Coalition's work to bring in federal money is crucial
December 15, 2003
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
front-runner Howard Dean received Al Gore's endorsement because
of the savvy way Dean used the Internet to mobilize supporters.
"It's like having 515,000 electronic precinct captains,"
said Kevin Conlon, state chairman of Dean's Illinois campaign
and president of public affairs company Chicago-based Wilhelm
& Conlon Public Strategies.
to Conlon those supporters generated "50,000 letters to Gore"
urging him to back Dean.
Senate candidates take
note: To win, get online.
Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) left Chicago early last week on an unsuccessful
mission to solve a deadlock over the $820 billion Omnibus Spending
Bill. The White House asked the speaker to skip a high-profile
fund-raiser to benefit the Illinois Coalition. Despite his absence,
Illinois' technology leaders turned out at the Chicago Club, raising
an estimated $32,000 for the coalition's operations, according
to the association's president, John Maxon. Not a bad day when
your speaker's a no- show. Rock concert fans would have been storming
But our town's tech
glitterati were exceptionally well behaved. No grumbles about
the speaker's absence. The commitment to Illinois technology and
economic development sounded serious.
Most Chicagoans are
clueless about the coalition. Not a good thing. We locals should
pay more attention if this town is going to be in business 15
or 20 years hence.
Formed in 1989, the
power players at the coalition -- corporate CEOs, university presidents
and entrepreneurs -- quietly work behind the scenes to make sure
federal science and technology investments show up in Illinois.
That means funding
for places such as Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab, and
grants for our local universities. The labs alone employ about
5,400, from clerical employees and maintenance workers to Nobel
Those jobs are the
tip of the iceberg. The inventions coming out of the labs can
be an economic elixir for Chicago if we transform them into new
products and businesses.
Sound vague? Consider
Bill Gates Sr., father of the founder of Microsoft. "Who's
the largest venture capitalist in the world?" asked the elder
Gates in a recent visit here. His answer: "Uncle Sam."
The point: Without
federal investments we'd miss more than the technology millionaires.
We'd miss the new jobs their companies create. To replace the
manufacturing jobs heading offshore, we'd better start new businesses
right here, right now.
Powering the process
is federal funding for science and technology. We need more in
Illinois. It's a hotly competitive game. That's why the Illinois
Coalition is important. Its members fight to bring home the bacon.
Sam Skinner, incoming
chair of the coalition, has the pedigree for this slugfest. He's
competitive and no stranger to Washington. He served as chief
of staff and secretary of transportation for the first President
Bush. Thanks to Speaker Hastert and last week's fund-raiser, Skinner
and the coalition have a budget to continue their work.
Memo to Gov. Blagojevich:
Keep a scorecard in your vest pocket. Track the number of federal
dollars the coalition secures for Illinois. Encourage the coalition.
A vibrant state economy could assure a second term.
nets $5 million
CEO of Chicago-based GlobalView Software Inc., received an early
Christmas present when private equity firm Conning Capital Partners
anted up $5 million in a Series B financing. The 45-year-old Olson
will use the cash to expand and sell his MarketView software.
Why build a business
in Chicago? Same reason Boeing moved here. "Chicago is a
great place," said Olson. "It's centrally located and
a transportation hub." Makes sense, considering Olson returned
my call from Singapore, where he is spending a lot of time.
Listening to Olson,
you wonder how could Illinois Sen. Peter Fitzgerald be hostile
to O'Hare airport expansion? I guess he wasn't interested in retaining
globetrotting tech entrepreneurs.
Will Olson's success
mean more jobs for Chicagoans? He's adding staff, but his firm
is relatively small,, with only 20 local employees. That could
change. Olson's MarketView software helps energy behemoths use
the Internet to stay abreast of volatile energy markets.
Michael Krauss is a Chicago- based tech writer and consultant,
and senior vice president for Hostway Corp., Chicago.