Chicago’s Mayor Wants to Make His City the Health Tech Center of the Universe

Attracting tech startups to your city is a great way to bring in jobs, and possibly a little boost in hipness and credibility, too. If your city can become a major focus for such companies, you may even end up as a new Silicon Valley and enjoy the perks (yeah, dollars) that come with it. Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel is looking to give health tech a home in his city.

The term “health tech” encompasses a lot of things, of course, from diagnostics to patient record keeping. When you put them altogether, we are talking serious potential. According to some analysts, “the healthcare IT market is projected to reach $280.25 Billion by 2021 from $134.25 Billion in 2016.”

Rahm Emanuel believes Chicago is well placed to take advantage of the possibilities that health tech presents. With all major areas of healthcare already covered in the city, including health insurance companies, frontline providers and pharmaceutical companies, Chicago has ready made partners for health tech startups to work with.

Emanuel told Business Insider:

“That makes Chicago really unique in the country,” he said. “It doesn’t lean just on pharmaceuticals, it doesn’t lean just on medical devices, it doesn’t lean just on insurance companies, and it doesn’t just lean on healthcare, hospital systems. It has all of them in one place.”

Health tech
Rahm Emanuel has big plans for Chicago. Source: New York Times/Tannen Maury/European Pressphoto Agency

Health tech competition is fierce

Chicago has some major advantages, then. But it also faces stiff competition from huge cities like New York and Boston, not to mention from Silicon Valley.

So how is it doing so far?

The city places reasonably well in a list of high-tech cities that were ranked based on number of patents filed per capita, startups, how many tech venture capitalists there are, how much smartphone use is going on, and ranking in other innovation datasets. (Home of Silicon Valley San Francisco came first, perhaps unsurprisingly, while Chicago came fifth).

Probably Chicago’s most prominent health tech startup at the moment is Outcome Health, which provides educational health footage alongside ads to doctors’ offices and waiting rooms.

CEO Rishi Shah said the company was looking to find new headquarters in 2018 as well as aiming to have 2,000 jobs in the Chicago area within five years.

Could Chicago get Amazon?

Health tech startups are not Emanuel’s only route when it comes to making Chicago a center of tech business.

Amazon is currently deciding where to locate its second North American headquarters, to add to its home in Seattle. With the prestige that would bring to a city, not to mention around 50,000 jobs, it’s not surprising that a lot of cities have shown interest. Fifty have, in fact. But Emanuel believes Chicago is ahead of all of them.

“If you’re Amazon, and you want to grow to X, what city today on day one can say every June from its universities and the Big Ten 150,000 freshly minted four-year colleges coming out of Madison, Ann Arbor, Notre Dame, Purdue, University of Iowa?” Emanuel said, citing a figure from a World Business Chicago analysis of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

“Every year, guaranteed, 150,000. Only one city can say that in the United States: Chicago.” On the subject of air travel, he added: “What city can say to you if you want to get to Seattle or New York and have six options a day? What city can say that to you on two different carriers? Only one city.”

“What city can say to you, unlike Seattle or San Francisco or New York, is one-third of the cost of living of those cities and has a cultural attraction equal to those cities?” the mayor said. “That makes Chicago the most competitive city.”