More than 20 Chicago-based technology companies joined with Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday to announce their commitment to create 2,000 high-tech jobs by 2015.
In addition to the new jobs, Emanuel said he wants the city to offer high-speed bandwidth. This announcement came the same day as free Wi-Fi access became available in Millennium Park.
“Chicago is now putting its footprints down in the digital technology economy,” Emanuel said. “This is a unique opportunity for our city.”
The mayor also said Internet companies do not need to locate in California’s Silicon Valley or the East Coast to find workers and funding. They now have the option of building their new businesses in Chicago, he said.
At a rooftop press conference hosted by GrubHub, a digital food delivery company, Emanuel said there are more than 500 employees in the tech startup sector in River North, which he referred to as the “digital alley,” spanning from the Groupon Headquarters, 600 W. Chicago Ave., to the Merchandise Mart.
Companies included in this commitment provide services ranging from healthcare to digital learning to self-diagnosis medical applications. Another firm offers assistance with job applications and resumes using mobile apps.
Many of the digital startups in Chicago are reaching consumers worldwide, including Sprout Social and BenchPrep, whose CEOs attended the event. “Virtually every aspect of life will be changed by technology, and Chicago is leading the way,” said Matt Moog, co-founder of Built in Chicago.
An Internet start-up online community, Built in Chicago provides resources and information for the digital entrepreneur. “The digital economy of our world is creating massive social changes,” Moog said.
GrubHub executives hosted the event in their new headquarters in the Burnham Building, 111 W. Washington St., which the company moved into two weeks ago from their original location on the North Side. The Chicago startup plans to create 250 jobs by 2015, said a spokesman. “True entrepreneurship is embodied in what we do at GrubHub,” said Matt Maloney, CEO.
David Ormesher, founder of Closer Look, a pharmaceutical marketing strategy company, said it will create 75 to 100 jobs by 2015. Ormesher explained how the new migraine tracker application was just one of many advancements on the digital front for pharmaceuticals and their patients.
“One of the most popular advancements today is health care,” Omesher said. “Doctors are beginning to prescribe apps.”
Other companies represented included BenchPrep, a test and course prep company, which launched its interactive application in July 2011 to be used worldwide and has grown to 30 employees. The company will create 300 new jobs by 2013, said Ujjwal Gupta, a co-founder. “Our product is very adaptive, social and can work on any device,” he said.
Emanuel said he hopes that Chicago will be a place where the digital economy will grow and influence the next generation. With the teachers’ strike behind him and a new contract settled, he said he hopes students will have opportunities in the digital economy of Chicago.
“Our school system we have now will support this as we grow into the 21st century.” Emanuel said.
There are also plans to make the free Wi-Fi accessible to lower-income neighborhoods and increase Internet speeds in schools and libraries.
“Our kids are no longer going to be dead last in the country,” Emanuel said. “I want any student in the city of Chicago to apply for one of these 2,000 jobs.”