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J.B. Pritzker to lead council charged with bringing tech jobs to Chicago

Updated: November 17, 2012 6:23AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce Tuesday a council led by Chicago tech economy supporter J.B. Pritzker to create jobs and boost investment in digital technology, along with two areas often overlooked in the city’s startup mania — life sciences and clean technology.

Pritzker’s co-chairs on the ChicagoNEXT committee are Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky, Paragon Pharmaceuticals CEO and entrepreneur Jeff Aronin and Incisent Technologies co-founder and CEO Pat Ryan Jr.

The effort is led by World Business Chicago, which oversees the mayor’s economic development plan.

The committee will work to do what Emanuel has listed as his priorities: create high-paying jobs in Chicago, attract outside venture capital, create a friendly entrepreneurial environment and convince university students to pursue their startup dreams here, said Pritzker, managing partner of The Pritzker Group.

It will seek to create shared working space partnerships, exchange programs for entrepreneurs and investments from technology talent and venture capital firms.

Pritzker said Chicago has made huge strides in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, but it could be better. The city needs more engineers and software developers to support its growing digital economy, he said.

Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva said in a separate interview that the city wants more venture capitalists to open offices here. The city also wants to leverage its access to suburban companies like Abbott, Baxter and Takeda Pharmaceuticals to bring in new jobs.

And if any Illinois graduates like Netscape creator Marc Andreessen or YouTube co-founder Steve Chen who’ve fled to Silicon Valley want to invest here, that would be great, too, he said.

“If anyone has a soft spot in their hearts for us, we’ll go after them.”

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