A hub for digital startups has created 800 jobs and attracted nearly $30 million in capital investments in its first year. The center, known as 1871 and located in Chicago, has attracted nationwide attention. Kevin Willer, CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, says several cities have reached out to 1871, in hopes that they can emulate the program. “Folks from Milwaukee, Madison, St. Louis, Minneapolis and then Washington, D.C. who created something that they named 1776 and they will say that the name was inspired by our naming of this 1871,” Willer said. Willer is also an advisor to 1776.


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1871 is a co-working center in Chicago's Merchandise Mart. It offers entrepreneurs affordable workspace and access to mentors, educational resources and potential investors. It’s currently home to 225 startups. The state made an initial investment of $2.1 million to help start the center.

A survey of 1871's founding member companies found they expect 1,342 more jobs will be created in the next 12 months.

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