Council voted to continue funding the Technology Innovation Center (also known as the "Incubator" or "TIC") Monday night, Sept. 24, just over a month after the Economic Development Committee refused to allow the full Council to consider doing so. The move came after Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl forced the issue by placing the matter on Council’s agenda as a special order of business – effectively vetoing the Committee’s decision.
The vote, somewhat surprisingly, given the Committee’s action, was 8-1. Aldermen Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, both of whom had refused to provide a second to Alderman Jane Grover’s (7th Ward) motion to approve the funding ended up supporting the measure. Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, continued to oppose funding and voted no.
After the Council’s vote, funding will now total $100,000 in 2012. Council previously released the first $50,000 in two $25,000 increments. Monday’s vote releases the remaining $50,000. With each vote, Council insisted on benchmarks and attempted to include "measureables" that would exhibit TIC’s effectiveness.
TIC "celebrated nearly 26 years in operation" and "has been recognized as a model incubator," according to the staff memo. More than 350 technology startups have flowed through TIC both at its current locations at 820 Davis St. and 825 Chicago Ave., also according to the memo.
Several current and former TIC business owners spoke to Council at Citizen Comment, praising the programming and support offered by TIC as key to their business success. David Charney of the Evanston-based Illumen Group, a TIC graduate, said TIC provided his business the guidance and advice a start-up needed. Small-business-owners have a chance to fail and learn in an atmosphere that teaches and supports, he said, urging Councl support.
Funding for the TIC initially came from Northwestern University, but several years ago they pulled out, leaving a hole that the City reluctantly agreed to fill. Since that time, several members of Council have protested and made demands whenever time a funding request has come before them. Monday night the protests were muted but had not disappeared.
Mayor Tisdahl’s support obviously played an important role in Council’s decision. The harsh tone taken by some members – most notably Ald. Burrus – was all but absent Monday night. The exception was Ald. Rainey, who said she would "never support another dime" unless Northwestern also contributed. "This is the last time I’m going out there alone," she added.
Ald. Tendam said the information he received and reviewed over the last seven to 10 days had proved helpful and had convinced him to support the measure.