Illinois Coalition will be split in two

October 22, 2004


The state of Illinois and the Illinois Coalition announced a reorganization Thursday aimed at focusing efforts to coax federal science and technology investments into Illinois while also stimulating commercialization and entrepreneurship programs.

The Illinois Coalition, the public-private partnership responsible for developing Illinois' science and technology sectors, will be split into two entities.

One unit will focus on business commercialization efforts, and will shed the Illinois Coalition name. Thomas Thornton, currently executive vice president of the Coalition, will head the new venture, which will be funded principally through federal grants.

A second unit will retain the Illinois Coalition moniker, and will focus on advocacy, seeking to bring sizable federal science and technology projects to Illinois. It will be led by a new president who has yet to be named. It will be supported by $250,000 in funding from the state of Illinois as well as from private grants.

The announcement appears to end a protracted controversy over the role of the Illinois Coalition that spanned Democratic and Republican administrations. It also suggests that the public and private sectors are serious about uniting to bring federal investments to Illinois.

"We need a strong, focused mission on these public-private partnerships that brings federal dollars to Illinois," said Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Lavin cited the competition to bring the $1 billion Rare Isotope Accelerator to Argonne as a priority. He also cited FutureGen, the federal government's proposed 10-year, $1 billion demonstration project to create the world's first coal-based, zero-emissions power plant.

"Jack and the governor have agreed to support the organization," said Coalition Chairman Sam Skinner. "They'll be involved on the board, and we will be supercharging our efforts."

Skinner also said Eden Martin, president of the Civic Committee of Chicago, will be actively involved in the restructuring.

Thursday's reorganization stems from a strategic analysis conducted under Skinner.

A transition team is being appointed to guide the changes, and a small number of representatives of the state and the Civic Committee as well as the current Coalition board will participate. No timetable was provided for the naming of a new president but an announcement is expected within weeks.

Skinner said the two new entities "will be a more effective effort in commercialization and advocacy. We'll be positioning ourselves for strong growth."

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


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners