Quite frankly, that can be an eliminating factor. It could literally cost them a $30 million project and a couple hundred jobs."

Zimmer said smaller communities should consider joining forces to hire a seasoned technology professional to oversee IT planning on a regional basis. "I don't think most communities have quite figured out how important this is going to be moving forward," he said. "It sets them apart from the competition."

Silicon Prairie?

Commitment to technology appears to be helping Chicago stand apart from the crowd. A recent University of Minnesota study claims Chicago is home to more high-tech jobs than any other city in the nation.

Public policy professors at the school found nearly 350,000 technology-centered jobs spread across pharmaceutical, medical instrument, engineering and services industries located in Chicago. That's more than IT employment hotbeds such as San Jose, Seattle, New York or Boston.

City officials add that luring Boeing - perhaps the nation's premier manufacturer - to Chicago only whets their appetite for more Fortune 500 companies. And as the city works to attract those high-tech employers, its CIO expects to occupy a prominent place at the negotiating table.

"I think executives in government are trying to put their CIOs more in front of this issue and use them as an indicator of how much the city 'gets it' in terms of technology," said O'Brien. "The mayor needs to be able to show people how his vision is being turned into reality."

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology,Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market.