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Probe Research’s Curious Minds

New Exchange location the right answer for public opinion and research firm

Who: (L-R) Scott MacKay, President and Founder; Mary Agnes Welch, Principal; Curtis Brown, Principal

Where: 603 – 191 Lombard

Staff: 6 full-time and 5 part-time

In the Exchange since: February 2020

What: Provide expert public opinion and market research services to help clients make smart, data-driven decisions.

When Probe Research needed to find new office space, it took six months – and yes, plenty of research – before choosing a new location in the Exchange District at 191 Lombard.

The public opinion and research firm was founded by President Scott MacKay in 1994, and has grown to serve more than 400 clients throughout North America.

They sought a modern loft space and the Union Tower fit the bill, with contemporary units nestled within century-old walls. Probe’s six floor space features wide views overlooking Portage and Main.

“It is an iconic building,” says MacKay, adding that the building appears in many photos, both historical records and those highlighting the city today.

A kitchenette, new flooring, and a fresh coat of paint were all that were needed to make it their own. Incorporating a Kegerator into the design was a small extravagance in order to offer local brews, and stands ready to put to use entertaining clients once physical distancing measures are eased. Probe Research’s remote work capabilities and practice were well-established ahead of the current COVID-19 driven need, says MacKay.

The work they do helps “get clients out of their bubble,” says Mary Agnes Welch, a principal with the firm. Her goal is to arrive at the questions that help identify what clients truly need to know, capture it and communicate it. Her years of experience as a journalist proved foundational for her latest career chapter.

Curtis Brown is also a former journalist and now principal with Probe. He says the work they do helps clients arrive at strategies that address the issues that have come into view via research, avoiding missteps along the way. An issue they thought might have been critical, could turn out to not be the case at all, he says.

Scott MacKay
Mary Agnes Welch
Curtis Brown

The firm’s work with ad agencies and public relations firms also ensure they can refine messaging and creative with confidence, says MacKay. While Probe Research has established a reputation in the media around their research on public sector issues, much of the work they do is for private companies who use the research and guidance internally.

Probe’s work touches on a broad range of issues, adding that the variety means the work to find out what information will be helpful is challenging and gratifying. “It’s never dull.”