O’Hare – The Chicago Neighborhood That’s Great for Business

When deciding on Chicago as one’s home, a number of considerations must be addressed. One of the most important ones for individuals aged 20-70 is business opportunities.  Being one of America’s largest cities however means that there are many options within its borders.  In this article we take a look at the O’Hare area – the location of the International Airport.

There are a lot of opportunities here for businesses and therefore employment vacancies are often high.  Why is O’Hare so popular for companies?  For those combining both urban and suburban employee sets, it makes sense.  Some of the firms that have recently moved into the area are U.S. Cellular and GlenStar, for this reason.  As a result, building proprietors are also working on enhanced contracts and facilities for their tenants.

It’s a good area also due to public transit access and having a Chicago address is always welcome.  But at the same time – given its location on the edge of the suburbs while being right by the country’s most active airports – makes for a great combination.  Transportation access gives businesses an upper hand vis-à-vis talent recruitment for corporations. And for those professionals who have to travel internationally on a regular basis, what could be better than being right by the airport?

Chicago’s Economy: Starbucks’ Support

Starbucks is going to be injecting a large amount of cash into the local economy. The US coffeehouse chain revealed that it will be giving $10m to the economy to support local development in an endeavor to propel economic expansion and new business owners.  This will be put primarily into the more underserved regions.

It is anticipated that at least 500 loans will be financed through this $10m donation.  Four community leaders will be given the money: Accion Chicago, Chicago Community Loan Fund, the IFF and the Local Initiative Support Corporation.

As well as money, those taking the loans will be given guidance, assistance, logistical/technical training, etc. Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks explained:

“We believe the pursuit of profit is not in conflict with the pursuit of doing good. This sustained investment will provide borrowers who often face barriers with access to capital and mentorship to grow their business and create more jobs in Chicago.” 

This is not the first time Starbucks has given generously to bolster the economy and help the impacts of the recession.  In 2011 – in conjunction with the Opportunity Finance Network – invested $5 million in its Create Jobs for USA initiative raising $15 for community lenders nationwide. 

Quality of Living in Chicago

When it comes to high quality of living in the US, Chicago is up there.  In a recent 24/7Wallst. Com ranking of best places to live, Winnetka Village took the No. 2 place.  Ranking was based on: affordability, culture, jobs and low crime rate. Situated 20 miles north downtown Chicago, the name is derived from the Native American word for “beautiful land.”

This is not the city’s first Rodeo.  Back in 2011 it was featured in CNN Money’s List of Best Places to Live.  Plus, location wise it’s hard to find a more picturesque spot, alongside Lake Michigan with its sandy beaches, historic attractions and great educational institutions.

With nearly 30 parks, eateries, specialty merchants four shopping districts, an unemployment rate of 2.4 percent and an average commute time of 37 minutes, this has a lot to offer. The only one disadvantage is the cost of living being 130 percent higher than the national average.

In terms of employment opportunities, it seems NextCapital is a good choice. The enterprise digital advice® firm was featured in the 2020 List of Best Places to Work in Chicago 2020 assembled by Built In.  According to firm CEO, John Patterson:

“Investing in the company’s growth and success starts with investing in its people. We foster a diverse culture of people and ideas through programs like 10% time, where engineers can spend 10% of their week on self-driven projects, and DIVE, an employee-driven group that encourages diversity, inclusion, and equity.”

Chicago’s Economy: What to Expect in 2020

In a recent article in Crain’s Chicago Business, three business experts were consulted on how they see Chicago shaping up in 2020.  While there has been some less-than-positive predictions for Chicago’s economy as we move into the new year, we choose here to focus on the optimistic side of things. 

Thanks to developed in various high-skilled industries (including technology and data), Chicago is starting to re-gain its global-player reputation.  With Amazon, Google and Uber having recently announced local expansions as well as the region’s universities attracting top quality students, Chicago is developing a good reputation.

In the article’s Q&A format, founder of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Geoff Hewings said:

“We have a very low unemployment rate; we are creating jobs at a healthy rate, although not a dramatic one. While we’ve never expanded at the rate of New York or Seattle, I’m honestly not sure that we want that. I don’t think we need to be the fastest-growing metropolitan economy—we just need economic growth that’s manageable. Part of the draw of Chicago is its affordability. We’ve got enormous assets in that regard, and they’re necessary conditions to help us achieve economic growth.”

Director of the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago Teresa Cordova explained it like this:

“Since the mid-1970s, more and more people—particularly African Americans—have been increasingly left out of the economy. The decline of manufacturing and other middle-income jobs led to the creation of geographic pockets of chronic joblessness that just becomes entrenched for decades. And today there are incredible disparities. We did a report showing that while Cook County leads the nation in white employment, we also lead in black joblessness. The people leaving the state are disproportionately African American. This inequality affects economic growth, and it will only get worse unless we do something.”

There is some work to be done though.  According to DePaul University’s Professor Emeritus of Economics and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economic consultant, William Sander:

Addressing the pension issue is fundamental. All states struggle to some degree with pension liabilities, but it is acutely worse here. We have no choice but to pay it, and the longer we put it off, the more expensive it’s going to become. It’s complicated, though, because real action requires changes to the whole system. Politically, that’s hard, but the alternative is even harder on the taxpayer.

These are just some of the issues to observe in 2020 in Chicago.

Local Sustainable Economics

Chicago – one of America’s largest and most culturally-rich cities – has historically been focused on the formulation of advanced technologies and burgeoning new options for its citizens.  This dates back to the 19th century when the region was a merchant’s city and then transformed into a manufacturing and industrial center by the 20th century.  

Today, Chicago has developed other ways of expanding its rich economic legacy through the creation, maintenance and advancement of its sustainable economy.  The choices that Chicago officials are making today will likely bolster the industries of tomorrow resulting in a more sustainable Chicago.

Some of the ways this is being carried out is via more research into data on sustainability; the implementation of applications for clean energy for the progression of sustainable solutions; recruiting firms with sustainability solutions to bolster green energy in Chicago and more.

This, in turn will lead to a bolstering of the economy in a number of ways. This includes a substantial increase in the amount of offices focuses on sustainability including the Chicago Sustainable Industries and the Green Office Challenge. There will also be additional programming at the Chicago Center for Technology and the creation of open active streets and public spaces via the Make Way for People initiative and add 180+ acres within the Chicago Park District.

All these endeavors must be working because at the end of last year a COMMERCIALCafe study ranked 50 US cities for the efforts in sustainability to create a “resilient habitat for existing populations without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same.” Chicago came in Number 6.

QTS: In Chicago

In this video we see the transformation “from a single data center in overland park Kansas in 2003 QTS has steadily grown to become one of North America’s largest and most trusted data center companies.”

The newest data center?  Chicago.  See this:

Advancing Job Creation

A laboratory is being created to teach students how to become nurses without all the expenses. Funding for this nursing simulation laboratory is being provided by the government at Chicago State University.  According to J. B. Pritzker, the Democratic Governor who announced the $2.5 million funding:

“That state-of-the-art facility will train thousands of students for jobs in one of the fastest growing industries, and that’s the medical profession, at a crucial moment,” Illinois faces a nursing shortage across a number of specialties.”

As well as being ranked number one of the Midwest pharmacy institutions in the education of minority students by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, according to President Zaldwaynaka “Z” Scott, it is the only widely-black institution.  Students are made up of: 70 percent African American and 10 percent Latinx.  In addition there are 69 percent women; 61 percent are first generation college students.

Further, for students who study there, there will be a substantially greater pay scale and opportunity, helping students at the university feel a sense of pride.

In other city-enhancement news, the Chicago Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program has just been launched.  In an attempt to facilitate the capacity of property owners to move over to clean energy, PACE is offering low-cost financing for such work to be undertaken in new and existing buildings.  Those wanting to install green roofs, solar panels and other water/energy saving devices will have an easier financial time doing so thanks to PACE.  This loan is only paid back through a special assessment which is automatically added to future tax bills in each property building.

Helping Housing in Chicago

There have been some recent developments in the housing industry in Chicago that spell very good news for locals.  Here, we look at two of them:  Acquisition loan from the Wilshire Quinn Income Fund and total renovation of Chicago Lawn.

Part of Wilshire Quinn Capital, the Income Fund is set to give an acquisition loan of $6,400,000 to Chicago IL.  The property has a retail shopping center (rented out by the Burlington Coat Factory, GNC, Chipotle, Sprint and Wendy’s among others).  Wilshire Quinn’s work is conducted with mortgage experts and property owners and those taking loans are contractors seeking rehab financing and individuals seeking to refinance.

Historically, Chicago Lawn has had a terrible reputation.  Not so anymore thanks to a passionate group of residents who got together to turn things around. People in this city – that has been quite segregated until now – are banding together to make a difference. These include people from a range of religions, returning prisoners, and people who have lived in the city for generations. 

Just seven years ago there were more than 650 abandoned homes/apartment buildings in the neighborhood.  But they got help.  They asked for support from organizations including: United Power, the MacArthur Foundation and local governors.  As such, the neighborhood has now been “reclaimed.”

Today – of those 650+ abandoned homes – over 300 are now filled.

Building up Local Businesses

Four local development groups in underserved communities will be the recipients of $2.5 million each thanks to the generosity of Starbucks.  The US coffee company and coffeehouse chain is hoping that this will result in economic growth for the area. Awardees are: Accion Chicago, Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and the International Film Festival.

This money will be used to finance 500+ loans for small businesses in Chicago via the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). Struggling businesses will be able to get advice and in some cases financial help – resources they could not have accessed otherwise via traditional sources such as financial institutions.  According to Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO:

“We believe the pursuit of profit is not in conflict with the pursuit of doing good. We know that our business performs at its best when the communities we serve are thriving. This sustained investment will provide borrowers who often face barriers with access to capital and mentorship to grow their business and create more jobs in Chicago.”

Starbucks is not the first corporation to offer such help.  A little over a year ago JPMorgan Chase & Co. invested $10million for the provision of properties for black business development in the Windy City.