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As Motorola Mobility moves, Rahm touts Chicago as tech hub

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to the media after visiting some technology companies in the 300 W. Adams building on Wednesday, August 8, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times


Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday showcased three fast-growing technology companies in the West Loop, still riding high from the jobs coup that will bring 3,000 Motorola Mobility employees from Libertyville to Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

The mayor took a tour of three companies located in the same building at 300 West Adams that plan to hire as many as 200 new employees over the next 18 months.

Vibes Media is a mobile marketing and technology company. Ifbyphone bills itself as the leading voice-based marketing automation platform that helps companies manage phone calls coming in for sales and service as well as those generated by their websites.

Emmi Solutions was described as a health care pioneer, using new media to deliver information to patients so they can act on that information and, thereby, reduce costs incurred by health care providers.

"Right now, within a mile of the Merchandise Mart, there are 5,000 employees in the digital, new economy. That didn't exist before. There are 71 start-ups and digital companies, all within a mile of the Merchandise Mart. It's becoming a new focal point for this new economy that's adding to the depth and breadth of the city," Emanuel said.

"New York is led by its financial industry. L.A. is led by its entertainment [industry]. Chicago's strength is the diversity of its economy and one of the pieces of that diversity, the depth of its diversity, is its technology force....There's a new part to the Chicago economy and it's adding to its strength and depth."

Ifbyphone President Irv Shapiro was positively gushing as he described Chicago as an "all-you-can-eat business buffet." Even Emanuel looked a bit embarrassed.

"You have spectacular transportation. I can get in and out of the suburbs, in and out of the city on multiple trains. I don't remember the last time I had to change flights going from one city to another. How many other cities in the world have that type of transportation?" Shapiro said.

"We have affordable housing for our employees. We have fantastic buildings like this. And we were missing one key ingredient and the key ingredient is what's happening here today. If you folks write about all the technology--all the companies that are growing," there's no stopping Chicago.

Since 2008, Shapiro said Ifbyphone has grown from no employees to 70. Thirty of them were hired in the last year, since the company moved from Skokie to downtown Chicago.

"What the mayor is doing [is] helping us get exposure. So, when a student graduates from Northwestern or IIT, or DePaul or Champaign and they read in the paper that high-tech is happening in Chicago, maybe they'll stay here and that will make it better for all of us," Shapiro said.

Devin Gross, CEO of Emmi Solutions, said his company works with 200 hospitals across the country and expects to double its 80-employee workforce in the coming years. The ten-year-old company is now in its fourth location in the same building, having outgrown its space three times.

"We've designed our spaces to be collaborative. We've designed our spaces to be fun. We've designed our spaces to attract people in Chicago to come work for us. It's areas where they want to be," Gross said.

"What the mayor has done in attracting major companies to come to the city, what the mayor has done in establishing Chicago as a technology hub and what he is doing to establish a workforce for us for the future with the community colleges, with the STEM programs in city high schools--we're really excited to be here in Chicago and grow here in the coming years."


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