Chicago Mayor Touts Public-Private Partnerships for Tech

Facing criticism that he hasn't paid enough attention to the working class, Mayor Rahm Emanuel explains the moves he has made to turn Chicago into a more enticing destination for technology firms.

John Byrne, Chicago Tribune / May 20, 2015

(TNS) -- On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked off his second term on the Chicago Theatre stage with an inauguration address that focused on the importance of saving at-risk young people in the city's poorest neighborhoods from becoming a "lost generation" that slides into crime and poverty.

Less than 24 hours later, the mayor was back in the same spot, this time pitching a corporate networking conference on the moves he said he has made to turn Chicago into a more enticing destination for technology firms and entrepreneurs and the well-educated young workers they covet.

The back-to-back speeches highlight the difficulty the mayor faces as he tries to improve the city's economy while responding to criticism that he hasn't paid enough attention to the problems faced by the city's working class and poor residents. For Emanuel, the challenge is to make progress on both fronts.

The mayor's Tuesday morning remarks to the Iconic Tour event at the Chicago Theatre hit on familiar themes from his first four years in office, talking points that helped Emanuel draw the ire of progressive groups and unions that dubbed him Mayor 1% for what they said was his concentration on business concerns and the city's wealthier neighborhoods.

"When it comes to technology, when it comes to what's happening in that space, to the digital economy, it's not about government or the private sector, but it's about creating a public-private partnership, and each of us know our respective roles," the mayor said in his remarks. "I think it's essential, the role I play, in securing major federal research for the city of Chicago, creating it through our universities, where you are going to have the next generation of ideas, innovations and enterprises to be created. But then creating a context where the talent wants to come, the (venture capitalists) want to be here, and also the type of investments that we are doing as a city that create the opportunity for entrepreneurs to take an idea to the next level."

His brief speech came a day after Emanuel tried to reframe the conversation about his priorities by taking the unorthodox step of using his inaugural address almost exclusively to talk about "the faces of these lost and unconnected young men and women," who he said are "often invisible until we see them in a mug shot, as a victim or the perpetrator of senseless violence."

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