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Chicago’s Business Climate – 5 reasons business is booming in Chicago

Written by on 16th March 2020
Category: Business

With one of the world’s largest economies, business in Chicago is booming and the Windy City plays a vital role in both the national and international business scenes of the US and beyond. If you are planning a business trip to this Midwest American city, add this analysis of its business climate to your list of things you didn’t know about Chicago.

1. One of the world’s largest and most diversified economies

Chicago's economy continues to grow.
Chicago boasts the 20th largest economy in the world

Having built the twentieth largest economy in the world, Chicago sits firmly as a key player in all workplace sectors. Boasting an economy larger than that of some countries, Chicago’s $609 billion gross regional product (GRP) is bigger than the likes of Sweden or Poland and, thanks to its varied list of key industries, the city is able to retain its strategic economic position. Not one single industry accounts for more than 12% of the city’s workforce, meaning business in Chicago is some of the most diversified in the US. Top industries include auto and food manufacturing, biotech and health services highlighting Chicago’s rich employment opportunity.

2. Fertile soil for budding businesses

Small businesses are flourishing  in Chicago.
Small businesses get the same chance to succeed as global corporations do in Chicago

Small businesses prosper in this city, and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel even launched pro-business reforms to allow small businesses in Chicago to flourish. The Small Business Advisory Council was tasked with carefully nurturing Chicago’s small businesses to minimise red tape – excessive adherence to official rules – and maximise growth. Small businesses are often penalised by generalised laws and struggle to see strong growth within their opening years due to costly taxes associated with starting a new business. In 2013, the number of business license categories was reduced by 60%, annually saving thousands of small businesses over $2 million. Employee head tax was also phased out and eliminated, in the hopes of creating a more business-friendly environment, seeing small businesses in Chicago saving upwards of $9 million annually.

3. Talented workforce

The workforce in Chicago is diverse and mulit-talented.
A diverse economy breeds a diverse and widely talented workforce

A diverse economy full of a varied breadth of industries makes for a hugely diverse workforce. Not least does the city boast a respectively affordable cost of living as opposed to the likes of New York or Los Angeles, but the fast-growing corporate scene makes Chicago a hugely popular corporate event destination, pulling business professionals to the area. Offering an unbeaten selection of corporate spaces and event venues, such as the largest convention centre in North America, McCormick Place, the city is always flooded by business professionals and entrepreneurs hoping to take advantage of the pro-business environment in Chicago.

4. Well-connected

It's central location allows business in Chicago to boom.
Chicago is a vital transportation hub with two major international airports

Being the third-largest city in the United States, Chicago serves the Midwest as a major transportation hub and vital network for human and cargo passage. Currently, O’Hare International Airport is the world’s sixth busiest airport, facilitating an average of over 2,500 aircraft operations per day and non-stop flights to more than 200 international destinations. Chicago is also North America’s main freight rail hub and, sitting close to the America-Chicago border, is centrally located in the Free Trade Area of the Americas that agreed to reduce or eliminate government-induced international trade barriers.

The Chicago Loop forms the main part of Downtown Chicago and makes up the city’s central business district – where many of the top corporations of the city are based and where much of the key business in Chicago is carried out. As the second-largest business district in North America, The Loop is a vital commercial centre home to a number of global headquarters, as well as several of Chicago’s most iconic attractions. In one recent year, of the 100 businesses that appeared on the Fortune Inner city 100 list – ranking the fastest-growing businesses in America’s inner cities – 13 were headquartered in Chicago: this is more than in any other city.

5. Fortune 500

Boeing is one of the top businesses in Chicago.
Boeing is one of the largest aerospace corporations in the world and is headquartered in Chicago

12 of the 2019 Fortune 500 companies being headquartered in Chicago is testament to the strong and successful business mindset of the city. The notorious annual Fortune 500 list is compiled by Fortune Magazine and ranks the largest corporations in the United States by total revenue: McDonalds and Boeing are among Chicago’s 12, both with profits landing in the billions (USD) and enviable corporate prowess.

For over a century, Boeing has dominated the aerospace industry: retaining their spot as the world’s second-largest defence contractor and the United States’ largest exporter by dollar value. Boeing has been headquartered in Chicago for nearly two decades in a 36-storey skyscraper in The Loop.

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