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65 firms moving into Mart’s tech center

Updated: June 4, 2012 11:38AM

The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center opened its incubator for startup technology companies Wednesday and said 65 of them are scheduled to move in.

It said the space — 50,000 square feet on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart — has a capacity of about 100 firms. The center has applications from more than 400 startups to get into the space, known as 1871.

“While it’s great for a startup to be accepted into 1871, the real payoff comes when entrepreneurs grow their companies to the size where they need to move out,” said Kevin Willer, chief executive of the center. “We expect that 1871 will launch a ton of successful businesses in the months and years ahead.”

The center said the 65 charter users of the space have 140 workers.

The name conjures the building and innovation that started after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Gov. Pat Quinn is backing the incubator with a $2.3 million state grant, arguing that it will create jobs.

Others with offices at 1871 include Chicago-area universities and investment groups. The I2A Fund, Hyde Park Angels, New World Ventures and Sandbox Industries are among the investors with offices there.

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