Is Chicago the Next Silicon Valley?

The days have passed when Silicon Valley ran the global tech market unchallenged. In the past decade, several technological hubs have sprung across the globe, from New York to Seoul. Among the best of these cities stands Chicago. In recent years, Chicago — a city well known for its manufacturing companies — has seen a significant change to its business climate as digital and tech ventures have found success.

This has helped to propel Chicago as a rising presence in the global tech scene.

According to a survey conducted by the University of Minnesota, the state of Illinois has the sixth-largest high-tech economy in the United States. The Chicago metropolitan area has 347,100 high-tech jobs, making Chicago the go-to city in the nation for those seeking high-tech careers, beating San Francisco, Boston and Seattle.

The growth of internationally known businesses has given Chicago visibility. Groupon, a daily deal coupon website, was founded and is hosted in Chicago. In addition, GrubHubOkCupid, and other renowned startups share their birthplace with the Second City.

Universities in the Chicagoland area also contribute to the city’s tech economy. According to a recent survey conducted by U.S. News College Compass, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign has the fifth-best undergraduate engineering program in the nation. As well, NorthwesternDePaul, and Northern Illinois, along with several other universities, offer comprehensive entrepreneurship programs for students interested in fostering a career as an entrepreneur.

What sets Chicago apart from other technological hubs however may lie in the character of its entrepreneurial community.

We find that Chicago is consistently the most caring, thoughtful and pleasant group of people we work with in any tech market and that attitude will only help foster and grow the community, says UNCUBED co-founder Tarek Pertew.

Entrepreneurs in the city are never at a dearth of resources to find the support they need. With entrepreneurial havens such as 1871, Chicago’s tech community has avenues to come together and work on their projects. Additionally, organizations like Built in Chicago help unite and profile some of the city’s startups and entrepreneurs.

Silicon Valley is home to numerous digital and tech companies in comparison to Chicago. While the lack of tech businesses in the city may be a hindrance for some, there are companies who prefer working in this economic environment.

“The primary reason we are in Chicago is because of the untapped market… we are able to have our niche,” says Patrick O’Rourke, human resources coordinator of SWC, an IT solutions provider located in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Chicago’s presence on the global tech scene increases every year. With a growing array of talent, promising startups, and a strong pool of resources, the city is pushing forward in the right direction. ❒

[Photo of Merchandise Mart by of Tracy Martin. © Blackline Review.]

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