The narrative surrounding the U.S. economy remains consistent: property values plummet, jobless numbers stay high and families struggle to make ends meet. State, local and national leaders agonize daily over possible solutions.
But a local innovation expert says the key to digging out of the mess lies in local government officials' ability to foster relationships with residents and tap into their talents.
"The economic turnaround cannot happen unless we engage the citizens and the community," said author Praveen Gupta, adjunct professor of innovation sciences at Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Illinois at Chicago. "It's not going to be someone giving to charity. American citizens are going to have to participate in the economic turnaround."
Gupta helped organize an innovation summit that will, among other things, try to illustrate to local leaders that technology can lead to job creation and budget management. The summit also will highlight some area cities that have used technology to engage with their residents.
Technology Innovation Summit 2011, the first of its kind in the area, runs from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Illinois Institute of Technology's Rice Campus, 201 Danada Square East, Wheaton.
Among the speakers at the free event will be business officials and government leaders, including former DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom. Also scheduled to appear is Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, who says municipalities must embrace ever-evolving technology because businesses and residents already have done so.
"We must be attune to what customers expect and demand," Burns said. "Our customers demand immediate attention to their requests."
In Geneva, residents can follow a Twitter account to receive alerts directly from the city. Online forms allow residents to file a service request and track its progress.
Burns said the options cut out the middle man when residents need help from city staff.
"It allows (staff) to connect directly with the consumer," he said. "Employees in public works, electric, the water department are engaging with citizens directly, as opposed to having to go through a third party, namely elected officials."
The summit was the brain child of St. Charles-based Iyka Enterprises Inc. President and CEO Poonam Krishnan. The company provides management services software to its clients, which include customers from the telecommunications, financial and government sectors.
"I am always baffled by how much creativity is out there and how slow our government moves to capture it," she said, adding that doing so would improve the job and cash flow situation in a community.
Krishnan said finding that creativity within the community is just as important as having a strong leader to implement it. She said the summit has drawn lukewarm interest thus far but she remains hopeful more unregistered participants arrive Wednesday.
Gupta, who in 2007 wrote the book "Business Innovation in the 21st Century," said he hopes the summit gets repeated several times a year because of the "sense of urgency" of the economy.
"Government leaders have to get engaged in these conversations," he said. "This is an attempt to engage elected officials in our community to participate, learn and benefit from innovation for job creation and to help turn this thing around."