Chicago 2017: A Review of Company Culture

Energage just published results for this year’s ranking of Best Workplaces in the Chicago area.  Using employee surveys as well as assessments of work-life balance, company leadership and more, Baird & Warner took top place. According to Energage’s CEO Doug Claffey: “Our mission is making the world a better place to work together. With the Energage platform, companies finally have a way to turn the potential of engagement into real action.”

And then there are collaborative efforts that occur within companies. For example, design and development company Adage Technologies recently started using the Scrum methodology (used in software development projects) to make collaboration go faster.  But, to ensure staff satisfaction is not lost the process, regular meetings for employees are held in which they can discuss their thoughts on how to move forward.  And Cars.com has been working toward tech team restructuring in order to cultivate more cross-functional collaboration which has worked well for company culture, increasing deployment rates in the team.

Other companies are focusing on getting healthy within the workplace: SPINS (a consumer insights and data analytics company) has an in-office gym featuring meditation, cooking demos and volunteer opportunities. And then Dose provides its employees with fitness initiatives resulting in greater staff cohesion and more.

All Chicagoan firms should take a look at what is making these (and others on the list) stand out from the rest in an attempt to bolster their own rankings on employee culture.

Chicago’s Parking Meters

In line with the 2008 city deal, next year Chicago is slated to pay  $20 million to the private firm which is hired to lease the city’s parking meters.  The money will not be connected to the additional revenues that come from the meters.

As it stands, Chicago Parking Meters suffer losses due to meters being removed or taken out of commission.  Even though the Mayor instigated changes a few years ago in an attempt to improve the situation for city tax payers (including free Sunday parking in some areas), there will still be a 16.3 percent increase from last year due to a “poorly managed” deal.

Meter parking rates have not increased in the city in the last five years.

Business News in Chicago

Illinois-based Acquilon Energy Services has created an Energy Settlement Network using the power of Internet technology and big-data analytics to facilitate the process for firms to trade commodities such as natural gas, oil and power. Given that there has been an increase in renewable power and smart-grid technologies, more powerful mechanisms are needed to record, evaluate and affirm the exchange of energy.

Meanwhile, Kentech Consulting was awarded a contract worth $1.975 m by Baltimore’s Board of Estimates.  It will use the money for its speedy process of police recruit background checks (10 times faster than city workers).  This has caused a bit of a stir in Baltimore whose officials believe contracts such as these should be awarded locally.

And then there is Between States – a show in which 50 designers come together to “imagine the future of the city’s 50 aldermanic wards.”  A joint venture of the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the 50 participating firms are being requested to look at Chicago’s underutilized spaces and figure out a future.  The event will run until January 7, 2018.

Chicago: Getting into the Food Industry

The food industry is “beefing” things up in Chicago.  One example of this is the work by ex-Obamas’ chef, James Beard Award recipient and celebrity chef Rick Bayless who is attempting to help Chicagoans realize their dream of becoming a restauranteur.

Bayless is doing this via the culinary training program he has established for Chicago’s low-income students.  For a minimal fee, students will learn cooking skills, and be placed into internships in top eateries in the region.  This will be beneficial to both restaurant owners and students.

Meanwhile, Garfield Park Community Council member Angela Taylor, is one of the community leaders who is involved in the development of a new food industry incubator which will ultimately create jobs in the region.   Opening a 67,000 sq. ft facility for the purpose, it will house the local farmers market and, within its first year will create at least 150 jobs.

Positives of Conducting Business in Illinois

According to a recent article by Chicago-based CPA Tom Jordan, conducting business in Illinois has many positive attractions.  Business owners in the region can actually do really well.  He further explains as follows:

  • The third largest population and GDP in America is Chicago and Analytics suggest Chicago will continue to drive the economy. As well, it is a place filled with great talent, top educational institutes and many qualities required to drive a business.
  • Strong manufacturing in the area
  • America’s transportation hub with an economic output of $40.9 billion via its air transportation per the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics.

For more practical information on starting and maintaining a business in Illinois, click here.

Benefits of Leaving Landfills

Sometimes it is essential to move a landfill.  But at other times – like in the case that exists in the St. Louis region – it makes a lot more sense to leave well alone and have the landfill monitored efficiently.

This is exactly what the situation is with the West Lake Landfill.  In this case, moving it would be very problematic.  Thankfully though, West Lake is a prime example of where monitoring over the years has been successful.  And, with the work of the dedicated EPA, this is happening.

In fact, the West Lake Landfill is one of America’s “most monitored sites of its type…with $200 million invested to help solve complex problems,” which currently exist there or with the Bridgeton Landfill that sits adjacent to it.

When there is no risk to public health – as has been deemed by both state and federal agencies in the West Lake Landfill situation – leaving alone is the best solution.

Chicago’s K.I.S.S Approach to the Business of Food

A food trend is happening nationwide and now businesses in Chicago are part of it.  Starting as a small basement project in Chicago back in the summer of 2013, a few best friends who were broke and “couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better protein bar out there” got together.  It was simple and it was honest.

They were told their packaging wouldn’t work:  not appetizing, just boring facts.  But that’s what they did and today they just list the four ingredients on their packages:

  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 14 Peanuts
  • 2 Dates
  • No B.S.

Or:

  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 6 Almonds
  • 4 Cashews
  • 2 Dates
  • No B.S.

And now, it has been purchased by Kellogg’s.  For $600m.

According to a recent Forbes article by contributor Peter Wilkins, this transaction is indicative of “a growth signal for one of  Chicago’s booming new industries: simple food and beverage. Simple food and beverage companies are ones that focus on producing and distributing foods with whole, pronounceable ingredients that are transparently presented and are meant to be nutritionally good for you.”

And it seems to be what consumers want.  They want to be able to pronounce and recognize each ingredient on a label and are seeking out “less is more.”  The businesses that are providing this seem to be increasing their revenue around three times faster, while encountering a market share increase by 1.7% with their counterparts’ share simultaneously declining 0.7%.

Other Chicagoan examples include: SkinnyPop, Mike’s Hard, Peapod, Protein Bar and GrubHub.

Chicago Welcoming Puerto Ricans

Following the hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico, Chicago is anticipating welcoming a huge amount of inhabitants from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.  Already the region has taken in over 1,500 individuals but many more are planning to follow suit.

And this might not be temporary.  According to Puerto Rican-born US Rep Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago, just like Houston accepted Hurricane Katrina’s New Orleaneans, Chicago could do the same.  They might end up moving to Chicago permanently.

As such, the city is getting prepared.  As Gutierrez pointed out, nothing has been put in place and there are already more than 1,500 extra people.  What needs to happen is to accommodate these individuals with education, health and social services, since “if you’re going to be a sanctuary city, you’ve got to offer sanctuary.”

At this point, hundreds of thousands are expected to permanently leave the island in search of a new home and stable life, with “certainly thousands” choosing Chicago given its welcoming reputation and large Latino community.

BP Student Design Competition

In conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Founding Sponsor BP and Signature Education Partner Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), the BP Student Design Competition is returning this fall.

This began in 2015 (the first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial) and, like that one, aspiring artists and architects from the city’s elementary and high schools will be able to create projects challenging around this year’s theme, “Make New History.”  Entrants will have to design solutions for two different Chicago-centric challenges, focusing on how our every day lives can be transformed by the built environment.

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel explained:

“The BP Student Design Competition is a unique hands-on experience for Chicago students to challenge their creative thinking and develop their passion in architecture and design. The educational partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation engages our young artists and architects by giving them the opportunity to participate in a range of opportunities in neighborhoods across the city.”

This year also new educational initiatives were proposed by the Chicago Architecture Biennial (and CAF), in an attempt to expand its reach to communities throughout the city.