Monthly Archives: August 2015

Innovation from the University of Chicago

Tap Recorder works on iOS, iPhone
Tap Recorder works on iOS, iPhone

The results of this past summer’s accelerator program at the University of Chicago are impressive. An app called “Tap Recorder” allows users to make notations on an audio file while recording with an iPhone. The co-founder of the Chicago start-up that developed the app, Dave Thomas, explained:

“It was originally started because we were working with some doctors, and they mentioned that they’d love to find a better way to record some of their consultations and transcribe them,” Thomas said. “It uses basic gestures. Throughout the conversation you could tap it, swipe it, put your hand over it, and each of those gestures would correspond to an annotation, a bookmark or highlights.”

The app was developed with the help of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, a program which will end with a demonstration day this coming September 9.

The app is in private beta testing now, but is expected to be launched to the public at the end of September. The company is hoping that the final version will include the option for users to have a transcription made of the audio file for a fee.

Developer R2 Bringing Innovative Business Space to Pilsen

Matt Garrison, managing principle of R2, a Chicago-based developer, announced that his company is planning to convert a 300,000 square-foot warehouse into office space. He said when the space in Pilsen is done it will be one of the largest office projects completed outside the Chicago central business district.

As of today R2 has the potential for a deal with a group of investors headed by Raymond Chin who own the five-floor vacant structure located at 465 West Cermak Road, along the river.

R2 has been rapidly looking for projects to develop non-traditional office locales, and its venture into Pilsen is just the latest on the Near South Side of Chicago.

Garrison explained that R2 is constantly looking for new areas for innovative offices as a response to the high cost of property in other areas of Chicago.

Moody’s Says Chicago Pensions Burdensome for City

Chicago's pension funds underfunded in a big way. Photo credit: Flickr
Chicago’s pension funds underfunded in a big way. Photo credit: Flickr

According to a recent study by Moody’s Investors Service, Chicago’s pension fund has the most underfunded retirement plans in the country. How underfunded is that? Moody’s says the pensions cost the city 8 times annual revenues.

Based on a three year average calculated by Moody’s Chicago’s pension obligations add up to a total of $29.8 billion. That figure comes to 15.5 percent of its property tax base, making it also the highest in the nation using that parameter.

Chicago came in at the bottom of this list also two years ago, the first year of this Moody’s survey. The office of Mayor Emanuel did not comment on this report.

Amazon Fulfillment Center Coming to Joliet

Amazon warehouse in Glenrothes, UK
Amazon warehouse in Glenrothes, UK

Amazon announced that it will soon be building a new 500,000-square-foot warehouse, known as a fulfillment center, in the city of Joliet, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. The giant on-line retailer promises that the new facility will be hiring about 1,000 full-time employees when it is completed.

Fulfillment centers are Amazon’s method to incredibly fast delivery of consumer products ordered from their web-site. The warehouses, filled with workers and products, process orders of a huge variety of items, including books, electronics, clothing, jewelry, and just about anything else that can be delivered by truck (or drone, in some places.)

At the end of April Crain’s reported Amazon’s intention to build a new center in Joliet, and that they had also leased space on Goose Island.

“We are thrilled that Amazon has chosen Joliet as the location for its new Illinois fulfillment center,” said the mayor of Joliet Bob O’Dekirk in a statement from Seattle-based Amazon.

Vice president of Amazon’s operations in North America, Mike Roth, said in a statement:

“We are grateful for the support of local and state leadership in helping to bring Amazon to Illinois and we look forward to being an active member of the community.”

Unlimited Parental Leave New Policy at Netflix

Netflix offering new, liberal parental leave policy
Netflix offering new, liberal parental leave policy

The new policy for employees at Netflix is fabulous news for new moms and dads who would like to spend some quality and quantity time with their newly born children for the first year after birth.

Netflix announced that they are now going to allow workers to take unlimited maternity or paternity leave anytime during the first year after either a birth or adoption of a new child in the family.

The new policy is extremely liberal, with no demand for any kind of decision as to whether the employee wants to come back at all, or come back full or part time, or stop working now and coming back later, and anything in between or in combination. The Netflix policy will be continue paying the normal salary, regardless of the amount of time the worker works, with no cumbersome switch to disability, maternity or sick leave.

The company is being praised for its liberal policy regarding parenthood and time off from work. There is no regard whether the parent is the mother or father, and the time period allotted recognizes the key importance of a child’s first year of life.

Paula Steiner to Take Over Chairmanship of Health Care Service Corp

Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower in Chicago
Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower in Chicago

Meet Paula Steiner. She will be taking over for Patricia Hemingway Hall, who was the previous CEO of Health Care Service Corp. She is set to lead Chicago’s biggest private company this coming January, a company which is the parent of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.

Steiner, who is 58 years old, has been with Blue Cross Blue Shield for over 30 years. Today she is HCSC’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer. She also is the chief to external affairs, including government relations and advertising.

The outgoing CEO, Patricia Hall is 62 and was with HCSC for over 23 years, spending the last seven years as CEO. The company offers BC & BS plans in five different states and is the country’s fourth-larges health insurer, having almost 16 million subscribers.

“Given her experience, her tenacity to solve tough issues and her ability to lead people, Pat has been the ideal CEO to navigate this company so successfully through the twists and turns of our industry over the last several years,” Milton Carroll, chairman of Health Care Service, said.