Illinois March to the Polls

Later this month – in conjunction with Women United Network and Action Illinois, Women’s March Chicago – is planning a March to the Polls.  Set for January 20, marches will take place in Chicago, Carbondale and Springfield and will be used to mark the first anniversary of the 2017 Women’s Marches.

The idea behind this is publicity; it is hoped that once people are made aware of what’s going on, women will get more involved with the 2018 general and primary elections as well as future ones.  Hopefully this will result in a larger turnout of women voters.

As well, the Women’s March fully promotes women’s rights, in particular: affordable childcare and healthcare; equal pay and rights; fair wages; freedom from violence and more.

As it is, Illinois is already faring better than the rest of the nation.  For the 2018 State House and Senate Primary Elections, the average female candidate percentage is a mere 36 percent.  but in Illinois, female participation in Primary’s will reach 41 percent in 2018 – which is a new high as well as the largest amount of female candidates vying for those seats in the last three election cycles.

However, even Illinois has a long way to go to bridge the gender gap.  Since 2012 there has only ever been one year whereby more women ran in Republican Primary Elections for State House or State Senate than in Democratic Primary Elections.  There were two increases however:  one with the House of Representatives and one with lieutenant governor (three women competed for the position).  At least it’s a start.

Illinois Tax

An “in-between” tax rate is coming to Illinois for 2017 earnings.  There was a tax increase in the state and thus the Illinois Department of Revenue calculated a “blended” rate of 4.35% following an increase of the basic rate (in July) from 3.75 to 4.95%.  According to Terry Horstman – spokesman for the Department of Revenue – this figure is based on the amount of days under the two different figures.  Tax forms will comprise the blended rate facilitating the process for taxpayers.  The rate is for income from January-December 2017. The increase in tax rates is in order to raise over $5.1 billion for the 2018 fiscal year.

There are potentially more tax increases in the pipeline too that will go toward recreation programs.  With a  tax property increase the Chicago Park District believes they will get closer to their proposed $462.3 million budget for park expansion and “special recreation programming” and sites.  This would only cost the average homeowner an additional $6.48 and would generate a staggering $7.6 million in revenue.

When it comes to wind energy firms in the state, the taxing model there has been “touted as one of the best in the country, bringing in $30.4 million in property taxes in 2016, according to economic experts.”  Whereas it’s common for most of the nation to implore a very patchy system, Illinois has a much more “consistent” one which began in 2007 after its legislature found its system of property tax assessments was so problematic and confusing when it came to wind companies.

Building Developments in Chicago

There have been some interesting new construction developments in the Windy City as of late.  Here, we discuss three of them: Fulton Market WeWork, the Johnson Publishing Building and the Starbucks on Canal Street.

Randy Rissman of Tiger Electronics is in the process of completing a deal to purchase a six-floor office building located at 210-220 N. Green Street in Fulton.  With a price tag of approximately $45 million, those selling the property (Shapack Partners, AJ Capital Partners and Shorenstein Properties) will make a tidy profit on what it paid originally – $6.8 million – in 2013.

The Johnson Publishing Building – located on South Michigan Avenue – is in the process of converting what has been office space to 150 apartments for rent.  This should start in the beginning of 2018 by 3L Real Estate which just acquired the construction from Columbia College.

Although it already has the largest Starbucks in Chicago, apparently that’s not good enough for the coffee tycoon.  Plans have been revealed to develop it to be more than double of its original size, adding 30,000 square feet in its 111 N. Canal Street building to cater to additional workers behind the scenes who are developing new concepts for the firm. Right now, its regional Chicagoan office is nearly 14,000 square feet, located at 564 W. Randolph Street.

Thriving Illinois Economy

Illinois University found in its November’s (monthly) Flash Economic Index that there is slow and steady growth in the state’s economy.  There was an increase of 3/10th of a point to 104-point-two from October, marking the end of a five-year low. Fred Giertz, who is an economist at the University, said that anything over 100 means growth and while it is “not [an] explosive growth” but still impressive and similar to what the economy has gone through nationwide in the last two quarters (3 percent).

In Will County, there has been impressive economic development too.  According to the Will County Center for Economic Development’s President and CEO, John Greuling, this year, Will County witnessed the creation of an additional 6,200 jobs, 21 million more square feet of space, $900 million in new investment and 40 business expansions.

Amazon, Ikea and General Mills built new warehouses, and the University of St. Francis and Joliet Junior College constructed new facilities. Silver Cross broke ground on a new 100-bed behavioral health center, Mars Candy moved into a 1.4 square foot complex, and four other 1 million square foot sites were built on speculation, he said. It all demonstrates a “high confidence” in Will County’s market, Greuling said.

Meanwhile for those looking to make some extra cash over the festive period, Rockford UPS is hiring.  They are looking for around 2,000 people in full- and part-time capacities as drivers, helpers and packers.

Small Business Saturday

On November 25, the entire country was able to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Chicago was not about to miss out.  Both owners of small businesses and consumers were able to benefit from what Chicago had to offer, especially at the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.  In fact, it’s one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Small Business Saturday has, over the years (since its inception in 2010), garnered a reputation for providing shoppers with better quality and more unique purchases.

Over in Bronzeville, there were around 20 local businesses that took the initiative to set up a spot where they sold their wares and which was especially useful for those selling pre-Christmas orders such as bakeries and decorative stores.

Meanwhile a new Andersonville store, Cowboys and Astronauts enjoyed great publicity as it had some great exposure.  After getting into the holiday spirit on Thanksgiving, this was the perfect opportunity to take it to the next level.

Traditional Chicagoan Fare

Wings, wings and more wings…Chicago is definitely known for its Buffalo wings and has some of the best ones nationwide.  This was recently ascertained in a Daily Meal ranking, which found the Windy City to be home to America’s top 25 wing establishments.   Three of those included in the list were: Superior and Wabash (no. 15), Buffalo Joe’s (19) and Bird’s Nest (20).

For Chicagoans looking for more of a nighttime activity, whereby cocktails and food are served, there is Point & Feather, run by restaurateur Adolfo Garcia. So much more than an eatery, there are 12 dart boards in the restaurant but it is not set up as an arcade or an official dart bar just “a really cool hangout that has darts machines blending in with elements of design.”   Vis-à-vis the food, the main elements are typically American and plate-sharing-encouraged.  Items include: short rib, burger, white fish, pork belly and cocktails go under names such as Queen of Thorns, Espadin Dreams and Twilight in Amsterdam.

Of course, for those looking for something that just spells out ‘Chicago,’ Schaller’s Pump is the city’s oldest restaurant and bar.  Established back in 1881 it has become quite the local legend, telling classic political and historical stories about Chicago and the White Sox.  Old-school food with no-frills booze, it’s a must-see for tourists and a “Cheers” type bar for locals.

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.