Rahm aims to double Chicago tech jobs over next 10 years - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Rahm aims to double Chicago tech jobs over next 10 years

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Purdue University announced Monday it will open a branch of its graduate school of management on the Near West Side, offering a new program aimed at the city's growing high-tech community. Mayor Emanuel hailed the move as a big boost to his jobs strategy, even as our worst-in-the-Midwest unemployment rate continues to push Chicago to the Tipping Point.

Purdue was recently ranked as one of the world's elite engineering and tech schools, not far behind Northwestern and the University of Illinois. Purdue hopes that putting their new tech-oriented MBA program on the Near West Side will attract future high-tech C.E.O.'s from all over North America.

"There are 1,700 companies in the Built in Chicago data base of technology companies," Built in Chicago founder Matt Moog says.

A group of entrepreneurs and those who finance them gathered Tuesday at 1871, the city's first incubator for technology companies, to welcome Purdue University to town. Renowned as an engineering school, Purdue plans to open a graduate management program on the Near West Side, in the heart of what's becoming a restaurant, nightlife and high-tech district. Classes would be every other Friday and Saturday, with graduation after 16 months.

"I think Chicago is ahead of the curve when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation," Purdue Professor Gary Bertoline says.

After watching hundreds of thousands of well-paying manufacturing jobs disappear from blue-collar neighborhoods in the last 40 years, Chicago has recently replaced some of them, though many are now Downtown.

City Hall estimates local tech companies employ more than 30,000 here, a number now growing at 30% a year. One website ranked Chicago #6 nationally as a place to seek a tech job: reporting a few days ago that 4,135 positions were available, with the average wage an eye-popping $82,744 a year. Groupon, Orbitz and Feedburner were among those said to be hiring. "Old economy" retailers Walgreens and Sears reportedly each employ at least a thousand tech workers apiece here.

The mayor said he wants public schools here to do a far better job of preparing Chicago's youngsters for these jobs of the future, emphasizing the mathematical language of computer code.

"We can bring the language of software writing into our public schools, so kids get familiar with that," Rahm said. "I want it to be a language, as much as we talk about taking Spanish, Chinese, German."

Purdue's new MBA program won't be cheap. Dean Christopher Earley told FOX 32's Mike Flannery he expects tuition for the 16-month program will be about $80,000.

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