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Illinois running behind in technology race

Published: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 9:12 a.m. CST

(MCT) — The Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center, opening soon on the campus of OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, is one bright spot in the state's lagging investment in new technology.

Illinois is falling behind when it comes to technology.

A recent study by the Chicago-based Illinois Technology Partnership noted that Illinois is not making the investments it needs to keep up in the competitive world of technology.

“Technology is the backbone of nearly every business, and as the economy continues to recover, the tech sector is outpacing industries across the board. Illinois must recognize the state is behind in technology and therefore behind in every other aspect of the innovation race,” said Lindsay Mosher, the partnership’s executive director.

“The state needs to produce more math and science students to fulfill current and future jobs in Illinois,” she said.

“For Illinois to remain viable in the global economy, we must look at where we stand not only in comparison to Silicon Valley, New York or Boston, but also in comparison to smaller, lesser-known tech hubs like Huntsville, Ala., and Wichita, Kan.,” said Mosher.

“The state’s current fiscal condition isn’t appealing to anyone. While 45 percent of entrepreneurs typically set up shop in the state where they graduated from college, only 28 percent of Illinois entrepreneurs follow this trend,” she said.

One of the things a cash-strapped Illinois can do is update state laws to encourage investment in wireless infrastructure, said Mosher, a suggestion echoed by others.

“The General Assembly has tough decisions to make this year, including the state’s budget crisis, pensions and health care. But updating the expiring state communications law is an easy decision that will spark further private sector investment,” said Eric Robinson, founder of Springfield-based Frontline Public Strategies, a PR firm.

While Illinois has work to do to boost its technology standing, there are bright spots, said Mosher.

“I was recently in Peoria where there are some exciting things happening. There’s a new group that has launched in the area called Startup Peoria which exists to develop and promote the startup community in Illinois,” she said.

Mosher cited other examples of high-tech progress in Peoria: The Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center due to open soon on the campus of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and the Thrive Capital Partnership, the venture capital firm located in the former Blaine-Sumner School building.

Other innovation leaders downstate included the University of Illinois-Springfield, recognized for online and distance learning, she said. “You also have companies like Precision Planting (in Tremont),  bought by Monsanto, paving the way for tech in agriculture,” said Mosher.

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