In Quinn, tech found one of its strongest allies

Sure Pat Quinn will be missed by labor, but the tech community also counted the governor as a major ally.

Mr. Quinn — balding, gray-haired and folksy — was hardly the picture of a tech-savvy governor like Virginia's Mark Warner. But Mr. Quinn wrote checks that helped turn some of Chicago's most high-profile tech projects, such as 1871 and UI Labs, into realities.

The state provided $2.3 million for 1871, which opened in 2012 in the Merchandise Mart and became the city's symbolic hub for tech startups. Earlier this year, he doubled down with another $2.5 million to expand 1871.

Mr. Quinn also bankrolled Matter, a similar effort for health-technology startups at the Merchandise Mart.

He put up $5 million for a manufacturing lab, which was seen as important to helping Chicago win $80 million in federal grant money for the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, a high-tech manufacturing research facility at Goose Island that became the launch project for UI Labs (a project Mr. Rauner helped initiate).

The governor was generous in offering incentives to tech companies — including Motorola Mobility, Groupon Inc. and Braintree — that added jobs. Although it often seemed Mr. Quinn was competing with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for credit in creating tech jobs, Mr. Quinn, as governor, had the checkbook and put his money where his mouth was.

Mr. Quinn also tapped tech community leaders such as Lightbank co-founder Brad Keywell, entrepreneur Howard Tullman and GrubHub Inc. CEO Matt Maloney for his Innovation Council, which got large companies such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., Allstate Corp. and Hyatt Hotels Corp. to collaborate with startups. It's an idea that had often been talked about but never seemed to get traction until now.

“There is no doubt in my mind that in the history of Illinois, there has not been a more high-tech, business-development focused governor than Pat Quinn,” said J.B. Pritzker, a venture capitalist and longtime Democratic political donor who was the driving force behind organizing 1871. “There was no chance we could build Matter or 1871 without the support of the state of Illinois. (Mr. Quinn) understood it from moment one. That's saying a lot.”

Lawrence Schook, University of Illinois vice president for research who helped launch UI Labs, says of Mr. Rauner: “From my interactions with Bruce he has a great sense of the need to be a place where the young innovators gravitate, as opposed to only making equity investments. I do have optimism for Bruce in linking big and small companies to create economic clusters.”

Mr. Rauner, who spent his career running private-equity firm GTCR, no doubt understands the importance of investing in businesses. But his stance on high tech, like many other matters, hasn't been defined.

“He probably will be a pro-business governor, but it doesn't necessarily mean he's focused on the tech community,” Mr. Pritzker said. “It's a question mark. I'm eagerly anticipating the opportunity to encourage him to support the burgeoning startup community. He's a thoughtful person. I'm guessing he'll be an advocate of high-tech jobs which come from startups. But there isn't a record there yet.”

Mr. Rauner joined many in the tech community in urging Mr. Quinn to veto a law that would have imposed tougher rules on Uber and other ride-sharing companies. San Francisco-based Uber, which is disrupting the taxi business with mobile technology, is wildly popular in the tech community. Mr. Quinn ultimately vetoed the law.

But Mr. Rauner also has taken aim at technology companies, saying computer-programming shops should be made subject to sales taxes along with many other service businesses that are excluded.

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