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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chicago the new Silicon Lakeshore?

By Rick Blumenberg  / @rickblumenberg

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today that Chicago has won the bid for a new digital manufacturing institute. Public and private funds will combine to make it possible and the windy lakeshore city beat out Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other equally high tech bidders. One reason they won was because Chicago exceeded the requirement of equally matching the $70 million in government funds. Private sources from the Chicago area came up with $250 million in matching funds.

Could Chicago become the new Silicon Lakeshore? Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill thinks so. He said, "We had to over-perform to make sure it was not only a good grab, but the best, so the president, the White House and everybody else can look at it with a straight face and say, 'Of course it's Illinois.'"

Some people are calling it the new Silicon Valley, but Chicago’s not a valley! What we’re talking about is the new Silicon Lakeshore—an emphasis like this will impact the entire world of Lake Michigan’s Lakeshore from Wisconsin to Southwest Michigan and radiate out into the offshore areas as well, from Rockford, to Champaign-Urbana, home of the University of Illinois, a major player in the success of the Chicago bid. And who knows, but my guess is we here in Bridgman, the City on the Lake, home of lots of Chicago lovers, may also be involved.

Exciting things are also happening in nearby South Bend, Indiana, where the University of Notre Dame is breaking new ground in the field of Nano Technology. The City of South Bend is their enthusiastic partner. Together they have created Innovation and Ignition Parks in an attempt to combine the educational expertise of the University of Notre Dame and the manufacturing expertise/abilities of South Bend area leaders to make the area a hub for nanotechnology.

“It’s off to a great start,” said Arnold Phifer, External Relations Director for Notre Dame’s Center for Nano Science and Technology.  “It is starting to spin-off companies and move some of the technologies out of the lab into Innovation Park and then ultimately to Ignition Park. Businesses who can’t afford their own labs are coming to South Bend to work at Notre Dame’s facilities.[i]

Our economy has gone through some real struggles lately. Partly because of the economic downturn, but a great part of it is the reality of the manufacturing change from the old style hardware production to the new style Digital and Nano manufacturing. It doesn’t all have to happen on the East and West Coasts. The Midwest’s Third Coast of marvelous Lake Michigan, where those of us who know it, love to live, may well be the new happening place.

As for me I look forward to being a part of the new Silicon Lakeshore if only as an enthusiastic cheerleader.

I’m Rick Blumenberg and that’s My View from Tanner Creek—a small, but delightful tributary of beautiful Lake Michigan.

[i] Quoted by Tony Spehar, “Is Nanotechnology still in South Bend’s Future?” ABC57 News, October 13, 2013

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