Monthly Archives: February 2016

Sears Announces 100 Employees on the Chopping Block

Sears store in Yonkers, NY. Photo by   Anthony22
Sears store in Yonkers, NY. Photo by

About 100 workers at the Sears Hoffman Estates headquarters have been laid off, according to Sears Holdings spokesperson Howard Riefs.

Riefs said that the giant retailer is struggling to streamline its operations with the goal of reduced expenses while still “managing the strategic needs of the business.”

“This represents a mix of positions in various departments across the organization,” Riefs added. “These decisions are never taken lightly, but they are a necessary part of our efforts to transform the company and return it to profitability. We are committed to treating these associates with respect and compassion during this process. Eligible associates will receive outplacement services and severance to assist in their transition.”

Sears has been experiencing pressure from Wall Street to reel in expenses since the company has been in the red in recent years. Sears Holdings Corporation has 20,000 les employees as compared to one year ago, and has been experiencing losses for two years as of today.

Chicago Home Sales Up in 2015

Despite a downturn in the rate the rest of the country is taking out mortgages, the Chicago area has seen an upward spike in home loans at the end of 2015 as compared to the same time period the year before.

In addition, area re-financing also grew during the fourth quarter of 2015, rising at a rate of over double the national average.

Chicago-region buyers received 20,870 mortgages to purchase homes during the last three months of 2015, representing an increase of 3 percent over the last quarter of 2014 when 20,275 mortgages were acquired. In the rest of the country the national average of purchase mortgages fell by one percent.

The number of mortgages taken by home buyers is not a direct measure of the total number of homes purchased, since some people do not use a mortgage to buy a home, if they have enough cash. The Chicago area experienced a 6.6 percent overall rise in home sales for 2015 as compared to 2014.

Chicago Lawmakers Drone On

Aeryon Scout UAV in flight.
Aeryon Scout UAV in flight.

Illinois state lawmakers are seeking to further restrict drone use by unmanned-flying vehicle enthusiasts. Federal legislators have been trying to find clear, enforceable rules to guide drone pilots, and Chicago alderman have been actively looking for ways to limit drone use close to airports.

A new bill sponsored by State Senator Tim Bivins is seeking to keep drones away from prison facilities. Lawmakers like Bivins are worried that contraband, such as cell phones, can easily be smuggled into prisons with the use of drones.

The dilemma for regulators is to strike a balance between encouraging the use of drones and the growth of this new industry with maintaining public safety. At the federal level this has been playing out as experts propose rules that would make drones safer. One rule, for instance, would be to require that drones include technology that would keep them flying at altitudes under 400 feet.

Developing a reasonable drone policy is an urgent issue as many businesses begin to embrace drones as tools to improve their services and/or their bottom lines. One new and interesting use of drones is being explored by the insurance industry. The insurer Allstate is beginning to look at drones as a new way to assess certain types of claims.

Chicago’s Moto Restaurant Bought by Alinea Group

Moto Restaurant sign. Photo by "The Writing on the Wall" and rioncm
Moto Restaurant sign. Photo by “The Writing on the Wall” and rioncm

Nine months after the death of owner Homaro Cantu, Chicago’s Moto Restaurant was sold by his widow and current owner Katie McGowan to the Alinea Group.

McGowan said in a statement that selling the restaurant was a “bittersweet decision” that “comes after deep reflection of the lasting impact” that her husband made with his restaurant.

Homaro Cantu launched Cantu Designs as well as being the executive chef of Moto. Cantu Designs is a revolutionary food technology, and Moto is one of the country’s most advanced in the niche of molecular gastronomy.

“Looking to the future, I am pleased to have come to an agreement with Nick Kokonas, Grant Achatz and the Alinea Group,” McGowan said. “I am inspired by their innovation and pioneering spirit, and wish them all the best with their new project. I can’t wait to see their vision and thank them for taking over the space as I begin a new chapter.”

Chicago Company Taking Charge of MGM’s Las Vegas Parking

Lion near the MGM casino and hotel in Las Vegas. Photo by Simeon87.

Chicago-based SP Plus Corporation has signed an important contract with MGM Resorts International. SP Plus will take responsibility for all the paid parking at all non-union properties.

SP+, an alternative form of the company name, now operates almost 4,000 parking lots in North America. When SP+ takes charge of the Las Vegas lots on the Strip, about 400 employees who are employed by those facilities will become employees of SP+. For now it is not known what will become of the unionized parking lot attendants, but at least according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the company would like to find a way to transition those workers to additional employees of SP+.

The plan for SP+ to take over the parking on the Strip is highly controversial. It has been a tradition that all parking on the Strip has been free for MGM’s nine facilities which are located there. The decision by MGM to contract with SP+ and begin charging for parking has been met with much criticism.

It is also not known what else is included in the deal. According to the Associated Press, MGM is planning to spend $90 million to improve its parking, including the building of a new 3,000-car garage.

Health Care and Tech Industries are in Demand in Chicago

According to a new report from Crain’s Chicago Business, there are 10 professions which are now popular in the Chicago area, mostly associated with the health care or high tech sectors.

The report described the 10 most sought-after professions that pay at least $60,000. The study used projections from the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics in addition to interviews with local staffing professionals.

The job with the highest growth potential is industrial organizational psychologist. The prediction of growth for this profession is 53 percent over the next ten years. Salaries in this field range from $83,500 to $112,300. It is expected that in general the coming decade should show a high demand for experienced psychologists working for corporations.

Another field poised for large growth is that of diagnostic medical sonographers. Growth is expected to be about 46 percent over the coming decade.

The other professions looking to expand include:

  • Java Developer
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs Specialist
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Orthotist/Prosthetist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Audiologist
  • Genetic Counselor