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Emanuel Touts More Tech Jobs For Chicago

An office building at 300 W. Adams St. is home to three companies -- Vibes Media, Ifbyphone, and Emmi Solutions -- that plan to hire a combined 150 to 200 new employees in the next 18 months. (Credit: CBS)

An office building at 300 W. Adams St. is home to three companies — Vibes Media, Ifbyphone, and Emmi Solutions — that plan to hire a combined 150 to 200 new employees in the next 18 months. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel was touting more new high-tech jobs coming to Chicago, helping create what he calls a “high-tech hub.”

The mayor is seeking to build on Google’s decision to move its Motorola Mobility arm from Libertyville to the Merchandise Mart, where there is already a so-called “incubator” for 100 technology startups.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the mayor made his case for Chicago turning into a “high tech hub” while visiting the offices of three tech firms planning to hire up to 200 new employees in the next 18 months.

Even though Emanuel admitted Chicago will never give Silicon Valley a run for its money in playing home to high-tech companies, the mayor said digital startups no longer have to leave Chicago to survive.

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“Paypal – that was created here – had to go to the coast. Twitter – that was created here in Chicago – had to go to the coast. Now Braintree (a Paypal competitor) stays here and grows here,” Emanuel said.

So can Vibes Media, the mobile marketing firm whose offices the mayor visited today.

Vibes CEO Alex Campbell said, “I started the company with my business partner in our 1-bedroom apartment up in Wrigleyville. We were in there for two years, not eating very much.”

Two other tech firms – Ifbyphone and Emmi Solutions – joined Vibes in announcing plans for new hires in Chicago.

Ifbyphone manages big companies’ phone contacts with their customers. CEO Irv Shapiro said, “We’ve added 30 employees in the last year, since we moved from Skokie to downtown Chicago, because it’s a great place to hire people.”

Emmi developed computer programs to help people take a more active role in managing their health care.

CEO Devin Gross said, “We’re really excited to be here in Chicago; excited to grow here in Chicago.”

Ever since Google announced it was taking over the top four floors of the Merchandise Mart to move its Motorola Mobility unit to Chicago, bringing its 3,000 jobs to the city, Emanuel has been on a mission to leverage the headlines into even more high-tech jobs.

“Some people used to fly over our city. They’re now putting their roots down in the city of Chicago, and building the companies – and the employment – of tomorrow,” the mayor said.

On Wednesday, he was showing off the wide open spaces of the new age offices of the Vibes, Ifbyphone and Emmi – all headquartered in the West Loop. Those three firms are just three of the 71 high-tech firms that employ a total of 5,000 employees, all within a mile of the Merchandise Mart.

It was the mayor’s way of saying this is how we do business in Chicago now., though he stopped short of shortchanging Chicago’s other strengths.

“Not at the expense of manufacturing, not at the expense information, but adding digital in complement to our manufacturing, professional services, healthcare, our tourism, and convention business,” the mayor said.

In the last month, Emanuel has also announced Paypal competitor Braintree’s move to add 150 new jobs to its West Loop headquarters in the next few years, and Motorola Mobility’s decision to move 3,000 jobs from Libertyville to the Merchandise Mart.

He also visited the Merchandise Mart headquarters of 1871, an incubator for 100 technology startups and tech-related companies, creating what the mayor called a “tech campus” for the city.

“Companies like this will be able to expand, or improve, because they see a city that’s on the move; a city that’s willing to shape its future, rather than be shaped by it; and a city that can attract the type of workforce that they will grow here.”

But Chicago apparently still has a long way to go before it’s the high-tech hub the mayor envisions.

With the help of employment guru Challenger, Gray & Christmas, CBS 2 scoured a series of rankings of high-tech cities — based on jobs, job growth, and other factors. The highest Chicago ranks on any of the lists is number 6.