Chicago Market HighlightsOverview
Chicago is the most influential economic region between the East and West Coasts. Situated at the geographical heart of the nation, Chicago’s locational advantages have fostered its development into an international center for banking, securities, high technology, air transportation, business services, wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing. Chicago’s economic structure is similar to that of the nation as a whole, with comparable distributions of employment across industries. Chicago’s economy tends to be neither more nor less volatile than the national economy. As such, Chicago is less vulnerable to fluctuations in individual industries than most other large urban regions.
Chicago’s strategic location, critical infrastructure, leading academic institutions, and talented workforce have created one of the world’s largest and most formidable economies. In fact, if Greater Chicago were its own country, it would have been ranked 22nd largest in the world. Metropolitan Chicago is a key player in virtually every sector of the American economy and is a dominant or leading player in a dozen industries.
Chicago has continued to invest at the rate of nearly a billion dollars a year in infrastructure, schools, roads, parks and public transportation. Chicago’s two (2) city-operated airports serve more destinations with more flights than any single city’s airport in the world. The private sector and the federal government have likewise transformed America’s traditional telecommunications hub into the world’s fastest, highest capacity and most redundant digital infrastructure. This makes Chicago the data recovery capital of North America and allows its financial exchanges to connect to Asian and European financial capitals in real time. These factors all contribute to Chicago’s reputation as one of the world’s premier metropolitan area and economic center.
Located along the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and within one (1) day’s truck drive of 50% of the North American economy, Chicago is the geographical center of the nation. It is unique in its transportation predominance. Chicago began as the water hub of the west with its strategic location between two watershed systems – the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, subsequently becoming the railroad hub of the continent, one of the highway hubs of the continent and the aviation hub of the continent.
Two (2) primary airports serve Chicago, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one of the world’s busiest airports serving over 200,000 daily domestic and international passengers and Chicago Midway International Airport. Together the city’s airports generate 500,000 jobs and $45 billion a year for the local economy. Chicago O’Hare International Airport is currently undergoing a $6.6 billion expansion and Midway recently completed an $800 million expansion and renovation project.
Ten (10) interstate highways service the area, more than in any other U.S. metropolitan area, and trucks driving those roads move $572 billion a year in goods. These important transportation arteries provide access to and from all areas of the country as well as travel within Metropolitan Chicago. Chicago is the nation’s largest trucking center with over 200 truck terminals.
In addition to the extensive road system, Chicago serves as the country’s primary railroad hub. Chicago is home to the six (6) largest railroads on the continent, which, in conjunction with fourteen (14) smaller railroads, move $350 billion in goods through Chicago, annually. Nearly $1 trillion in freight passes through the region each year and the railroads jointly generate $8 billion in gross economic activity. Shipping access from Lake Michigan to other Great Lake ports, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico further enhances access to Metropolitan Chicago. This unique highway, rail and shipping access contributes to Chicago’s role as an undisputed economic center of the Midwest. As a rail center, Chicago not only has an excellent distribution network for its industrial commodities, but has an extensive commuter rail system and is the hub for Amtrak intercity train service. Chicago’s integrated mass transit system is considered to be one of the most elaborate in the nation. Central to this system are ten (10) heavy-rail commuter lines that radiate from four (4) downtown terminals.
With a population of 9.6 million people, the Chicago metropolitan area is the third largest in the United States, trailing New York and Los Angeles. The Chicago MSA is comprised of the counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Will and Lake County in Indiana. Claritas Inc. reports an 18% or 1.4 million increase in population since 1990 and anticipates a 2.1% increase over the next five (5) years.
Chicago’s relatively low cost of doing business serves as an additional attraction for corporate relocation and expansion. Chicago’s cost of living index is significantly below that of its largest competitors such as New York, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco. In addition, Greater Chicago reports income levels that are among the highest of any region in the country. In 2013, the Chicago median household income was $47,270, with the Central Loop census tract median household income measuring $75,457.
As the undisputed economic capital of the Midwest, Chicago is home to the headquarters of thirty-one (31) Fortune 500 corporations, second to New York. Historically, Chicago’s employment was centered upon manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade industries. As recently as twenty-five (25) years ago, these industries accounted for more than half of all jobs in Chicago. Today, no single sector accounts for more than a 20% share.
Many corporations are headquartered in Chicago in order to take advantage of the benefits of being near transportation, suppliers, customers and similar businesses. Other benefits include access to a skilled educated labor force and the benefits associated with having an established urban infrastructure.