Category Archives: Business News

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.

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.

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.

Good Vibrations from Reverb

Chicago-based Reverb.com is doing really great things.  Just recently the company (that sells instrument and music gear online) launched its e-commerce site for music collectors.  Specializing in vinyl it is anticipated that this move will bolster the firm’s success, when it goes live later this year.

And with an injection of $15 million in funding, Reverb is clearly making a name for itself in the tech industry.  Big names like Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal) and Adam Bain (ex-COO at Twitter) are making investments in the firm which will be used for new employee hires as well as the expansion of the company, worldwide.

Not surprisingly therefore, the company also landed a place on Inc. Magazine’s annual Inc. 500 list.

Forbes Recognition for Illinois Largest Private Firms

A recent Forbes list of top largest private firms in America had some astonishing results for Chicago.  Illinois, it seems is home to 13 of the country’s best largest firms for 2017. Although that figure was 14 a year ago, it’s still a very impressive record.

Number 11 on the 33rd annual list of 225 companies hails from Chicago.  Reyes Holding – the firm that owns food service and beer distribution companies – is based in Rosemont and has an annual revenue of $26.5 billion. This was up a spot from last year’s Number 12 position.

The list features private firms that have an annual revenue of $2 billion+ and at least 100 staff members.  Hence there were 225 companies this year and 223 last.

Here are the top 10 Illinois companies on the list and their rank:

  1. Reyes Holdings (Rosemont)
  2. Medline Industries (Mundelein)
  3. OSI Group (Aurora)
  4. Flex-N-Gate (Mundelein)
  5. Dot Foods (Mt. Sterling)
  6. Eby-Brown (Naperville)
  7. Walsh Group (Chicago)
  8. Amsted Industries (Chicago)
  9. Follett (Westchester)
  10. Koch Foods (Park Ridge)

 

Chicago Assisting Female Entrepreneurs

The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) recent opened a branch in the south suburbs, offering assistance to women who want to become entrepreneurs in the region.

Already – for over 30 years – this non-profit (based in Chicago) has been giving women (free) advice, programs, and services in order to bolster the amount of enterprises owned by women. Earlier this year, a small business development center satellite office was opened at Governors State University in University Park, by the organization. This was most welcome given the budgetary cuts which resulted in the closure of the Illinois Small Business Development Center.

Now though — thanks to a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the U.S. Small Business Administration – the WBDC is opened for business!

 

Earnings and Stock Price Up for United Despite Violent Treatment of Passenger

An United Airlines Boeing 767-300 gets loaded at Chicago O’Hare (KORD/ORD) for the flight to Europe. Photo by Lasse Fuss

Although United Airlines has had a rough time this past month dodging bullets in response to last week’s violent treatment of a passenger, quarterly earnings were higher than expected.

United Continental Holdings Inc was forecast to earn 38 cents per share in the first quarter of 2017 by Wall Street analysts. Instead, the major airline company posted 41 cents per share. Revenue was up to $8.42 billion, a 2.7 percent increase from last year, and better than the predicted $8.38 billion.

“In the first quarter of 2017, our financial and operational performance gives us a lot of confidence about the foundation we are building,” stated Oscar Munoz, CEO.

United’s stock closed on Monday afternoon up 2 percent, to $70.77 from its close on Friday. The stock rose even higher in after-hours trading, reaching $71.55 per share, almost back to its previous price before the incident of April 9.

The incident involved cell-phone videos depicting a bloodied passenger being dragged off a United flight by policemen to make room for United personnel. Without venturing into whether United was within their legal rights to call law enforcement to force the man off the plane, the bad publicity was not good for the stock price.  Yet, it seems to have taken only a bit more than a week for the shares to bounce back, and the company’s revenues did even better than expected.

The company said that it is hoping for improved customer service in the future.

“It is obvious from recent experiences that we need to do a much better job serving our customers,” Munoz said. “The incident that took place aboard Flight 3411 has been a humbling experience, and I take full responsibility. This will prove to be a watershed moment for our company, and we are more determined than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do. We are dedicated to setting the standard for customer service among U.S. airlines, as we elevate the experience our customers have with us from booking to baggage claim.”

Mayor Emanuel Defies AG Sessions on Chicago’s Sanctuary Policy

Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Mayor of Chicago since 2011

Attorney General Jeff Sessions hunkered down on his threat to halt funding to what are being called “sanctuary cities” in response to the city’s controversial policies regarding treatment of immigrants.

Defiantly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded by reiterating his promise to “continue to welcome” immigrants to Chicago, despite the Attorney General’s threats to block federal money for law enforcement.

“I’ve always seen Chicago as a welcoming city,” Emanuel said in an interview. “It welcomed my grandfather 100 years ago, we continue to welcome entrepreneurs, immigrants, and I would just say think of it this way: Half the new businesses in Chicago and the state of Illinois come from immigrants, nearly half,” he added. “Half the patents at the University of Illinois come from immigrants, and so we want to continue to welcome people, welcome their ideas, welcome their families to the city of Chicago, who want to build the American dream for their children and their grandchildren.”

The Mayor was reacting to Sessions’ announcement that he would order the Department of Justice to make the receiving of federal grants conditional on compliance with immigration law. This statement reinforces the executive order on sanctuary cities that newly elected President Donald Trump signed back in January.

Caterpillar Closing its Chicago Plant

Photo courtesy of Shaun Greiner

Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc, announced last week that it is planning to close its Aurora, Illinois plant by the end of 2018. The closure will result in the loss of about 800 jobs. The plant makes large-wheel loaders and compactors for construction and other industrial uses.

The facility will retain about 400 of its total 1200 workers, including those in product support and engineers.

Nearly three months ago the company first revealed that it was considering the closure of the plant, which is in a suburb of Chicago, and moving the jobs to different locations in Little Rock, Arkansas and Decatur, Illinois.

The 800 out of work employees will be allowed to apply for positions in other facilities owned by Caterpillar.