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Mayor wants to double number of city’s tech workers in next decade

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Updated: December 6, 2013 6:19AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told tech leaders and entrepreneurs at the 1871 tech hub Monday that he aims to double the number of tech jobs in Chicago in the next decade.

Chicago currently counts more than 40,000 tech workers — a growth of one-third from the 30,000 when Emanuel took office.

The news comes amid tech leaders’ struggles to hire enough software engineers, developers and others with expertise.

“There is a war on talent in Chicago because there aren’t enough good developers and engineers to go around,” said Frank Muscarello, chief executive officer of MarkITx, an online exchange for buyers and sellers of IT hardware.

MarkITx has started hiring tech talent from financial exchanges and high-frequency trading firms in and around Chicago to obtain enough qualified employees, Muscarello said in an interview with the Sun-Times before the news conference.

Separately, Emanuel said he has invited venture capital companies to a summit in Chicago two days before Lollapalooza.

“We are going to bring the money here and give (the venture capitalists) a first-hand look at the startups here,” Emanuel said. “They may find investment opportunities they might not otherwise know existed.”

Emanuel will expand his student-recruiting efforts to bring newly graduated tech workers to Chicago by visiting four universities this year in addition to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he visited last year. Neither Emanuel nor his staff named the four universities.

Also at the press conference, Purdue University unveiled a new MBA degree starting in 2015 in Chicago aimed at entrepreneurs and science and technology workers who want to gain business skills. Purdue is seeking to set up the class near the intersection of Jackson and Morgan in the West Loop, a mayor’s spokesman said.

The 16-month MBA class will meet every other weekend, with students using interactive classroom learning and interactive technologies that allow for some online course work. The MBA curriculum will include teams of teachers from a variety of disciplines and students doing out-of-class activities with a science, technology, engineering or mathematics-based company in the Chicago area or one that has a connection with Purdue’s Discovery and Research Parks.

Christopher Earley, dean of Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, said the MBA program is needed because today’s technology graduates need to know how to be global business leaders, to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world problems and to communicate their employers’ and companies’ strengths to investors.

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