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Nokia to move 150 jobs from Itasca to Chicago office

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Ogi Redzic vice president NokiLocati  Commerce Traffic Noki425 W. Randolph Tuesday October 23 2012.  I

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ogi Redzic, vice president of Nokia Location & Commerce, Traffic at Nokia, 425 W. Randolph, Tuesday, October 23, 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 25, 2012 11:37AM

Chalk up another incremental victory in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s drive to portray Chicago as the “digital capital of the Midwest.”

Nokia is relocating its Mobile Phones Xpress Internet Services group from suburban Itasca to Chicago, bringing 150 jobs along with it.

Chicago is already home to Nokia’s largest office in North America with 1,200 employees and plans to hire 100 more “highly skilled” technology employees — including software developers and system architects — to work in location and commerce, which includes the navigation industry.

Now, those new and old employees will be joined by the 150 Itasca workers, bringing Nokia’s Chicago workforce to 1,500 people occupying more than 350,000 square feet of leased office space at 425 W. Randolph.

The move from Itasca to Chicago was not tied to any tax-increment-financing (TIF) subsidies or other financial incentives.

At a news conference at Nokia’s West Loop headquarters, Ogi Redzic, vice president of Nokia Location & Commerce, Traffic, noted that Nokia’s Chicago work force was 800 in 2008, when it acquired Navteq, a Chicago technology company billed as the world leader in supplying digital map information for automobile navigation systems.

“Now, we’re gonna have almost 1,500. So, commitment to growth of technology jobs in Chicago is here. . . . This indeed is becoming the strong technology center for all of the Midwest,” he said.

“Here in Chicago, we stand for traffic. We stand for maps. We stand for dynamic content. We stand for static content. We have our services in 100 countries in the world. We have our map in 190 countries. We have our real-time traffic service in 30 countries. We are very committed to Chicago as a development center. Our Nokia location and commerce group has three key sites in the world. This is one of those three key sites. As a matter of fact, it’s the biggest site.”

Earlier this year, Emanuel was riding high from the jobs coup that was supposed to bring 3,000 Motorola Mobility employees from Libertyville to Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

Google’s decision to cut 4,000 jobs worldwide from its wireless phone business — 750 of them at Motorola Mobility in Libertyville — was a political blow that undercut the mayor’s efforts to portray Chicago as a burgeoning technology center.

Tuesday’s announcement helped the mayor reclaim that argument.

Based in Finland, Nokia is a multi-national communications and information technology giant and the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phones.

“IIT, Northwestern, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin, DePaul. It is the ability to find talent here in the city of Chicago that was the convincing case that it was the right move to come to Chicago and expand their operations here,” Emanuel told reporters.

“Chicago is becoming a wireless capital of the country and a digital crossroads of the continent. And it’s not an accident. It’s more than just a coincidence that Chicago leads in transportation, distribution and logistics. It was a railroad center. It’s an aviation center. And when it comes to traffic and also location on the mobile device, it is now becoming a centerpoint for that type of research and technology.”

The mayor played down the transfer of jobs from Itasca to Chicago. He argued that Nokia was actually considering leaving the state and that it was his “persistence” to Nokia’s CEO during an Aug. 1 meeting that convinced the company to choose Chicago instead of picking up stakes and leaving Illinois.

Three weeks ago, Emanuel and a group of Chicago’s technology whiz kids travelled to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pitch aspiring computer science and engineering students to bypass the Silicon Valley and, instead, start their careers in Chicago.

Wearing a tie with the Fighting Illini’s blue and orange colors, Emanuel was joined onstage by Groupon co-founder and venture capitalist Brad Keywell, GrubHub co-founder Mike Evans and BrightTag co-founder Eric Lunt.

Each made the case that Chicago is a fertile place for technology startups with: venture capital to get them off the ground; a pulsating night life; a knowledgeable work force, and an energetic mayor who has made technology a cornerstone of his job-growth agenda.

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