Dennis Vicchiarelli and Eric Olson

   When business executives need to decide about where to locate their companies, they navigate a decision-making process that has always been political in nature. But in today’s highly polarized political world, these differences have turned into high-stakes rivalries in the commercial real estate market as states, cities and localities vie for jobs and tax revenue. Last week, the Chicago Chapter of CoreNet Global heard from World Business Chicago about business conditions.

   CHICAGO – On Thursday, Feb. 14, the Chicago Chapter of CoreNet Global hosted a team of economic developers from World Business Chicago who are charged with promoting the Windy City: Managing Director Dennis Vicchiarelli and Deputy Director Eric Olson, Plan for Economic Growth & Jobs.

   While the Chicago region is home to a large number of global, national and regional headquarters, in recent years it has lost some of its appeal to corporate site selectors. Vicchiarelli and Olson spoke about the current economic development dynamics at play in the Chicago region. The following is a rundown of what they said:

Businesses Need A Stable Urban Environment To Thrive
   The business community is partnering with the public sector to work toward safe streets, stable finances and great schools.  With the State of Illinois’ credit rating at the bottom of the list of 50 sates, the burden lies with the city and its agencies to demonstrate that financial stability can be found despite the state’s struggles.
Entrepreneurship Can Be Homegrown
   Sometimes referred to as the “Capitol of the Midwest,” Chicago attracts a young, creative workforce from throughout the Great Lakes and Prairie states.  Companies like Groupon and Motorola Mobility access that labor force – but it also has resulted in a culture of entrepreneurship, particularly in the technology space. Chicago’s 1871 project is a collaborative working environment now home to 200 entrepreneurs, founded with public and private funding that serves as an incubator for growing businesses in the City, a model for others throughout the country. Large companies connect with start-ups to connect innovation with the need for corporate problem solving.
Regional Teamwork Is A Win-Win For All Jurisdictions
   While many companies are seeking access to the young, urban workforce, others are attracted to a more suburban setting. Ultimately, a corporation locating anywhere in the 14-county region is a win-win for all interconnected economies.
Location, Location, (Central) Location
   While the East and West Coasts have their own attractions, Chicago’s central location in the heart of the North America is a significant benefit for global corporations whose executives travel regularly to either coast and internationally. For international companies, it’s an ideal place in the heart of the North American marketplace and can sometimes mean it’s possible to reap the efficiencies of one central location rather than two locations, one on each coast.
Global City = Two-Sided Coin
   As the home of the president and a city with a rich history, Chicago is well-known internationally. While this is generally positive, there are also a few downsides such as concerns about crime and unionization. Strangely, there is also a misconception among some international audiences that tornados are an issue (due to all the press around tornados in “The Midwest.”)  Perhaps a Wizard of Oz-themed “We’re Not in Kansas…Really, Ever” ad campaign is in order.
   Advanced Manufacturing has always played a pivotal role in Chicago’s economy. World Business Chicago is looking at how Germany has built their economic proposition in that area, and they are looking at emulating their R&D-driven approach.
New Mayor, New Programs
   Mayor Rahm Emanuel is driving a comprehensive and inclusive plan for the Chicago region’s economic growth. World Business Chicago alone has 10 separate economic development initiatives that are driving growth, including a new Fellows program.
   Atlanta-based CoreNet Global is an association for corporate real estate and related professionals. The Chicago Chapter is one of the group’s largest, with about 400 members.