Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced at a press conference on Wednesday that 1871, a new downtown Chicago hub for tech startups will open its doors on May 2nd. The new Smart Work Center (SWC), supported by Cisco and partners CDW, Comcast and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, is being designed to promote entrepreneurship, collaboration and greater technology innovation throughout the city.
According to Gov. Quinn, more than 120 digital start-ups were launched in Chicago last year – a 50% increase year-over-year. For many of these companies, the ability to afford technologically-equipped office space is impossible. With 1871, a 50,000 square foot open floor plan in the Chicago Merchandise Mart that is being completely outfitted with a Cisco infrastructure and other solutions, like Cisco Unified Communications and TelePresence, Chicago-based digital start-ups will now have flexible work space options. They will be will be able to rent desks on a month-to-month basis and will have the unique ability to engage a broad workgroup of other entrepreneurs, spawning a new paradigm for how work gets done and how innovation happens.
Since 2008, Cisco has launched successful SWC programs in countries as diverse as the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Korea, and is working to develop a framework that can be replicated by other cities around the world. Today there are more than 100 smart work centers in the Netherlands, and South Korea has publicly stated its commitment to deploying 450 smart work centers by 2015 as part of the National Smart Work Strategy announced by the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in July 2010. These projects are transforming urban life, and making it possible to design and manage cities in radically different ways.
According to the Kaufmann Foundation, young firms (defined as one to five years old) account for roughly two-thirds of job creation in the U.S. Through projects like 1871, Cisco and its partners are fostering innovation and nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs that will help drive greater economic growth.
1871 was the year Chicago re-built itself after the great fire, becoming the inspirational city it remains today. The new downtown Smart Work Center (1871) is aptly named, as it will bring a renewed spirit of innovation to the city and far beyond.