NorthBridge Blog

Pat Dugan

Innovation is essential to growth in any space, but it’s become a cornerstone of the American economy with the loss of industrial and manufacturing strength. Coming to Chicago from May 2 to June 1 is the UChicago Innovation Fest 2017, which is all about spurring exactly the kind of innovation we need to keep moving forward.

UChicago Innovation Fest Logo

The University community and the public will come together to listen, consider and speculate about ventures and science that will lead our communities in years to come in areas of technology, science and the arts.

Much like the old-timey “World’s Fairs” where inventions and ideas were display to remind us all of our human capacity as creators, the Innovation Fest will host workshops, discussions and competitions.
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Pat DuganGrowing a city and state’s global recognition and allure takes a lot of things. Having a smart, educated population is paramount among them, and so is creating educational diversity. Business and commerce innovations at the local level are often driven by thinkers and innovators from all over the world, bound by curiosity and ambition. As a country, we’ve historically fed our higher education systems with a strong number of international students.
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Pat DuganFrankly, there can never be enough support given to our military veterans as they adjust to civilian life, try to launch careers, and are otherwise rewarded with the same kind of opportunities so many of the rest of us take for granted.

That’s why this program, Code Platoon, needs to be recognized for the good work it’s doing on behalf of those vets in the Chicagoland area.

Intended exclusively for vets, the program is an accelerated curriculum that teaches the basics of the Ruby full-stack programming language over the course of 20 weeks of combined remote and in-person training. As a code “boot camp,” it immerses students who have very little or no tech background in both instruction and actual programming, and also supplies them with job counseling, interview prep and employer matching.

technology-1283624_640It’s a necessarily initiative, because post-9/11 veterans find it harder than other jobseekers to land full-time work.
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Pat DuganWe love working in downtown Chicago. So do a lot of our clients. So do a lot of our candidates. Unlike a lot of other urban cores, Chicago has a vibrancy, character and sense of life that’s missing in so many other city centers.

McDonalds HQ

Rendering of new McDonald's HQ

The fact that people want to live and work here, and be part of a scene you just don’t find in many other large American cities, has been a point of difference for this town for over 20 or 30 years.

Long before other cities caught on to the benefits of having affluent professionals and white-collar types staying within the city limits, raising families and building a better overall community, Chicago was already swinging it.


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Photo source: CNN

Photo source: CNN

That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? After 108 years of what felt like futility, the North Siders finally beat the jinx, the curse, the voodoo that had held them back from bringing home a World Series crown.
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cubs-sox-logos-together-thumb-500x304-1361011Pat DuganThere’s a lot that unites us, one and all, as Chicagoans. Beyond the Red Line or our definition of pizza.

So as the Cubs look like a team of destiny — an uplifting destiny, not one that’s shaped by terms like “Bartman” or “goat” — wouldn’t it be good if we could come together, Northsiders and Southsiders alike, to celebrate their success?
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Pat DuganWe recently wrote about a youth jobs program that’s desperately needed in Chicago, and soon after that the Tribune brought more heat to the topic with this extensive feature story about the challenges of bringing jobs to our city’s young people — and the consequences of failure.

You can wrap those up in one simple quote from the story:

“The two trends are tragically intertwined, where youth unemployment contributes to the incidence of violence, and violence in our communities contributes to many barriers to employment, both because of the violence itself and because of the criminal justice system’s response to that violence,” said Matt Bruce, executive director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance.
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Pat DuganThis summer, 30,000 young people in Chicago got the opportunity to work and learn new skills, thanks to the One Summer Chicago program. We’d say that’s a win-win for everybody.

Major Emanuel, who’s probably happy to have some good news to share this year, announced the program’s success at a One Summer Chicago press event last week:

“The summer months are when our youth need us the most, which is why we now have the largest summer jobs program in Chicago’s history with opportunities for youth from every neighborhood.”

It’s the kind of program that shows off how municipal and private partners can come together to make good things happen, and give these youngsters the promise of outcomes that can better their lives.
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pat_smallElon Musk and his various innovative, future-forging business operations are all over the news, and a group of University of Illinois engineering students are in the thick of it!

Just the week before last, Musk’s SpaceX, which designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, put out an open call for entries from colleges, universities, and independent engineering teams to design and build human-sized pods for his proposed Hyperloop transportation system, which would revolutionize rapid transit between cities. The winning entries from among those designs would potentially be tested on an experimental Hyperloop track at SpaceX’s California HQ in June of 2016.

hyperloop photo-400x300Not one but two Illinois student engineering groups were already out in front of this, designing miniature Hyperloop systems as class projects. Now, those teams will pool their efforts to develop a submission for the SpaceX competition.
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pat_smallHere’s a surprising run of statistics that, for some people, show Chicago in an unexpected light: according to a recent report compiled by commercial real estate firm CBRE, Chicago was one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. when it came to generating tech jobs as the country emerged from the recession.

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of tech jobs here rose an impressive 25.8 percent. That’s significant not just because they’re good jobs in a region that’s been written off by doomsayers as being inescapably trapped in its “Rust Belt” heritage, but because that rate of growth actually put Chicago in the top three cities in America – actually ahead of New York, L.A. and Atlanta.  Chicago has 133,170 jobs in tech fields, according to CBRE, or about 3.5 percent of all jobs.
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Pat DuganChicago’s own Tom Skilling, meteorologist supreme, called the snowstorm this weekend the “Super Bowl Blizzard,” and it was a serious blast of wintry weather…unlike the “Snowmageddon” the New York media was making so much noise about last week. Hey, East Coast, here’s how we do it in the Midwest!

It’s officially the fifth-largest blizzard to hit Chicago, dumping nineteen inches of snow in its passing. Today, we’re already digging out and moving on, without nearly as much press and distress as if it had happened in, say, Manhattan.  The commute got rough and it was no cakewalk, by any means, but a storm that would have paralyzed other cities for days is something we just deal with, and move on.

Screen-Shot-2015-02-01-at-9.25.02-AMWinter snowstorms are bound up with the history of Chicago, of course. A mayor’s ability to mobilize resources to cope with what nature deposits on our streets and expressways is one of the ways by which we measure their competence, most famously costing Michael Bilandic the job after the great Blizzard of 1979.
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Jan
05.

pat_smallIt’s all about the jobs, of course, as the candidates to follow Mayor Daley all trot out their various ideas on how to generate jobs and growth for the city and region.

Rather than be cynical about their podium-pounding (let’s not forget how our town got the name, “Windy City”), let’s just hope they’re able to maintain the balance we’ve seen in recent times — with business-friendly policies, strong investments in municipal improvements, and real efforts to attract and retain corporate citizens who do good for the community and the economy.


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