May 21, 2012

The message is clear and consistent: in order for Chicago and the broader Midwest to thrive, technology must play a central role in the region's economy.

This call to action extends well beyond investing in the necessary infrastructure (although that is an important element of success). Rather, economists, business leaders and politicians alike are making a very strong case that investment in technology-focused education, individual entrepreneurs and startup companies will help tip the economic scales in Chicago's favor. We must create a business ecosystem that supports local technology startups along the lines of Groupon, GrubHub and 37signals.

Even established hometown successes―individuals who built their pre-Internet fortunes and successful businesses without heading to one of the coasts―are backing this technology push. For example, venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker is one of a number of backers (along with Comcast Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and the State of Illinois, among others) behind the creation of 1871, the new 50,000-square-foot space for technology entrepreneurs at the Merchandise Mart. Inspired by the transformation of the city that began after the fire of 1871, the space is operated by the nonprofit Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, another engine for growth in the area.

Much Shelist is committed to helping Chicago and the surrounding area create this technology startup ecosystem. Our Private Equity & Venture Capital and group is already helping business owners and investors make the most of the new digital economy. We are a sponsor of the Founder Institute, a global network of startups and mentors that helps entrepreneurs launch meaningful and enduring technology companies. We are also proud of our support of Year Up, a program that closes the opportunity divide for motivated urban young adults.

I encourage business leaders from every industry to get involved in the new Chicago economy. The region already has the workforce, the brainpower and the will. Now we need a greater commitment and investment in this exciting transformation.

This article contains material of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Under applicable rules of professional conduct, this content may be regarded as attorney advertising.