Local techies split in election preference

November 1, 2004


Chicago area tech folk are as varied in their views about the presidential election as any sector. Here's a sampling.

*Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center President David Weinstein sees high stakes. "If Kerry wins, you will see more money in venture initiatives in underserved communities and the creation of a Small Business Opportunity Fund. If Bush wins, we can expect yearly budget shortages at the SBA and emphasis on tax cuts to stimulate small business investment. Either way you lean, both campaigns have placed a spotlight on small business growth and entrepreneurship."

*"Taxes will presumably be high under Kerry," says Steve Kaplan, entrepreneurship professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. "That's not a good thing for entrepreneurs and the private equity business. It's going to reduce incentives to do entrepreneurial things, and there's less money for investment."

Kaplan worries a Kerry victory means larger government, more regulation and a powerful plaintiff's bar. "The positive for Kerry is you get a divided government. It puts a brake on spending," he says.

*Teamwerks President Alison Chung will be glad the election is past. "Regardless who wins, the election will help entrepreneurship, the venture communities and the technology industry. The turmoil created by a close election will be over. People will come together, be less partisan and more focused on their businesses," Chung says. "Calmer politics makes for more confident financial markets."

*Illinois Venture Capital Association Chair Robert Finkel agrees with Chung: "Post election, no matter the balance of power, the legislative agenda gets cleansed and reprioritized. That tends to be a good thing for the small business economy that private equity professionals support. Creating wealth, an increased tax base and more high-skilled jobs are bipartisan aspirations."

*Loyola University business school professor Linda Salchenberger worries about global competition and job losses. "The next administration must aggressively invest in programs to develop a highly skilled workforce capable of creating innovation to keep us competitive in the global economy," Salchenberger says. "We cannot afford an administration that ignores the growing educated and highly skilled workforces in places like India and China." Salchenberger proposes a new national effort like the space race of the 1960s to reinvigorate innovation.

*Robert Blackwell Sr., CEO of Blackwell Consulting, a leading technology services provider, says, "From a technology business perspective, I don't see that there's a lot of gain or a lot of loss depending on who wins. If you were to ask me about other issues, I'd have strong opinions."

*Steve Beitler, managing director of Dunrath Capital, a private equity firm, is confident Democrat Barack Obama will win the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, and adds, "It's good for the country that Barack is going to win. It's excellent for entrepreneurs and the venture capital community because he understands what we're about."

From the sound of things, tech folks will turn out to vote.

Wired NextFest for Chicago

Word is Wired magazine's Victor Friedberg hit town last week to seal the deal on locating Wired's emerging technologies fair, NextFest2005, at Navy Pier in June. World Business Chicago's Dan Lyne and PR21's Susanna Homan were critical to winning the event. Northwestern University computer science professor Kris Hammond has also been working behind the scenes to snag the event for our town. It's a solid win for Chicago, and a great venue to showcase our emerging technologies.

Bits & Bytes

Bill Gates Sr. visits Chicago Friday to speak at Mayor Daley's CEOs for Cities meeting. The group gathers elected officials, top business leaders and academics to discuss policies that advocate for urban centers.

Patrick Moroney, CIO of Health Care Service Corp., was named CIO of the Year by the Executives Club and the Association Information Technology Professionals.

Internet technology maven Andy Sernovitz announces he's CEO of the new Word of Mouth Marketing Association (www.wo-mma.com) based here. The association promotes the use of viral marketing techniques.

CEO Michael Ferro's Click Commerce was named to the Technology Fast 50 list by Deloitte & Touche. This is the fourth year the firm's been on this high growth list.

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


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners