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CHICAGO-United Airlines’ recently announced 450,000-square-foot lease at Willis Tower is being seen as a boon to business in Chicago and a sign of further corporate leases to come. The decision will move 2,800 employees, including management, administrative, accounting, IT and crew planning/daily operations jobs, to the 3.8-million-square-foot former Sears Tower as early as fall 2010.

Nonprofit economic development organization World Business Chicago assisted United in its relocation process from its current operation headquarters in Elk Grove Township by serving as a liaison between the city, United and real estate representatives.

The WBC says United’s decision is evidence of an emerging surge of corporate migration downtown. “United’s decision to bring its operations center to Chicago exemplifies an increasing trend we are seeing of companies choosing to locate downtown due to the city’s unmatched advantages,” says Rita Athas, WBC executive director. “The Willis Tower offers United a central location with incomparable access to the region, nation and world.”

Willis Tower is hoped to offer United an updated, more effective workspace, via its central location, technological advances and efficient LEED-certified offices. The move will also bring United’s operations employees in greater proximity to the company’s world headquarters at 77 W. Wacker Dr., which houses 630 employees. The world headquarters, too, was based out of Elk Grove Township until three years ago.

This deal offers beneficial repercussions beyond just those experienced by United itself, with the WBC emphasizing the significant impact this will have on the city’s economy, calling it one of the largest job attraction projects in recent history. The organization points to an International Council of Shopping Centers study that shows each job brought into the city generates about $7,250 annually through meals, shopping and other expenditures. This money and economic activity in turn benefits other local businesses and boosts the city’s overall tax revenues.

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