September 22, 2023 12:00pm

Serafin Power Poll: Proper Investment in Workforce is Key to Becoming Top Tech Hub

Serafin and Chicago Innovation Power Pollers give us insight on AI and business, budgets for 2024, and the key to becoming the next great tech city

By Megan McFarlane
Chicago, IL Correspondent
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As we do business in a world powered by discussions of artificial intelligence and more, Serafin Power Poll partnered with Chicago Innovation this month to find out what city leaders think about where it’s all headed.

No doubt you’ve been inundated with news or social media content about OpenAI, ChatGPT, and Deepfakes. Some think AI is exciting and hopeful while others are skeptical and weary.

And it’s clear from our survey that most people think there’s a growing impact of artificial intelligence on their business and workplace. A clear majority of the respondents (64%) voted that employees will need specialized training to remain competitive. 20% said the AI explosion won’t impact their operations at all, and 16% voted that some functions will likely be taken over by AI resulting in layoffs.

What industry will be dominated by AI next? 52% of our Serafin and Chicago Innovation Power Pollers said the AI revolution is coming fast at the healthcare industry. The majority of Power Pollers are not alone in that thought – AI was also a top issue at the annual American Medical Association meeting in Chicago this summer. Manufacturing/commerce polled at 34%, agriculture at 5%, and 9% voted “other”.

Google “next big tech town” and you’ll find countless articles touting cities all over the country as the future Silicon Valley. Chicago aims to be that city. Is it possible?

Chicago has become a hub for other tech-centric industries, including logistics. The World Business Chicago Research Center reports that Chicago has seen an 802% increase in logistics technology industry growth capital, just since 2019 according to Crain’s.

And with Google’s purchase and renovation of the Thompson Center, Chicago may be strategically positioning itself for tech success. But what do Chicago’s leaders and influentials believe is the most important factor in better positioning itself as a dominant tech hub?

13% voted that the city needed a safe and clean public transportation system.

21% stated Chicago would need a greater influx of investment dollars to start ups or additional tax incentives for businesses, respectively.

Lastly, 46% voted that an educated workforce that is growing in population is most important.

Chicago and other cities around the world face a huge talent gap. Demand for workers outpaces the number of graduates times three, according to McKinsey, which compared active job postings as of December 2021, with the number of graduates ready to fill such roles. 

Rounding out this month’s poll, we wanted Power Pollers’ opinion on FY2024 budgets. How should companies be spending their resources in the next fiscal year?

An overwhelming majority (57%) voted that companies should be investing in workforce development. 38% voted resources should be spent on product innovation and 2% voted for increasing marketing efforts.

A small 4% of Power Pollers said none of the options were worth spending money on next year.

Asked what he thought of this month’s Power Poll results, Luke Tanen, President and CEO of Chicago Innovation stated: “As evident in this poll, organizations are concerned that the tidal wave of artificial intelligence will wash over them if they do not invest in their workforce by providing employees with the necessary training to remain competitive.  On a related note, Chicago can be well-positioned as a dominant tech hub over the coming years if the city continues to attract and retain companies that place a high value on having an educated workforce that possess these new skills and others."

Thanks to Luke and the Chicago Innovation team for partnering with us!

Chicago Innovation was established in 2002 as the Chicago Innovation Awards, an annual ceremony celebrating the most innovative products and services in the Chicago region. The organization has grown into a year-round series of events and programs to educate, connect, and celebrate all innovators in the Chicago region with around 10,000 participants each year. Chicago Innovation's vision is to ensure that innovation is for everyone, and its expansion includes the Illinois Student Invention Convention to empower Illinois' K-8th grade youth to be innovators, the Women Mentoring Co-op to support female innovators, The Ladder to support Black and Latine innovators, and Ageless Innovators, an inter-generational co-mentoring program.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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