Tag Archives: Chicago

One Company’s Layoffs Is Another Company’s Hires

Chicago skyline seen from Cortland Street Drawbridge. Photo courtesy of John G. Suhayda.

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.

Rumors Rising that Cake Boss Might Settle Down in Chicago

Bartolo Buddy Valastro. Photo by Jen Knoedl
Bartolo Buddy Valastro. Photo by Jen Knoedl

Buddy Valastro, reality TV celebrity baker, is considering locating a new branch of Carlo’s Bakery in Chicago. Valestro, who is from New Jersey, has been enthralling his fans with his incredible baked creations at his bakeries all over the country, and he is now ready to bring his craft to the Windy City.

The headquarters of Cake Boss, Valastro’s own bakery, is in Hoboken, New Jersey, Valestro’s home state. There are now six New Jersey locations, one in Philadelphia, another in Las Vegas, and one in New York. He also owns nine bakeries on Norwegian Cruise Lines.

The reality TV show, called Cake Boss, takes place in the various Carlo’s bakery locations.
According to Nicole Valdes, Carlo’s spokesperson, “[Valastro] goes to Chicago multiple times a year and I think Buddy can’t travel anywhere without thinking of opening a bakery.”

This summer Cake Boss was stationed in Chicago for the TLC Summer Block Party at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Chicago Losing Lucas Museum

George Lucas. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
George Lucas. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

George Lucas announced he was taking his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art project out of the Windy City due to objections to the project made by a city watchdog group.

Filmmaker Lucas, of Star Wars fame, could take his project back to California. The museum was first proposed for construction in San Francisco, but that city refused to give Lucas a site which overlooked the San Francisco Bay so Lucas brought the project to Chicago where he received support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Friends of the Parks, a green area protection organization, filed a lawsuit to prevent the museum’s construction on valuable lakefront property next to Soldier Field. Mayor Rahm is a vehement supporter of the museum despite coming under criticism for the past several months for that support. Opponents of the museum say Emanuel has been spending too much effort on getting the Lucas Museum built when the city has much more important problems which should be dealt with. The Mayor answered his critics by saying the city is missing a great opportunity:

“This missed opportunity has not only cost us what will be a world-class cultural institution, it has cost thousands of jobs for Chicago workers, millions of dollars in economic investment and countless educational opportunities for Chicago’s youth.”

Lucas also expressed frustration with the city:

“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot. The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically-elected bodies of government.”

Chicago Number One on the Unemployment List

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

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.

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.

Redmoon Theater Lowering the Curtain

static1.squarespace.comRedmoon Theater, a Chicago tradition for two and a half decades, announced last week that it was shutting down permanently. The performance company said they were no longer able to properly support their “unique artistic vision.”

The company stated in a letter to the public that:

“It has been an honor to serve the city of Chicago for the past 25 years. We have been blessed to work in and with over 40 of Chicago’s 77 official neighborhoods and to bring our unique brand of spectacle to some of our finest institutions; to many of the city’s most revered public sites; and most importantly to some of its most overlooked neighborhoods.”

Recent attempts to revitalize the flagging company ended poorly. The 2014 Great Chicago Fire Festival drew 30,000 people to the celebration at the shores of the Chicago River. Unfortunately, the main spectacle, which was supposed to “celebrate Chicago’s grit, greatness, and renewal following the fire of 1871” did not come off as planned. Floating sculptures on the river that were supposed to burst into flames failed to ignite due to cold and rainy weather. Redmoon was highly criticized for the failure.

The company also tried to start a rental business in its most recent venue. Complications and failures which led to a lawsuit for $62,082.22 for unpaid rent in September and October. Phillip Mumford, who is seeking those damages, is due to meet Redmoon in court later this week.

“Our consolation at this sad moment is that Redmoon is bigger than this non-profit institution,” the statement continued. “It is a spirit that survives us. It lives in you, our patrons and partners. It is a memory sown into each of the sites that have hosted us. Most of all, we are consoled that Redmoon’s mission to celebrate and uplift community is a shared concern powering amazing, if under-recognized, activity all over this great city.”

Prime Now Delivers in Chicago

Chicago residents who belong to Amazon Prime can now take advantage of a new service

Prime Now Now Delivers in Chicago
Prime Now Now Delivers in Chicago

in the Windy City, one-hour grocery delivery.

Also included in the service, which will cost Prime members an additional $7.99 per delivery are Plum Market, Sprinkles Cupcakes and My Fit Foods. If customers can wait 2 hours for their food-stuffs, then delivery is free.

Orders can be placed through the Prime Now app. Chicago joins more than 20 cities all over the country which offers Prime Now.

Counter Culture Alley Chicago Turning to New Gig

After 40 years of serving the Chicago counter culture, Alley Chicago will be closing its Lakeview shop as the New Year enters.

First opened in 1974, Alley was originally a “head” shop, selling paraphernalia to enhance the enjoyment of rock and roll music, getting high, and other such popular recreational activities high school and college kids were involved in. Owner Mark Thomas, who got involved in the business at the age of 19, introduced punk rock clothing to the store, in a combination which transformed the store into a “one-stop-shop” for all alternative lifestyles.

“Whether it was punk or motorcycles, rock ‘n’ roll or goth … that was the metamorphosis of The Alley into a lifestyle store,” Thomas said. “People who come in come 30 or 20 years later, bringing their child, and they say, ‘One thing about The Alley is it was always a good time.'”

The store is filled with a huge variety of goods, including leather jackets, spiked belt buckles, and rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia. Sales were adversely affected by several long construction projects nearby and the debilitating rise in real estate taxes.

“We said, ‘We can’t sustain these losses,'” Thomas said. “So we decided it was time to go out and reinvent ourselves.”

What Thomas has in mind is a new store on Chicago’s Northwest Side. “The Alley 1776” will put together a few different business concepts all housed in one location. He is hoping the space will include a coffeehouse, bar, performance stage, body piercing studio, and of course a store with classic Alley products.

Macy’s Considering Reinventing State Street Real Estate Usage

Macy's Department Store in New York City. Photo by Mike Strand
Macy’s Department Store in New York City. Photo by Mike Strand

The store on State Street in Chicago has been a symbol of business for over 100 years. Until nine years ago the building in the Loop housed a Marshall Field’s sign before switching to its new owner, Cincinnati-based giant retail chain, Macy’s. Now this grandfather of retail, and the inventor of the department store, says it is considering different ways to redevelop four of its flagship locations, including the one that takes up an entire block at 111 North State Street.

“We are just beginning an exploration to see what else we can do with the underutilized space in the building beyond the store,” Macy’s spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz said. “We have no pre-determinations at this point, except for the fact that this is a successful Macy’s store that will remain at this location.”

The announcement was made simultaneously with posting their disappointing third quarter data. The company would like to explore more creative ways to generate more income, with the possibility of monetizing its real estate.

Macy’s spokesman said that the redevelopment of the four flagship stores would be done in a way that “maintains a robust Macy’s retail store presence while also bringing alternative use into those buildings.” This could include joint venture projects “or other deal structures with third parties.”

Peet’s Acquires Majority Stake in Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee

Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea. Photo by: Antonio Vernon
Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea. Photo by: Antonio Vernon

Just a few weeks after acquiring Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Peet’s Coffee and Tea announced last Friday it had purchased a majority stake in Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee.

Doug Zell, founder of Intelligentsia, said he sees the move as “interesting and rewarding.”
Zell launched Intelligentsia in October 1995. Its reputation grew as a small and independent coffee company, and now has branches in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Peet’s says none of this will change with the acquisition, stating that Intelligentsia will “continue to operate independently.”

“Peet’s recognizes that we are special and wants to provide a canvas that will allow more of the world to see the picture we are painting,” Zell wrote in a letter Friday. “Perhaps a good analogy is we’ve been showing our artwork at a local gallery and now have an opportunity for a spot at the Louvre.”

Everything special about Intelligentsia will remain the same says Peet’s, from the farmers that they get their beans from to the unique way they get their coffee. What will change is that now Intelligentsia will have full access to Peet’s resources and scale.”