Why We’re Involved

The Chicago region has outstanding assets: a diverse economy with strong business leadership, world leading universities and research centers, a fast growing technology economy, and the talent to attract and retain major corporations and start-ups. By connecting and building upon these strengths, developing inclusive talent pipelines, and executing a cohesive strategy that tells Chicago’s story nationally and internationally, we believe Chicago can become a Tier 1 tech hub and promote inclusive economic growth across our region.

What We’ve Done

Starting in 2017, the Commercial Club and Civic Committee brought together a coalition of over 300 established and emerging business, technology, education, government, civic, and community leaders to work together to transform Chicago into a Tier 1 tech hub and promote inclusive economic growth.

After two years of extensive research and planning phases, we launched P33 in 2019 as a standalone non-profit with staff dedicated to advancing the coalition’s goals.  P33 works collaboratively with leaders across the region to identify and double down on the sectors that are critical to our success and build strategies to scale innovation.  

Our work on P33 builds on our history of innovation leadership in both the Civic Committee and the Commercial Club of Chicago, starting as early as the development of the Burnham Plan in 1909. Our involvement has included:

     - In 1985, members of the Commercial Club of Chicago were deeply involved in the creation of the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA).To this day, IMSA develops creative, ethical leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and serves as a laboratory for the advancement of STEM teaching and learning.

     - In 1985, the Civic Committee established the Chicagoland Enterprise Center (CEC) in partnership with the Chicago Community Trust. This center provided consulting services and resources to assist in the establishment and growth of small and medium sized businesses in the Chicagoland area. Among other supports, volunteer experts from large companies worked with CEC staff to provide advice and assistance that was often out of the reach of smaller organizations.

     - In 1986, the Commercial Club and Civic Committee led the creation of the Information Industry Council, a coalition of Chicago area businesses, universities, and government leaders working to make Chicago a global leader in software development. This council sponsored a number of programs to stimulate the growth of information-related enterprises in Chicago and thereby spur job growth in the technology sector.

     - In 1989, the Commercial Club and the Civic Committee worked with Governor Thompson to create the Illinois Coalition, to spearhead significant science and technology initiatives across the State. Members of the Coalition included leaders of Illinois business, labor, education, and scientific research communities. The Coalition was focused on strengthening the Illinois economy’s science and technology sector through advising State government on its technology agenda, assisting in the implementation of state-administered research and development projects, overseeing the $20 million Technology Challenge Grant Program with the Governor’s Science Advisory Committee, advocating for the procurement of major federal research projects, and leveraging $57 million of federal and private dollars for a variety of advanced technology projects for which no other funding might be available.

     - In 1999, after the Department of Energy designated Argonne National Lab as the new home of the Advance Photon Source project, the Civic Committee worked with Governor Edgar to fund a $15 million project that gave commercial entities access to the beamline technology.

     - Civic Consulting Alliance has also supported and led a number of technology initiatives,  including:

    • The technology transition committees for new Mayors and Governors that helped define and outline the new administrations’ goals and priorities.
    • 2011: The evaluation of the Michael Reese Hospital Site as a potential technology park, which culminated in a report released by Mayor Daley.
    • 2013: The development and release of the City of Chicago’s Technology Plan, a first-of-its kind roadmap to guide Chicago’s growth, fueled by technological innovation.

     - In addition, Kids First Chicago (K1C) uses technology to empower communities and families to navigate the complex school access and enrollment process, and to activate their voices in guiding the direction of Chicago Public Schools. This has included the development of The Annual Regional Analysis (ARA), which provides data on school quality, enrollment, choice patterns, and gaps in programmatic offerings across 16 regions of the city. This data supports the development of targeted strategies to address school quality across the City and offers communities unprecedented access to transparent data about their schools and the opportunity to weigh in with their own solutions to improve school quality.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened the digital divide – the gap between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not – a leading challenge for Chicago families. In an effort to address this, Kids First Chicago was a key player behind the launch of Chicago Connected – a $50 million public-private partnership working to connect 100,000 Chicago Public Schools’ students and 60,000 households to free internet service through 2024, enabling remote learning and much more. Chicago Connected emerged out of K1C’s direct outreach to families most impacted by COVID, coupled by data analysis that demonstrated the scale of the digital divide.

Equally important to closing the digital divide is access to computers, so Kids First Chicago has launched a device drive along with the expertise of Comp-U-Dopt, one of the country’s leading nonprofits dedicated to refurbished devices and donating them to low-income families.  Repurposing otherwise unused devices can become a lifeline to a family in need.

What We've Learned

Chicago has many unique world class assets that we can build upon, including:

However, Chicago is punching below its weight as a technology ecosystem. As a region we are ranked:
     - #6 in stem workers (241K stem workers)
     - #10 in new stem workers per year (3.6K new stem workers per year)
     - #8 in venture capital funds in Chicago startups ($5.6B)
     - #7 in startup valuation ($6.4B)

 Sources: Maretti, Enrico – The New Geography of Jobs; Brookings – Opportunity for growth: How reducing barries to economic inclusion can benefit workers, firms, and local economies; Brookings – Digitalization and the American Workforce; Brookings – Tech in metros: The strong are getting stronger

By bringing stakeholders together and building on our assets, we can begin to transform Chicago into a Tier 1 tech hub and promote inclusive economic growth.

P33 became fully operational in fall 2019, and COVID immediately put the above founding principles to the test. By partnering with the Chicagoland community, P33 launched two programs that addressed immediate needs and will have a lasting impact on the region.

  • Chicagoland COVID-19 Data Commons (CCC): a project that unleashes the power of data to aid in the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • TechReady Illinois: a platform to help Illinoisans gain new digital skills at steeply discounted tuition rates to help open doors to new job opportunities once the economy reopens

P33 is moving forward with a bold strategy, and anticipates the launch of several new initiatives.

P33 has moved forward on several key initiatives aligned with its mission to work across Chicagoland’s tech ecosystem to make our region a global tech leader where all people thrive. Across our three priority areas, P33 will continue to drive commercialization of research, ideas, and innovation, support inclusive workforce development, and tell Chicago’s story nationally and internationally. To learn more, please visit

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