Shifts at Ill. Coalition highlight role with DCEO
September 23, 2004
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
John Maxson has resigned
as president of the Illinois Coalition, the public-private partnership
charged with developing Illinois' science and technology sectors.
The move paves
the way for the resolution of a long standing disagreement between
the coalition and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity. DCEO has been seeking a greater voice in the operation
and direction of the coalition as a condition for future financial
support of the group.
has a planned operating budget of about $388,000, with, theoretically,
half from the state and half self-funded. State funding this year,
however, was zero, leaving the coalition with an operating budget
of about $152,000. In addition, the coalition receives about $1
million in restricted Small Business Administration support.
spokesman Andrew Ross, "DCEO wants the coalition to fulfill
its original mission, which is to be a tech advocate for the state,
and focus on bringing new public and private investment into the
state for high tech projects like the Rare Isotope Accelerator,
which would provide Illinois with a tremendous economic boost."
to the negotiations say DCEO wants the coalition to relinquish
its activities in grant making and technology commercialization.
DCEO would likely assume responsibility for those initiatives,
consolidating them with its own programs.
over the coalition's role predates the Blagojevich administration,
and has been a drag on statewide, tech-based economic development
for several years.
Chairman Samuel Skinner said a new president will be named "shortly,"
and added, "We're looking at the mission of the coalition
and how to approach it. We're in commercialization and getting
investment for our labs and universities. Those are two missions,
and we've been doing both pretty well."
"John Maxson did a great job for us at considerable personal
sacrifice. He will be very tough to replace. I was hoping he would
is a respected former Exelon executive who joined the Coalition
as president in 2002. His skills and knowledge of the Washington
political scene, and his ease in working with the city's top business
executives were among his strengths.
Due to financial
constraints, Maxson worked without a salary since mid-2003. Several
Coalition staff members left in recent months as a result of the
budget difficulties. Maxson will be honored at the Coalition board's
annual meeting Oct. 21.
Coalition was founded in 1989 to support science and technology
investments in Illinois. The Coalition board includes many senior
business executives as well as the leaders of the region's top
academic research universities and federal research labs.
Blagojevich administration and private sector leaders can agree,
the Coalition could once again become a force in advancing science
and technology investments in Illinois. Responsibility for creating
that alignment now rests with Skinner and Gov. Blagojevich's point
person on economic development, DCEO Director, Jack Lavin.
Illinois Coalition continues to be a critical resource for promoting
science and technology throughout Illinois," said David Weinstein,
president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. "Bottom
line, someone must be the advocate for the state with regards
to science and technology."
Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.