired Weinstein to run it.

"Jerry picked up the call to action from the civic community in 1999," says Weinstein. "He made a home for the CEC. Jerry is the founder. The fact that it is housed in a business organization and not a charity or a university is part of why this model is working so well.

"We're finally starting to get corporations in this town to work more closely with emerging entrepreneurs."

Ferro will accelerate that trend.

For his part, Roper says, "I see the CEC reinventing the Chamber of Commerce. It's the future."

Chicago Innovation Awards

The deadline for the 4th annual Chicago Innovation Awards is July 31. You've got just 14 days to nominate a meritorious Chicago-area innovation.

Give some well-deserved attention to a Chicago-area innovator. Recognize a home grown new product or service. Go to www.chicagoinnovationawards. com for a nomination form.

Candidates don't have to be high-tech, but they must be innovative. So scratch your head. Is there a new Chicago-bred product or service that's really clever? It can be for-profit or not-for-profit. It can be in the commercial sector or the public sector. If it's innovative and deserving recognition, submit a nomination. Just hurry.

The Chicago Innovation Awards are presented by the Chicago Sun-Times and Kuczmarski & Associates. The 2005 award is presented by Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., a world leader in developing new products in confections, and sponsored by companies that proven their support for innovation: software leader Microsoft Corp., communications specialists Slack Barshinger, and innovative design-and-production house Digital Kitchen.

The honorees will be profiled in the Sun-Times Oct. 11, and awards will be presented Oct. 18 at the Goodman Theatre.

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



 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners