Time for DCEO's Lavin to step into coach's role

August 16, 2004


Is Jack Lavin the Lovie Smith of Illinois tech? The job is his. He just needs to step up and lead the team. Smith is the new head coach of the Chicago Bears. Lavin is director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. He's Gov. Blagojevich's point person on economic development. Both Lavin and Smith must pull together winning game plans that will satisfy the people of Illinois. Both face obstacles to accomplish their tasks. Both need to coordinate the talents of players with big egos who don't always play as a team.

I'll leave Lovie Smith's prospects to Jay Mariotti. I think the outlook for Lavin's season is good. He's scored some early successes. He's been out doing grass-roots canvassing. He's pushing for more early-stage venture capital through passage of the Illinois Opportunity Fund. He's emphasizing job training programs, and striving to make Illinois workers more productive to keep jobs in Illinois. He's lobbying Boeing for new high-tech plants. He's supporting Ford to keep its presence here strong. He's backing the BIO2006 trade show, which could ignite local biotech start-up activity. He says he's focused on outcomes and results.

What next?

Thus far, Lavin's been an industrious guy. He's learning the job. The question is: What's next? Here are my suggestions:

* Put up a scoreboard. Lavin should define measures for high-tech success. Set goals for attracting federal dollars for science and technology. Tell us how many new tech-based enterprises and better paying tech-related jobs will be created. Tell us how many workers are retrained with new high-tech skills.

* Organize the booster club. The Illinois Coalition is the state's tech booster organization. It's chaired by former White House chief of staff Sam Skinner. The board is a Who's Who of business and academic leaders. The state and the Coalition need to get aligned. The Coalition needs to be supercharged to support Illinois tech.

* Galvanize the players. The era of Flip Filipowski is past. There are new leaders on the scene like Ed Zander at Motorola or Judson Green at Navteq. They need to be lobbied and organized to build our community.

* Step to the microphone. Great head coaches rally the fans. Tell us about your game plan. Celebrate the victories. Explain the defeats.

If Lovie Smith leads the Bears to the Super Bowl, that's nice. If Lavin guides Illinois tech to a championship, it will mean much more. Go for it, Jack!

Cosmopolitan Tech Conference

The Cosmopolitan Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Technology Conference at the Hyatt McCormick Place conference center Friday. The event features a bevy of local leaders, including Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones, Jr.; Chris O'Brien, chief technology officer, City of Chicago; John Maxson, president, Illinois Coalition, and Dennis Sienko, deputy director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The session aims to show small and mid-size business operators ways to gain competitive advantage through technology, according to Chamber executive director Gloria Bell.

"Minority businesses are usually the last to adopt technology to help grow their businesses. We want to show them how," says Bell.

The Cosmopolitan Chamber has a 10-year commitment from U.S. Cellular to back the event, with a goal of turning it into the largest in the Midwest for small and midsize businesses.

"We think it's important to serve organizations that can develop the social and economic environment," says Jay Ellison, executive vice president for operations for U.S. Cellular. "It's very important to grow the fabric of urban communities," adds Ellison.

Bits & bytes

David Weinstein, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Center, says Joe Born, founder of Neuros Audio, is someone to watch. Born launched Skip Doctor, the disc cleaner that sold 4 million units. Now he has a new venture .... Jack Philbin, president of Evanston-based Vibes Media, is touting his start-up's success with interactive wireless text messaging before audiences of 20,000 plus at Chicago's Tweeter Center. Philbin says Maroon 5 opened for John Mayer at the concert, and fans sent 5,354 text-to-screen messages using Vibes' service.

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


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners