Thursday, March 12, 2015

Can Chicago's Tech Community Carry Rahm Emanuel To Victory?

Can Chicago's Tech Community Carry Rahm Emanuel To Victory?

If there is a campaign success story Chicago’s embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel can point to as an example of how he helped recruit jobs, companies and innovation to the city he wants to run for another four years, it’s technology.
Several executives attending the 2015 Forbes Reinventing America Summit in Chicago credited the Mayor with fostering a climate that has brought thousands of new jobs to the city and fueled a tech boom in the architectural landmark Merchandise Mart once owned by the Kennedy family. It’s a bright spot for Emanuel amid complaints about the Mayor’s handling of dozens of school closures, a 2012 teachers strike, pension reform and a much-talked about in-your-face personality that forced him into next month’s runoff election.
But when it comes to tech jobs, his credits are many. Motorola Mobility has relocated 2,000 jobs from the far north suburbs to the Merchandise Mart and this year online business reviewer Yelp  committed another 100 employees to its offices that already employ 300. And incubators are churning out dozens of new companies.
The digital startup incubator 1871 has grown to 400 companies since its inception in 2012 and it has a new health care incubator neighbor known as Matter which just opened for business and already boasts 70 member companies on the Mart’s spacious 12th floor. Matter’s partners include health giants like drug maker Abbvie (ABBV) and Allscripts Healthcare Solutions (MDRX), a provider of electronic health record systems.
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 24: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets supporters at an election day rally February 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Emanuel was hoping to win re-election tonight but he fell short of the votes needed to avoid a runoff election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
All told, the number of technology jobs has increased by more than one-third, or 12,000, to an estimated 40,000 since Emanuel first took office in 2011. The Chicago Mayor’s office said the job growth puts Chicago in 6th place behind the likes of Austin, New York, Seattle, Boston and the Silicon Valley.
The tech community could be a key voting block for Emanuel, the former northwest side Congressman and former Obama White House chief of staff, who is in a tight race against his progressive challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner who is solidifying support among union workers worried about the future of their pensions and teachers still bitter over a 2012 strike. Polls show a dead heat.
“Rahm has made a very compelling case that what really matters to him and to the city is not simply creating a great environment to make a living,” said Howard Tullman, chief executive of the 1871 incubator.

The Mayor makes 1871 a “must-see” for every “national or foreign dignitary” who comes to the city in his effort to attract more technology jobs to the city, says Tullman, who speaks today on a Forbes Reinventing America Summit panel at Chicago’s J.W. Marriott focused on luring and retaining employees.
“As much as we think all these young technologists only care about coding and devices, the truth is that they are much more focused on experiences, lifestyles and the quality of their work,” Tullman said. “These changes don’t happen in an instant or in a vacuum and as much as we think. I think they relate to Rahm’s directness, his honesty and his ‘get it done’ attitude in a very positive way as  both a leader and a role model.”
Whether Emanuel can get this army of “technologists” to the polls will be known on April 7 when voters make their choice in the runoff election.

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