Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a handful of executives from Chicago tech companies gathered on Monday to celebrate Chicago Tech Day 2019 and recent job growth in the city's tech sector.
The day is intended as a testament to Chicago's strong tech business scene. Several Chicago leaders took the stage to acknowledge recent accomplishments and pledge to help underserved communities through the creation of new tech jobs.
Chicago-based software company Relativity hosted the gathering. The company's CEO Mike Gamson took the stage first to announce Relativity's new 2020 fellowship program. Through this program, Relativity will offer fellowships to people from underserved communities. Similar to an apprenticeship program, participants will be paid and trained to work in tech, and then given a job at Relativity or a partner company afterwards.
“For tech leaders it's important that we reach into the communities where opportunities often don't come. In Chicago that might be on the South and West sides, or in your own neighborhood,” Gamson said at the event. “We need to take responsibility for recognizing that talent is often distributed evenly, but opportunity is not.”
Relativity hired its 1,000th employee earlier this year. Gamson also added that Relativity is on track to hire 400 additional employees by the end of 2020.
Next onstage was Andrea Zopp, President and CEO of World Business Chicago, who highlighted other achievements. This includes the fact that Chicago has the world's number one private business incubator and that the city has the highest concentration of female-led startups. Zopp also announced that Chicago tech companies estimate over 2,000 tech jobs have been created and will continue to be created in the years 2019 and 2020.
Finally, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took the stage and pledged to make sure the successes of Chicago tech reach the city's most underserved neighborhoods.
“As Mayor, my vision for Chicago is one where we use an equity lens to bring strategic investments to communities with the greatest need,” Lightfoot said. “Together as partners, we can be a city that ensures residents in every community have the tools, resources and skills they need to be part of Chicago's rapidly growing tech ecosystem.”
Lightfoot sent a message to Chicago's tech leaders saying that they are vital to Chicago's future. She also said she would work to ensure that there is a pipeline of talented tech workers to these companies, and make sure there is equal socioeconomic representation for those workers.
Lightfoot gave a shout out to Chicago-based cybersecurity firm Evanston Technology Partners, which recently opened up an office in Bronzeville. The company has 40 jobs in the neighborhood, and is adding another 90 next year.
“This is the Chicago we need to build and know is possible,” said Lightfoot.