By Ally Marotti
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As commerce secretary, Pritzker led technology policy initiatives for the Obama administration, and she said she saw how other cities are incorporating technology and entrepreneurship into their economies. She wants to do the same for Chicago.
Penny Pritzker, the former U.S. commerce secretary and a billionaire heir of the Hyatt Hotel fortune, is rolling out an initiative aimed at boosting Chicago’s standing among the world’s tech cities.
The Chicago area has some real assets when it comes to the technology industry, such as universities that churn out research and engineering talent, Pritzker said. But obstacles remain in the city’s effort to become a leading tech center.
One major problem is convincing those newly minted programmers and other tech workers to stay in the area instead of leaving for jobs in Silicon Valley, New York or Boston, which often rank ahead of Chicago on lists of the best places for tech employment.
In Chicago’s diverse economy, leaders from a variety of industries and universities must also help fix those problems, she said.
“As a business environment, if you aren’t either a technology company or becoming a technology company, you’re going to struggle to compete,” said Pritzker, who is leading the initiative with Chicago entrepreneur Chris Gladwin.
While no money has been pledged to the effort, more than 120 business, civic and university leaders have volunteered to join the initiative, called P33, she said. The “p” is for people, planning and preparedness.
The “33” nods to Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair and 2033, in an effort to look 15 years into Chicago’s future. The initiative plans to create a blueprint for addressing the problems holding Chicago’s tech sector back, Pritzker said.
Besides figuring out ways to keep tech talent from leaving, she said, the initiative will look into better capitalizing on research and development taking place at Chicago’s universities and evaluate how local startups are funded, among other efforts.