For Rent: Chicago Office Leasing Up Again

Chicago office space

Entering Q3 of 2021, office rentals in downtown Chicago are beginning to fill up again. As businesses determine protocols for hybrid work models, more and more companies are seeking office space.

Chicago’s downtown firms leased 2.2 million square feet in Q3, nearly 20% more than 2020. Nevertheless, more than 20% of office space in downtown Chicago remained available for rent, mostly because tenants aren’t expecting to operate at full capacity and are not looking for big spaces. Some industry experts say that many of the leases being signed are for companies that gave up their rentals for the majority of 2020 and the beginning of this year. Lockdowns and cost-saving measures had these businesses working remotely; now they are looking to reopen an office and maintain a downtown presence.

The cost of rent also increased by 0.7%, with an average of $40.70 per square foot.

Balancing the Tech Workforce in Chicago

As more and more investors ask companies to share the information reported to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the realities of workforce representation of minorities and women are gaining new attention. For many firms and businesses, including those in Chicago, increasing participation by Black and Latino workers in tech jobs is a top priority.

Diversity in Chicago Tech Jobs

Google, for example, has 1,200 workers in its Chicago offices; African Americans make up 2.2 percent of technical jobs. Latinos make up only 4.8 percent of these jobs in the tech-giants national employment base.

The executives at Chicago firms say they have all seen the benefits of diversity in their staffing schemes. A healthy sharing of opinions, constructive debates, and meaningful exchange of best practices are only some of the positives that come along with expanding the hiring base. Unfortunately, not all Chicagoans are optimistic. Carlton Gates, an African American recruiter for Yum! Brands based in Chicago, and a former employee of Oracle and Google, says the tech-verse has been “talking about diversity for 20 years, and not a single thing has changed.” According to Gates, there is a tribal vibe on engineering teams, where little to no cultural or ethnic crossover happens.

With all this in mind, local companies with open tech vacancies are looking for new resources and pipelines to identify talent. They are also taking measures to modify the interview processes to abate bias and address issues that might be unique to minority populations.

Diversity in Chicago Tech Jobs

Chicago is Reopening

Chicago is open for business! After 18 months of Covid-19 concerns, Chicago’s museums, restaurants, and attractions are back.

Businesses across Chicago are reopening.

For many of the diners and eateries in the Loop, the reopening has been a nuanced blessing. Their primary customer base- employees and visitors of local companies- have not yet fully returned to the office. They need a steady stream of customers to supplement the delivery and take-out business that has kept them going thus far. And those professionals who are beginning to head back to the office favor these establishments for a quick coffee break,  lunchtime, or post-work meal.

Eateries and attractions in and out of the Loop are eager to welcome customers.

With many new restaurants to check out across Chicago, there are countless options for a long-overdue meet-up with friends, a business lunch with colleagues, or a romantic date night.

City of Chicago Raises Minimum Wage

Chicago has announced a raise to its minimum wage, which now stands at $15 per hour. The state of Illinois is set to reach this benchmark in four years.

The change comes after several years of lobbying by groups like Fight for $15, during which time numerous retailers increased their wages to $15 or higher. Similarly, many institutions announced raises for essential workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while other businesses have been pushed to raise wages as well.

The new minimum wage increase will affect some 40,000 people, according to the city.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is excited by the change. “This is a happy day,” she said, calling the move “one of the most critical pieces of legislation to be introduced during my administration.”

Chicago Startups Raised $257 Million in May

Chicago’s venture funding dropped in May but remains healthy, with startups raising $257 million according to Chicago Inno. 

Some of the leading startups and tech companies in Chicago to raise funds in May include: 

  • Fintech startup Amount, which raised $100 million in a Series D round run by VC firm Westcap
  • Digital marketplace BluePallet, which “came out of stealth mode” to receive $4 million in funding 
  • Cryptocurrency insurance company Evertas which raised $5.8 million in a seed round
  • Biotech startup Grove Biopharma, which raised $4 million for a new project which could lead to a treatment for conditions such as MS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 
  • Startup Kin Insurance, which raised $64 million in a round co-led by Senator Investment Group and Hudson Structured Capital Management.  
  • Obie, which raised $10.7 million following last year’s $2.8 million seed round 

Chicago’s Marking of Women’s History Month

Last month America marked Women’s History Month.  In this article we take a brief look at some of the activities that went on in Chicago.

Chicago Detours led an hour-long Badass Women of History Virtual Tour which spotlighted a wide range of women throughout history who were connected to Chicago in some way. One example was the activist Chicagoan women who fought make Chicago the location for the 1892 world fair. Led by Illinois based Emma Gilson Wallace they tried to create a ‘Women’s Department for the Fair.’

Illinois-headquartered Lifeway Foods CEO Julie Smolyansky sees Women’s History Month as

“a time to celebrate and honor the achievements of women throughout history…There’s not a single museum dedicated to the achievements, accomplishments, and contributions of women, it is incredibly important to honor and celebrate all the great things that women offer in the world.”

One can also make a stop at the Field Museum for an exhibition on the incredible strength of Apsáalooke women and Warrior who preserved Northern Plains tribe stories. See the century-old war shields and unique artifacts that are in this exhibition.

Founder and CEO of Chicago’s Vosges Haut Chocolat Katrina Markoff said:

“This particular year of Women’s History Month really means something kind of very different to me than in the past, I feel we have this amazing momentum into 2021, a sort of balancing the archetypes of male and female and it’s rising in a very female type of moon…I think that we’re coming into this golden age of balance between the genders, and a lot more respect for tenacity and unknown and the intuitive nature of women.”

These women have made incredible achievements. Support them and others by going out for dinner under the Let’s Talk & Dine Together: Celebration of International Women’s Day program.

Local Startups and Accelerators

Chicago has recently been quite the hub for both accelerator programs and the start up community.  Here we take a look at two: the launch of Duality and 1871.

Duality is America’s first accelerator program which is dedicated 100% to quantum science and technology startup firms. This specific industry is on track to become crucial in the development of numerous other related sectors.  Duality itself is seeking to help quantum startups “bridge the gap between the laboratory and the marketplace… a critical barrier to success for emerging technologies.”   

Chicago has become a key address for Global Quantum activity. For example in 2020 an announcement was made by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science  Foundation to make Chicago the address for three out of the eight-federally funded quantum information science research entities.

The Chicago technical community has also recently been privy to the impact of startup incubator 1871, a company that “create the experiences and space that early stage, growth stage, and corporate innovators need while they build extraordinary businesses. We are actively committed to building a more inclusive and diverse community in order to provide those who are underrepresented a pathway into technology & innovation leadership.”

Now that Duality has acquired Hub88 – a company that offers an integration platform to guide gaming suppliers easily and efficiently through just one API for all casino operations – the merger will enable 1871 to provide increased access to emerging technologies. As Betsy Ziegler, CEO at 1871 explained:

“At 1871, we firmly believe in the transformative power of ‘and,’ that as a unified organization we can accelerate our members’ journeys across the maturity curve and embrace a deep technical focus in our programming, our physical spaces, and across the broader community. This is a remarkable opportunity to better support our members and expand our collective reach across Illinois and the greater Midwest. We are excited to welcome hub88’s innovators and university partners into the 1871 community.”

Chicago is fast becoming a tech hub where technology firms and startups are considering making their address.