Friday, May 04, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Chicago ~ by Kelly Markham

* Illinois Showcases Technology
I managed to hit a couple of high-profile events this month. On April 11, the City of Chicago hosted a reception to introduce the 2001 Illinois Technology Showcase, an event sponsored by the Illinois Coalition, World Business Chicago and the Mayor's Council of Technology Advisors.

Don Sader, director of Imark Communications and moderator, discussed the details of last year's event and the valuable connections that were made. "The Illinois Technology Showcase has created a forum for corporate, government, academic and community organizations to exchange information," said Sader. The 2000 Illinois Technology Showcase took place at Navy Pier and attracted 210 exhibitors and 3000 attendees. This year it is moving to the McCormick Place and is expected to gross double that.

A few of the memorable speakers were: Pam McDonough, director, Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, State of Illinois; and Chris O'Brien, CIO, City of Chicago. McDonough briefly discussed digital infrastructure, technology grants, venture initiatives and the upcoming marketing campaign. The four-year, $20 million marketing campaign will launch in spring 2001. "We have great potential for new innovation, and Illinois remains a best kept secret," said McDonough. O'Brien brought the CIO viewpoint to the table and discussed the importance of being able to see, touch and use potential technologies. "I was able to walk the floor with Mayor Daley and show him a few of the emerging trends," said O'Connor.

After a visual presentation, attendees exited to the adjacent ballroom for hors o'deourves and drinks. This was a great opportunity to network with political technologists - and that's just what I did.

* Leaders Foresee the Future
On April 25, a crowd of 450 gathered at the Standard Club to listen to Chicago's New Economy leaders discuss the future of technology at the Illinois Annual Technology Conference. Dave Greising, business columnist for the Chicago Tribune, led the discussions among 11 panelists, who shared their expertise and insight on the region's technology future within such diverse industries as academia, economics, finance, healthcare and e-commerce. The most vocal panelists were Tim Krauskopf of Motorola, Jim McKeighan of Lante and Keith Bank of KB Partners.

The crowd learned that Chicago's greatest strength is the size of its industrial sector, which utilizes technology. They also heard that the next big trend for the Midwest is wireless and optical networking. Chicago needs to encourage innovation from high-tech engineers and to focus on tech transfer and talent retention.

This event was a success and gave the local technology community a well-needed boost in morale. Most of the panelists denied that a recession is emerging and said they remain optimistic about the future of the New Economy.