Something exciting is happening in the city by the lake. The Mayor, Government Officials, enterprises, developers and residents are banding together to propel Chicago to the forefront of the global economy – to reclaim its position as a beacon for talent, the choice for commerce, and the premiere city where people go to work, live, learn and play. Last week, I took part in a series of activities to usher in a new era of prosperity for this great city as Mayor Rahm Emanuel rolled out his Master Plan for economic growth. Education, job creation, revitalization and technology – are at the heart of this transformational plan.
Preparing the next-generation of technology innovators is critical to an economy that relies increasingly on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). I joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a press conference to unveil a new STEM program with a very unique approach. In five schools around the city, students will acquire critical ICT skills seamlessly in a learning environment that integrates high school, college and the workplace. The curriculum is developed jointly by the schools, principals, teachers and corporate sponsor companies, of which Cisco is one. Bottom line: the students learn relevant, real-world skills in high school, emerge with an Associate’s Degree, and have first choice at interviewing for jobs with companies around the city – all without incurring a student loan debt. This is truly out of the box thinking. But this is just the first step. At Cisco, we are also looking at the delivery model and how technology can improve the experience – make learning fun again. Can we do this virtually? Is there a collaborative way of doing this? Can we learn from schools around the world? What if you made a correlation between the student’s favorite sport – using technology to measure the body’s algorithms and then used that to teach the math courses? We’ve already introduced a STEM program in the United Kingdom that applies this approach to learning, and it’s working!
At the same time the Mayor was introducing his Master Plan for Economic Growth, Cisco and McCaffery Interests were introducing the development of a master ICT plan as part of the urban master plan for the Chicago Lakeside development on the 600-acre site of the former U.S. Steel South Works. The South Side of Chicago has had it rough over the past few decades. Economic downturns have left the region vulnerable to a host of economic and social issues. In 1992, after decades of downsizing effected by the decline of the Steel industry, U.S. Steel closed its doors for good, leaving tens of thousands of residents without work. The once thriving South Side spiraled into economic decay, a trend that we now aim to reverse by incorporating technology into the master plan for an ambitious new development on the lakefront and the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Cisco and McCaffery Interests held a press conference to announce we are partnering to designing a sustainable community on this greenfield site. This mixed-use community will not only create thousands of jobs during development, it will create new revenue streams through the development and delivery of services to residents in and around the area. We’re also embarking on a journey to revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods to ensure inclusive growth to boost the economy and connect the communities.
A lot of great work in revitalization is already being driven by LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), community leaders and organizations throughout Chicago. I had the privilege of chairing the 18th annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards – where Mayor Emanuel also gave a keynote. The theme – building a 21st Century City – could not be more appropriate. Chicago has begun its transformation to a 21st Century City. Driving growth, creating jobs, giving the city’s youth an opportunity for education and a healthy career, by weaving technology into the social and economic fabric of the City of Chicago, its Metro area and the State of Illinois are going to be the key to its success.