Aside from deep-dish pizza and a tempestuous weather system, there’s another side to Chicago that you might not have heard about yet: start-ups are finding fertile ground here.
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Since 2011, the Windy City has seen a series of pro-business reforms aiming to cut the red tape facing business owners and entrepreneurs based there. With the number of business license types having been reduced from 117 down to only 49, it’s easier than ever for prospective moguls to chase their enterprise of choice. This is evidenced by a distinct lack of office vacancies and demonstrated by the presence of over 180 incubation and small business development centres.
Chicago has all the benefits of a small town, with the best parts of a big city thrown in. Tech booms here, consistently attracting record funding and an ever-growing dot on the radar of the investment-savvy. Following analysis of US Census Bureau data, it’s been established that between 2010 and 2016 Chicago beat every other US city (bar New York) when it came to growing the number of households with an annual income over $100k, but remarkably with the head of the household aged under 45. This key demographic ramped up by a notable 26,000 - ahead of traditional economic power houses San Francisco and Denver.
It’s important to remember this is a demographic with a strong education, developed talent and recognisable earning power. Such a social group has a good standard of freedom when it comes to choice of home, and they’re choosing Chicago in their droves. In what is surely a marker of the economic viability of a city, with their migration comes the introduction of the key skills - and, fundamentally, ambition - needed to nurture an economically sound city.
With a thriving economy on the horizon, Facebook and Google have set their sights on expanding their operations here. Will this be enough to buck national trends of financial instability procured from political insularity? Perhaps this is the exact reason why the Lake Michigan area is flooding with new business - in antithesis of globally trending disconnection, now is the optimal time for smart businesses to validate their disruptive identities and seize the opportunity for reconnection with not only their own nation, but others too. This is certainly the case for the construction giant Caterpillar, whose success can partially be attributed to the global transportation offering the city is apply to supply its businesses and citizens with.
This factor is most certainly impactful on senior management (appointed and prospective) and enhances executive recruitment for these businesses by providing a much wider reach and potential. This is, of course, not forgetting the opportunity for more old-line businesses, such as the recently Chicago-relocated Kraft Heinz, to seize access to younger talent and discover the fresh perspective and insight they can bring to institutions: crucial to success in the modern business landscape. Naturally, lower costs when it comes to overheads and rent are certainly going to top off the cake nicely too.
At its core, Chicago represents a pretty sweet deal to established institutions and flashy start-ups alike. Entrepreneurial, connected and forward-thinking, it is exactly the kind of place a business looking to survive in the potentially economically tumultuous years ahead needs to be.