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updated: 6/17/2014 4:27 PM

Illinois puts $2.5 million into tech center expansion

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Associated Press

Illinois officials are putting $2.5 million into expanding a downtown Chicago center for startup companies called 1871, Gov. Pat Quinn announced Tuesday.

The money will be used to add 25,000 square feet to the technology center, located in the Merchandise Mart, and is expected to be completed by the middle of October. 1871 has become an entrepreneurial hub and is central to the city's efforts to promote Chicago as a center of innovation. The center has drawn high-profile visits from the likes of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and investor Mark Cuban.

"1871 has become a true entrepreneurial hub for our state and its expansion means more career opportunities." Quinn said in a news release, in which he also said that the center had created many jobs.

The center is named after the period of intensive rebuilding during the year of the Great Chicago Fire. 1871 offers office space for startups and classes and other events for entrepreneurs and industry professionals.

The project is funded by bond proceeds from the Build Illinois program, which issues bonds for capital projects that are backed with state sales tax revenue. The state put in $2.3 million from a capital plan to help start the center in 2012.

The new money will allow companies that have outgrown their current space to expand and stay at 1871.

It will also allow the center to expand work in areas it has identified as being important, including food technology, real estate, education and women-owned technology businesses.

The new space will also house venture capital firms seeking to invest in local companies.

"The jobs of tomorrow will come from the types of small businesses growing at 1871 today," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

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