“While Washington continues closing itself off to diversity-driven ideas and innovation, in Chicago we are expanding our status as a welcoming city with this program, which both attracts and retains the highly skilled entrepreneurial talent that spurs innovation, creates jobs, and drives the economic growth of our city,” Chicago City Mayor Rahm Emanuel was quoted as saying in a statement.
The universities — Columbia College, DePaul University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University and Northwestern University — will sponsor entrepreneurs based on their company’s growth. Early stage entrepreneurs will be employed part-time for the university and work separately on their companies. The established startups will get a chance to make a home base at their sponsor university and mentor its students.
The slots will be for entrepreneurs whose companies could create at least 150 jobs over three years, the mayor’s office said. Because the entrepreneurs will be sponsored by higher education institutions, their applications would likely be exempt from an annual cap on the number of H-1B visas.
“We want entrepreneurs to see Chicago as a place where their ideas their dreams their companies can happen,” Emanuel was quoted as saying by Chicago Tribune, at a press conference.
“I believe this initiative … is saying yes to entrepreneurship, yes to talent, yes to diversity and most importantly, yes to the future of the city of Chicago.”
Application requirements, reviews and admissions decisions will be unique to and independently run by each university.
The mayor’s office pointed to a similar program in Massachusetts that started in 2014 and has sponsored 23 entrepreneurs at UMass Boston and UMass Lowell. Their companies have created 416 jobs and raised $185 million in private investment, it said.
Chicago employers, according to the report, sponsored nearly 13,000 H-1B petitions in fiscal year 2017, the fifth-most of any American city.