Quinn announces $1M Gigabit award for Evanston, Northwestern
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $1 million state investment to help Evanston have ultra-high speed Internet as an Illinois Gigabit Community during a press conference library in Evanston on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. In the background a
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:10AM
EVANSTON — Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday announced that Evanston will receive a $1 million Gigabit Community Award.
Community leaders hope to leverage the cash into a high speed innovation corridor to attract and keep entrepreneurs.
The governor, flanked by leaders from the city and Northwestern University, announced the award at the city’s Chicago Avenue-Main Street Branch library, formerly known as The Mighty Twig, which is located in one of the areas that should benefit most from an extension of Evanston’s high speed fiber optics system.
The city has high-speed service in parts of downtown and at city buildings linked into the university’s fiber optics network. The award would be used to extend that system to other areas of the city, including Chicago and Main, where leaders are considering a tax increment finance district to help build a top line office building to attract high-tech uses.
Evanston Alderman Melissa Wynne, in whose ward the office building would be located, called the award a possible catalyst.
“Evanston is home to over 160 technology startups housed in various scattered locations with limited synergistic relationships or facilities,” she said. “The awarding of this Gigabit Community Challenge Grant Award will build a direct link between the technology startup companies, Northwestern University, the city of Evanston and private investors via gigabit fiber connections. The researchers on Northwestern University’s campus, workers in technology startup companies and entrepreneurs will be able to access faster data speeds leading to greater discoveries and commercial applications.”
Evanston joined with Northwestern University in fashioning the grant application request, which originally was for more than $2 million.
The city was one of 40 communities and groups throughout Illinois seeking the award. The city of Aurora and communities on Chicago’s South Side were previous recipients.
The Gigabit Community Award grew out of Quinn’s 2012 State of the State speech where the governor declared the need for world-class broadband and infrastructure across Illinois.
“Jobs follow brainpower,’’ Quinn declared. “We have to understand that in the 21st century we want to encourage as much opportunity to learn as possible. That’s why the Gigabit Challenge Award is so important. “
He called the competitive advantage such awards foster is important to retaining young entrepreneurs.
“Do we want them to go to Silicon Valley? It’s a fine place to place to visit, but we want them to stay here in Illinois to create apps that will help make life better in the 21st century,” he said.
Eric Harper is co-founder of coLab Evanston, located a few doors down from the library. He said the high speed Internet should prove a major benefit for some of his clients.
CoLab provides shared working space for roughly 40 companies and individual entrepreneurs who are looking to take ideas and grow them into major enterprises.
The company’s existing Internet connection is through Comcast.
That connection works out OK for everyday work, “but the kind of work we want our companies to be doing would be much more facilitated through the ultra high speed network, the grant could help make possible,” Harper said.
Particularly, for complex operations such as data analysis, high definition video, the current system isn’t working, he said.
The Governor scored a double touchdown during his visit. Quinn, a graduate of Northwestern’s law school, followed up the award ceremony by declaring Northwestern Day in Illinois, honoring the university for its Jan. 1 Gator Bowl win.