There have been various movements with expansions, buyouts, M&As, etc. in the last few weeks in Chicago. Here we take a brief look at three of them: Trustwave, Amita Health and Periscope.
Trustwave – the firm that works in the cybersecurity industry – is about to hire around 100 new people for its Chicago office. In addition, an announcement was made about the upcoming internship program being developed alongside the City Colleges of Chicago. And this is just the start; by the end of 2017 Robert McCullen, company CEO anticipates a further 300 people to join the company headquarters in Chicago once construction is finished and the space is ready for this expansion. With around 400 employees in Chicago currently (and 1,700 globally) this is really a doubling of Chicago staff members.
Amita Health – Chicago’s third largest hospital system – is interested in putting up two medical office buildings (with a joint $55.3 million price tag) right near rival ones. This is at the same time that hospital systems throughout America are seeking to bolster the way they attract additional patients. One of the new facilities will be in Bartlett and the other in Woodridge and they would be the largest of the company’s nine hospitals.
And then there is Periscope – based in Minneapolis – is expanding to Chicago. One of America’s five biggest independent creative networks purchased Anthem Marketing Solutions, the Chicago-headquartered analytics and strategy firm. Anthem has been in the business for two decades already and focuses on both (diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive) analytics and (database marketing and consumer journey) mapping services. This new office in Chicago will become the fifth for Periscope. As company CEO Elizabeth Ross explained the company really is hoping to “help [its] clients spend less on paid media and the best way to do that is to expand analytics and prove you can deliver results through channels and methods that are less reliant on [traditional ad buys].”
With the announcement that three Chicago-based firms are being chosen to lead the Obama Presidential Center’s project management team, the reputation for successful, thriving businesses in the region is taking a positive spin. In this role, the team will be in charge of the establishment and guidance of the processes needed to ensure the center is being both designed and developed simultaneous to budget, schedule and technical stipulations as set out by the foundation.
The three firms – Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), McKissack & McKissack and Ardmore Associates – will each bring something else to the project. JLL has the capacity to provide the project with will bring “industry-leading practices” vis-à-vis the library’s design and construction; and the other two firms have a strong niche in the African-American community as well as the Ardmore Associates being a women-owned professional services company.
Meanwhile, over in the software industry, ActiveCampaign is set to add a further 225 employees to its ranks over the next two years, more than tripling the size of its headquarters.
With such recognition and expansion of businesses in the area, Chicago looks like its setting the pace for other regions nationwide.
Two days ago, Fox Valley SCORE hosted its 3rd Annual Small Business Forum. Since Americans seem to be increasingly switching from employee to employer (becoming their own bosses), a greater need has emerged for the know-how to do this. Learning about the political, social and economic consequences is crucial and these forums – attended by local experts – set out to assist in the matters.
The event took place at the Northern Illinois University Conference Center (in Naperville) from 8.30am to 2.30pm, and, as in the past, successfully presented take-away tools for small businesses to “advance and grow into thriving enterprises.” Topics covered included: plan building, how to start, product/service pricing, cash flow management. As well, participants were able to network with other SME owners to exchange information and support each other.
Keynote speaker was Anderson’s Bookshops and Anderson’s Bookfair’s co-owner, Becky Anderson whose topic was the impact on the local community of small businesses. As a fifth generation family business manager (which started back in 1875 in Napervile) Anderson was President of the American Booksellers Association for seven years and a year ago started her four-year term on the Naperville City Council. Her mantra of “put your money where your heart is – home,” has resulted in her making her a true “treasure to her business and community.”
Although the last month of 2016 was disappointing for Illinois job-wise, the year as a whole finished in the black.
At the end of 2015 the unemployment rate in Illinois was 6.1 percent, higher than the 5.7 percent the rate reached at the end of 2016. But the month of December, 2016 was not a good one for employment. The state lost about 16,700 jobs that month alone, bringing the unemployment figure up to its final rate for the year, from 5.6 percent at the end of November, 2016.
November also had a net loss of jobs instead of the predicted gain. Illinois ended up losing 4,500 jobs in November rather than gaining 1,700, which had been forecast.
Illinois is experiencing the same job loss trend as the rest of the country, but slightly more pronounced. The rate of job growth in Illinois was 0.5 percent, a bit slower than the nation’s figure of 1.5 percent. The country also saw a slight rise in unemployment for December, to 4.7 percent, significantly lower than for Illinois.
“Illinois needs structural reforms and a balanced budget to attract new jobs and investment in our state,” said Sean McCarthy, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Computer hardware engineers who got the axe last September during a massive downsizing at Motorola’s Chicago headquarters soon found that they were in demand by some of the country’s most successful high tech companies.
It was only a matter of weeks before these newly unemployed engineers were fielding job offers from company’s like Google, Facebook and Apple, who held recruiting events. Amazon also made offers to several of the engineers.
What were these computer-high tech giants hoping for? Mostly to bring these highly skilled workers back home to Silicon Valley. In the case of Google, however, their goal was a bit different, and unique. The search engine giant used the Motorola layoffs to recruit hardware engineers, for the first time, to work in their Chicago office. Until this time Google’s only Chicago hires had been for jobs in software development.
Some of the former Motorola engineers who were at the meeting said that Google had organized a gathering within two weeks of being fired. There were at least 200 hardware engineers in attendance, all of which had been fired by Motorola. During an information session the Google reps demonstrated some of its new hardware products and then discussed bringing jobs in computer hardware development to their Chicago office for the first time.
February saw a rise in the City of Chicago’s unemployment rate to 7.2 percent, and increase of .3 percent over last year. This explains why Mayor Rahm Emanuel is working so hard to bring jobs to the city.
One explanation for the rise comes from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The IDES blamed the rise at least partly on the fact that more people are actively looking for jobs recently, as the economy seems to be improving.
The poor job situation is just one more crisis Emanuel has been dealing with lately. He has also been taking the heat for the high crime rate, the poor performance of the city’s schools, and the large pension debt, to name just three.
Businesses in Chicago have been feeling the pinch, and have expressed their unhappiness about the large property tax increase that arrived in Chicago this year to help alleviate the pension problem. There is a fear that this new tax could persuade some businesses to flee the city, or how much of a presence they choose to have in Chicago.
The greater Chicago metro area, including Naperville and Arlington Heights also saw a rise in unemployment: from 6.5 percent a year ago to 6.7 percent in February. The area ranks in first place of the 51 metro markets in the country with populations of one million or more with the highest unemployment rate, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Las Vegas comes in second with a 6.5 percent rate of unemployment.
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.
At the end of last year, there was an escalation in small business jobs in Chicago. However, the rate at which this grew was actually slower than last year. Still, by the end of 2015, there was a leveling out of jobs following on from the recession. Indeed, according to James Diffley, economist for IHS Global Insight, Chicago actually managed to “regain all the jobs it lost during the Great Recession.” Having said that Chicago (as well as throughout America), encountered a reduction in 2014 during the hiring peak that occurred when businesses bolstered employment after cutbacks caused by recession and business failures.
On the flip side, Chicago’s athletes are really bringing home the bacon. One example is Derrick Rose who plays for the Bulls. Last year he took home $35 million – $15m of which came from endorsement contracts. Furthermore, six out of the 25 highest earning professional athletes in Chicago made their debuts last year and Jon Lester, pitcher for the Cubs earned $155 million for the year. That was said to have been “the richest multiyear contract in Chicago sports history.”
Overall however, it seems that last year’s employment market in Chicago was a bit of a disaster. A combination of near-stagnant international growth, the aging population and collapsing oil prices were the cause of this. There was an average of 1 percent less in employment growth for a second consecutive year in 2015; a statistic that has only ever happened four times since 1945.