Our Pledge To You

News

Google reveal: Downstate group wins $250K, tech giant expanding workforce here

Google on Friday held its big reveal for Impact Challenge Illinois, announcing a Downstate group won the $250,000 bonus in its statewide competition to bolster nonprofits offering bold economic stimulus ideas for disadvantaged communities. Here, the team from North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) accept their award as one of 10 finalists to snag $75,000. | Provided photo

Chicago wasn’t the winner of the $250,000 up for grabs in Google’s “Shark Tank” for economic development ideas, but the city won in another way: the tech giant is expanding its footprint and workforce capacity here.

Google on Friday held its big reveal for Impact Challenge Illinois, announcing which finalist won the bonus in its first statewide competition to bolster nonprofits offering bold economic stimulus ideas for disadvantaged communities.

It was Mattoon in Motion, a Southeastern Illinois community development organization that plans to launch a Cross-County Innovation Center with the grant, a collaborative workspace where entrepreneurs can receive resources, training, mentoring and coaching.

Blake Pierce, with Mattoon In Motion, high-fives Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as the Downstate community development group was announced winner of a $250,000 bonus in Google’s Impact Challenge Illinois. Google site leader Karen Sauder (far right) also announced the company has leased additional West Loop space with capacity to double its Chicago workforce of 1,000. | Provided photo

At the same time, Google officials, joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, announced the company has leased additional space in the West Loop offering capacity to double its current Chicago workforce. Google initially will increase by 10 percent its current workforce of 1,000 employees here by year’s end.

“We’re building a hub for Google’s finance team here in Chicago and expect 100+ by the end of the year, with room for more,” said Google Chicago Site Lead Karen Sauder. “We’re here to tell you, ‘Hey, you can have a full career in tech here in Chicago and no longer have to move to the Bay Area.’ Google is growing faster outside of the Bay Area than within it.”

Google established its Chicago headquarters at 320 N. Morgan in November 2015. Its additional corporate offices will be at 210 N. Carpenter.

Its national CEO, Sundar Pichai, had announced on the company’s blog last week that the company plans $13 billion in investments in new data centers and offices across the U.S. in 2019, following its $9 billion in investments and 10,000 new hires last year. Major expansion is planned in 14 states.

“We looked at a lot of cities to find the right home for our new team and decided that Chicago’s culture, diversity and strong emphasis on community makes it a perfect,” Sauder said.

Mattoon in Motion won the $250,000 after a week of online public voting to choose the best proposal from 10 nonprofits initially snagging $75,000 each in a competition drawing some 170 proposals from nonprofits across the state.

“This was a true community effort and example of our rural community coming together to bring more opportunities to keep and grow our local talent,” Ed Dowd, executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce, said of the bonus award they’ll get in addition to their $75,000.

The competition, Google’s version of TV’s “Shark Tank,” was judged by a dream team panel that included former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, former Chicago Bear Matt Forte and Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama; as well as Joyce Foundation President Ellen Alberding, Chicago Community Trust’s Chief Operation Officer Andrea Saenz and Illinois State University President Larry Dietz.

Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama, chats with Emma Vrooman, a Brownie with the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, one of 10 nonprofits to snag $75,000. Tchen was among the panel of luminaries who judged Impact Challenge Illinois, Google’s version of TV’s “Shark Tank.” | Provided photo

While the technology giant has previously offered such competitions elsewhere, those were city-focused in Cleveland, Columbia, Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh. Impact Challenge Illinois, with its $1 million grant bucket, was the first to be opened up to an entire state.

Chicago winners included North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), creating transitional jobs for formerly incarcerated; After School Matters, providing wrap-around services for disconnected Chicago youth; True Star Foundation, teaching digital skills and entrepreneurship to youth; Cara Chicago, providing job training and placement to low-income families; Future Founders Foundation, nurturing young adult entrepreneurs; and Manufacturing Renaissance, preparing underserved youth for manufacturing jobs.

Three other Downstate winners were the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, offering a S.T.E.M. program for girls in rural counties; Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, creating community-owned grocery stores in small towns; and the YWCA of McLean County, providing job training for formerly incarcerated women.

Team members of Chicago’s True Star Foundation, a group teaching youth digital skills and entrepreneurship, shake hands with Google Site Lead Karen Sauder, accepting their award as one of 10 finalists snagging $75,000 in Google’s Impact Challenge Illinois. | Provided photo