Rahm Emanuel will anchor the first-ever organized team of Chicago business officials and musicians to descend upon South By Southwest, the annual music, film and interactive conference and festival in Austin, Texas.
The Chicago contingent will be organized around the theme Chicago Made, focusing on Chicago's emerging prominence in new manufacturing and highlighting local music and culture.
Philip Nevels, executive director of ChicagoNext, a part of World Business Chicago, said city officials, along with Chicago companies and artists, have been attending
SXSW for years, "but we haven't had a coordinated effort at this event before," he said. "We said 'Let’s all work together and focus on representing the city of Chicago in a cool way.'"
The festival runs March 7-16. Mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton confirmed that Emanuel will attend for one day. She would not specify a date but said Emanuel would "have a role on the main stage."
Chicago companies and artists will get particular attention on March 11, the last day of the interactive portion of the festival, which focuses on tech innovation. Featured speakers will include Zach Kaplan, CEO of Chicago-based Inventables. He's set to unveil a new software platform for the company’s recently released desktop milling machine.
That day also is the start of the SXSW Music Festival, a showcase for up-and-coming musical acts. Dylan Rice, director of creative industries and music for the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said the date was chosen as a focal point for the Chicago efforts, since it straddles the two conferences.
Chicago's SXSW contingent is a collaboration of Choose Chicago; World Business Chicago, a not-for-profit economic development booster; the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; and the Illinois Tourism Council.
"We want to promote Chicago both as a center of innovation and as a center of entertainment," said Melissa Cherry, vice president for cultural tourism and neighborhoods at Choose Chicago, the city's official tourism organization.
SXSW started as a music conference in 1987. It has emerged as an important date on the tech calendar, having hosted the unveiling of companies including Twitter and
Chicago Made's space at the show will feature appearances by business leaders including Kaplan and 1871 CEO Howard Tullman.
The Chicago contingent will host an invitation-only networking event Saturday evening, led by Tullman, "Obama 2012" chief technology officer Harper Reed and others.
That will be followed by a musical showcase that will highlight several local musical artists, including Chance the Rapper; Wilco bassist John Stirratt's side project, The Autumn Defense; The Hood Internet;
Archie Powell & the Exports; My Gold Mask; Bonzie; ShowYouSuck; and ProbCause.
Rice said his sales pitch to SXSW attendees will focus on Chicago's music scene as well as its startup scene — and will emphasize a cost of living that's attractive compared with tech centers on both coasts. Rice said he wants people to leave Austin thinking about Chicago not just as a good place to visit but as a good place to live and perhaps even start a business.
"I want them to walk away thinking that Chicago is a really innovative place," he said. "This (Chicago) is a taste-making place in the world. We want to keep Chicago in mind as a place to invest in, as well as a place to travel to."
Tribune reporter Melissa Harris contributed.– firstname.lastname@example.org