Thanks to digital innovation, Illinois and Chicago are making positive strides toward ensuring that our industries and workforce are adapting to meet the demands of a global economy that is growing—and a world that is shrinking.

The web is working for Illinois businesses of every size, starting with the smallest. Ninety-seven percent of Internet users look for local products and services online, and nine out of ten part-time business owners rely on the Internet to conduct their business .

At Google, we’re working hard to do our part so that every Illinois business and nonprofit can participate in the digital economy. We helped provide $9.7 billion in economic activity among local businesses, web developers, startups, and nonprofits in 2014. More than 60,000 Illinois organizations benefited from using Google AdWords and AdSense. 

As local businesses grow their digital footprint, it’s becoming increasingly important for our area to have a workforce proficient in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Between 2011 and 2015, STEM jobs in Illinois increased by 29 percent. Illinois colleges and universities have prioritized their STEM programs, helping the state beat the national average when it comes to college students with STEM majors. 

Though Illinois is clearly making progress, there’s much more work to do. Today, there are twice as many STEM jobs as there are qualified candidates. Yet only one in 10 schools have access to computer science courses nationally.  In Chicago, less than 25 percent of public school children have access to out-of-school STEM programs.

Too often, kids are treated like tech consumers rather than tech creators. I strongly believe that it’s up to companies like Google to do our part to help students realize their potential as full participants in the digital economy.

Fortunately, we’re not alone in that belief. Under the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago is developing strong partnerships and programs to ensure that all kids have access to STEM education. When Chicago Public Schools announced it will become the first major school system to adopt STEM courses as a graduation requirement, Google partnered with CPS and to support the new computer science curriculum. Last summer, we brought STEM to Daley Plaza with Google’s Geek Street Fair which drew thousands of students and families together to explore booths filled science and technology activities. Chicagoans were first in the country to “check out” robots that teach computer coding with 500 Finch robots donated by Google. And we continue our work with the Boys & Girls Clubs and other Chicago organizations to launch over 330 after school computer coding clubs through Google’s CS First program, with over 10,000 Chicago students enrolled to date.

I can tell that Google’s efforts are starting to make a difference when I visit a classroom and see young students having a blast building robots or coding their own computer games. It’s a great feeling, yet I know that there is so much more work to do. It’s up to all of us to invest in Illinois’s future by investing in STEM, and I encourage each and every business here to join us to inspire the next generation of computer scientists.

We know the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce recognizes the impact of technology on the local economy, particularly as it applies to talent and education. In fact, Margo Georgiadis, President of the Americans for Google, will serve as the keynote speaker for the Chamber’s Annual Meeting on June, where she will discuss the importance of disruption and innovation in education and throughout Chicagoland’s business community.

This is a special opportunity to learn from Google’s leader how exploring new ground will help you grow your business, expand your network and imagine the power of possibility. Click here for more information or to register.


Jim Lecinski
Vice President, US Sales & Service