By Fred Hoch, President and CEO, Illinois Technology Association (ITA)

Over the past few years, much has been made of the evolving “app economy,” but what does it mean for Illinois? Frankly, a lot and a lot more in the future.
The app economy refers to a class of lightweight applications that are specifically designed to run on mobile platforms and are openly accessible to drive data and usage. Like most of the country over the past few years, Illinois has seen its fair share of app companies being developed. The ease of development, distribution, and integration reduces the cost and risk of deployment. It allows for ideas to get to market much cheaper and faster with immediate customer response.

For Illinois, like many other states, it means jobs. According to the national organization TechNet, Illinois is producing 4% of all the app economy jobs nationwide. And most are new jobs!

Even more exciting is what is coming next. As the app economy grows, it is evolving. The strongest apps are growing into much more robust companies with deep software expertise to manage processes and data. Companies that once were nothing more than a new way to deliver quick information are giving way to full blown software and service companies that are transforming industries.

No single industry dominates Illinois. The core of the Illinois economy has always been in a number of industries including logistics, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, and marketing & advertising, to name just a few. As the skills of building “apps” are combined with the domain expertise of specific industries, it is radically changing the way these B2B companies do business. The synergies have ramifications that go far beyond Illinois and put us in a leadership position in some industries nationally and globally. That is transformative for Illinois.

Organizations such as the Illinois Technology Association, 1871/CEC, and a multitude of meetups are doing all they can to support the growth of these companies. From connecting peers to share and gain insight, to finding talent to fuel these companies, to raising the visibility of a wide swath of companies, there is much to do. The result will be that as the app economy scales – and at times melds more fully with the long standing technology industry in Illinois – it will bring a decade of strong growth for the technology industry. So the next time you pay that bill with your phone or find a supplier via an app, realize that it is much, much more than just an easy way to do things.


Did You Know?

Mobile applications development has emerged as an entirely new economic sector that has grown in employment as other sectors have scaled back. Centered primarily in Chicago, Illinois’ app economy is one of the largest and most active in the country. Currently, almost 20,000 people are employed in connection with app development at startups, growing internet companies, and IT departments at Chicago’s banks, marketing firms, and other businesses. The impact of Illinois’ app economy in 2012 was almost $850 million.

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