I’m pleased to be here tonight to help honor Mike Drew and to acknowledge his contributions to Roosevelt and, more broadly, to our city. I’ve known and worked with Mike for more than ten years already (since we moved Kendall College from Evanston to Goose Island) and, frankly, as we continue to transform Chicago into America’s Start-Up City and the tech epicenter of the Midwest, I’m looking forward to his continued work on new and exciting projects like New City because these are some of the most important attractions, magnets and demographic drivers that we need to attract first-class tech talent and eager entrepreneurs and business builders to Chicago from all across the country and also to help us retain a higher portion of the engineers and computer scientists who are already here and downstate at our great universities, but who believe that their opportunities and upsides are greater elsewhere.
At 1871, we say two things:
(1) Building a new business isn’t just about making money; it’s also about that business making a difference in people’s lives – something that Mike has been doing here in Chicago for decades; and
(2) Growing the new economy isn’t simply about people making a living; it’s about people making a life – and that means far more than just addressing questions about where and how you work.
We need to continue (as New City does) to re-envision and rebuild our communities so that they’re places where everyone aspires to work, live, and raise their families – and, make no mistake about it, this is one of Chicago’s most critical competitive advantages – it’s simply the best place in the country for day-to-day living – and it just keeps getting better. But we also need to do a better job of getting that fact and the word about our city out to the rest of the world so it won’t remain our little secret – even if sometimes our Mayor would like to keep it that way for competitive reasons. Today, for the next generation of young consumers and workers, experiences are the new luxury goods and there’s no richer or fuller experience or better place to start your business and your family than Chicago.
When I first met Mike, I was surprised that - for a guy who gets so many things done and who’s got his fingers in so many pies – he doesn’t sweat much. He’s actually frighteningly calm and almost serene at times. Like the Dude, he abides. Now I will grant you that Dan Lukas may see other sides of the man (and he may be different at home as all entrepreneurs are) and I’ll even admit that I probably gave him a few heart-stopping moments over the years, but in the end he never flinched, he never bailed, and he was always the “go-to” guy and the one who you could count on in a pinch and when the going got tough. I’ll be forever grateful for his support, wisdom and friendship.
The real estate business has changed in many ways since 2002 when Roosevelt and some far-sighted donors and patrons opened the Institute in recognition of the growing importance and size of the real estate industry and the need for further educational programming. And I’m here to tell you tonight that the industry changes will keep coming and coming at an ever-faster rate. We call this kind of change – autocatalytic. Each new change accelerates the speed and frequency of the changes that follow it. It’s an avalanche of disruptive change and the one thing that we know for sure is that standing still is the only approach that will never work.
That’s why at 1871 we’ve opened our Elmspring real estate incubator with substantial support and resources from DTZ as the lead sponsor. We already have half a dozen startups in place and we are also working with other leading firms like JLL and CBRE to expand the reach of our activities because, while we’re the biggest incubator in the world right now, our goal is always the same – it’s to keep raising the bar so that we can continue to be the best. No one long remembers who was first; they only care about who is best. And that’s why – as well – Mike and his family are creating a new Drew Family Fund to help grow and expand upon all of the exciting and game-changing programs already underway here at Roosevelt. I think that’s worth its own round of applause.
At 1871, we believe that while the real estate industry will always be based on relationships and ultimately always be a people-based business; those people are going to need to be trained in new ways because the impact of data-driven decision-making; technology-based marketing; constant mobility and connectivity of both our workforce and our clients; and expansive use of social media will change every traditional way in which deals used to get done. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s inevitable for every industry and each business needs to decide whether to ride the new wave of technology into the future or be swept under by it and left behind.
And whether they come from Roosevelt or 1871, whether they’re book-smart or street-smart or both, you’re all going to need a new type of digital professional – native to this changing world – and proficient in the skill sets that will be required to succeed. Solid, dedicated, and well-trained people aren’t easy to find and they’re not cheap. But if you think that education is expensive; you should try ignorance sometime.
The future is here – fast upon us. Our job is to embrace it. And we need strong leaders, great dreamers and visionaries, and passionate people like Mike to take us there. He and I have both been at this for a long, long time and I don’t see any signs that a slowdown is in sight.
But, in this life, it’s not really about how long you hang around or how many breaths you take; it’s about the moments you create that take your breath away. Tonight’s one of those special moments and I’m proud to be a small part of it.
Thanks, Mike and God Bless.