Don’t listen to any ‘gloom and doom’ stories about Chicago. They simply aren’t true. The city is on the move, primarily due to four key industries that have emerged as powerhouses in Chicago. These industries are thriving – in a big part – because of the city’s location; Chicago being a convenient, centralized hub. Chicago is also, however, a key player in all workplace sectors – and remember – this is a city that built the 20th largest economy in the world. The entire GRP of Sweden is smaller than the Windy City’s US$609 billion gross regional product (GRP). And, due to hosting strategic industries, the city has retained its economic position through thick and thin. Significantly, business in Chicago is among the most diversified in the US, with no single industry accounting for more than about 12% of the city’s workforce. The four biggest (but certainly not the only) sectors that are driving Chicago in the 2020s are manufacturing, transportation, information technology, and health services technology. You might have noticed that two of those include the word “technology.” Bizjournal notes that Chicago’s tech incubator “1781” was ranked the best in the world by UBI Global as it works with eight universities and hosts over 1,000 events each year for digital startups. Institutions in the city train hundreds of students in IT. These growing sectors offer opportunities that are going to be drivers of the 21st-century economy.
What does all this mean for you? Well, there are jobs in Chicago. Lots of ‘em. And we’re talking about good-paying, worthwhile jobs with upward mobility prospects. On top of the chance of landing a good-paying job, Chicago is a much more affordable city than New York or Los Angeles meaning you’ll save more of that paycheck. Renting or buying a house in Chicago isn’t going to break the bank, but at the same time, it’s a thoroughly modern city with all the trimmings you’d expect, including public transport, museums, office space, convention centers, etc. As the third-largest city in the United States of America, Chicago is the major transportation hub for the entire Midwest and that includes cargo transportation and human transportation. O’Hare International Airport is the planet’s sixth busiest airport and from there you can catch a flight to more than 200 international destinations. The city’s Central Business District called the ‘Chicago Loop’ is home to many top corporations and it’s where a lot of the city’s business gets done. The loop is a major home for all sorts of corporate headquarters. And not just the old players such as General Motors or various megabanks – 13 of the fastest-growing businesses in America’s inner cities are headquartered in Chicago… and that’s more than any other city in the nation. And of course, you’ll find plenty of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Chicago as well, including Boeing… which has been and the Windy City for nearly two decades. A total of 12 Fortune 500 companies have their HQ in Chicago, and again that means the potential for jobs and upward mobility.
What about some of the downsides? Well, to be frank, there’s only one we can think of and that would be rather bone-chilling winters. But the city’s infrastructure is designed for winter and of course, you get to enjoy deep dish pizza to help you make it through the snowy season. Those considering opening a small or medium-sized business should also put Chicago on their list as it really is a city for entrepreneurs. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, “The Chicago metropolitan area is home to the nation’s third-largest manufacturing cluster with 560,000 jobs in industries ranging from computers to electronics to metalworking and pharmaceuticals.” Bear in mind that just outside the city of Chicago, spread across the state of Illinois and other nearby states are plenty of farming and agriculture. If your business is related to food or otherwise connected to farming or agriculture, Chicago is a perfect location for such a business. And finally, Chicago remains popular with tourists both from inside the United States and from abroad, and while Covid has dented the tourism industry everywhere, the city is beginning a recovery and the tourists are coming back. The industry is predicted to very soon hit pre-Covid levels and then surpass them. In short, the future of this classic American city is bright – and there’s a neighborhood, an industry, and a workforce that is perfect for just about any type of business.
Chicago is sometimes thought of in terms of it being ‘a tale of two cities,’ with aging industries such as auto parts manufacturing alongside snazzy new IT startups. But this is a strength, not a weakness. The old and new keep the city in balance while providing opportunities for those with the energy and willpower to grab chances when they see them.