Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Price of Education

When education becomes so expensive for many of those working hard to make it happen, one has to start to wonder where society is headed.  Right now, Chicago seems to be encountering this.  The city has approached the Chicago Board of Education to borrow $389 million just to keep schools open until the end of the school year, while making the necessary deposits into teachers’ pension funds.

This price tag seems rather large.  Especially when you look at the fact that – to implement it – the Education Board itself will need to borrow against the money it owes in state grants to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) – all $467 million of it.

But then you take a look at the activities of the CPS in the tech sphere.  Being America’s third largest school district in the US (with over 380,000 students) has turned it into one of the most highly reputable, at least when it comes to advanced technology.  One example of this is Newton Bateman that has implemented the Google drill. Teachers and administrators at the school have been enlisted to Googlefy the classroom, promoting Google’s products, ultimately having students make regular use of Google Docs, Gmail, Chromebooks and more.

So while the city’s schools might on the one hand be in financial distress, if they continue classroom Googlification, they potentially could be well on their way to bolstering their image.

Parks and Recreation

A serious renovation has just begun at Humboldt Park. Piet Oudolf – who was behind the very successful upgrade of Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden – was chosen by the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Park Foundation and the Garden Conservancy to lead the Jens Jensen Formal Garden restoration project.  This will involve an overhaul of the decaying infrastructure and a re-invigoration of the design features, paralleling Jensen’s infamous Prairie style. Part of what Oudolf will incorporate is a “durable” design, containing Chicago’s seasons. The Hitchcock Design Group has been commissioned as design coordinator, so that the end result will be the creation of a “community of plants that work well together and look beautiful throughout the seasons.”

For those who want to enjoy the fun parts of Chicago’s parks, the summer is the perfect time to start.  Earlier this month saw the start of Night Out in the Parks, marking Ellis Park’s fifth summer season of performances and interactive shows.  Featuring around 1,200 events, there will be something for each of Chicago’s 77 community areas.  And within the bounds of community spirit, 125 local artists and art organizations will be participating in these shows, most of which are free.

Meanwhile, to mark its 90th birthday, representatives from the Chicago Park District were at Grant Park turning on the Buckingham Fountain.  Participating in the celebratory event were both the Brookfield Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium.  In addition, those who want to memorialize the 90th birthday forever, can purchase a 1,000 pound chunk of marble for a mere $22,000….plus $299 shipping! Get in touch with Stuart Grannen of Architectural Artifacts for more details.

Boost for Chicago Businesses

With the announcement that three Chicago-based firms are being chosen to lead the Obama Presidential Center’s project management team, the reputation for successful, thriving businesses in the region is taking a positive spin. In this role, the team will be in charge of the establishment and guidance of the processes needed to ensure the center is being both designed and developed simultaneous to budget, schedule and technical stipulations as set out by the foundation.

The three firms – Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), McKissack & McKissack and Ardmore Associates – will each bring something else to the project. JLL has the capacity to provide the project with will bring “industry-leading practices” vis-à-vis the library’s design and construction; and the other two firms have a strong niche in the African-American community as well as the Ardmore Associates being a women-owned professional services company.

Meanwhile, over in the software industry, ActiveCampaign is set to add a further 225 employees to its ranks over the next two years, more than tripling the size of its headquarters.

With such recognition and expansion of businesses in the area, Chicago looks like its setting the pace for other regions nationwide.


3rd Annual Small Business Forum

Two days ago, Fox Valley SCORE hosted its 3rd Annual Small Business Forum. Since Americans seem to be increasingly switching from employee to employer (becoming their own bosses), a greater need has emerged for the know-how to do this.  Learning about the political, social and economic consequences is crucial and these forums – attended by local experts – set out to assist in the matters.

The event took place at the Northern Illinois University Conference Center (in Naperville) from 8.30am to 2.30pm, and, as in the past, successfully presented take-away tools for small businesses to “advance and grow into thriving enterprises.”  Topics covered included: plan building, how to start, product/service pricing, cash flow management.  As well, participants were able to network with other SME owners to exchange information and support each other.

Keynote speaker was Anderson’s Bookshops and Anderson’s Bookfair’s co-owner, Becky Anderson whose topic was the impact on the local community of small businesses.  As a fifth generation family business manager (which started back in 1875 in Napervile) Anderson was President of the American Booksellers Association  for seven years and a year ago started her four-year term on the Naperville City Council.  Her mantra of “put your money where your heart is – home,” has resulted in her making her a true “treasure to her business and community.”