Chicago Remained No. 1 for Corporate Relocations, Expansions in 2021, Magazine Says

CoStar reports Metro Area Tops Site Selection Survey for Ninth Consecutive Year; Texas Scores Most Attractive State Award.

The Chicago area set a record for corporate relocations and expansions in 2021, according to Site Selection magazine, making it the top metropolitan area in the United States for investment for the ninth consecutive year.

There were 441 qualifying deals in greater Chicago last year with a combined $2.8 billion in investments, 18,368 new jobs and 59 million square feet of expansion space, according to a statement Tuesday from the Georgia-based magazine and Chicago officials.

Chicago’s Fulton Market office building

The Dallas market ranked second, with Houston third. The Austin area of Texas was No. 1 in investments per capita. Texas attracted more investments than any other state.

Site Selection honors are a feather in the cap for cities, states and regions competing for jobs. The magazine said it has 48,000 subscribers, most of whom are involved in corporate relocation decisions at the C-suite level.

“Earning this title for the ninth year in a row is truly a testament to our city’s incredible strengths, workforce and diverse economy,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in the statement. “As we continue to recover from this pandemic on a social and economic level, this ongoing success in attracting businesses will bode well for Chicago’s future and enable business leaders to secure the connections, resources and support they need to grow.”

In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city lacked a splashy headquarters relocation on par with those seen in recent years, when companies moving from the suburbs or other cities have included McDonald’s, Kraft Heinz, Conagra Brands, Motorola Mobility, Archer Daniels Midland, Mondelez International and Motorola Solutions. But the area was boosted in 2021 by a continued wave of industrial development, as well as office jobs moving to Chicago’s Fulton Market district from out of state.

Office deals include Moline, Illinois-based John Deere tractor maker Deere & Co. planning to hire as many as 300 tech workers at 800 W. Fulton and Texas-based Kimberly-Clark signing a lease to move 250 jobs to 1155 W. Fulton from Neenah, Wisconsin. Riverwoods, Illinois-based Discover Financial Services is in the process of hiring close to 1,000 workers at a call center in a converted former Target store in the Chatham neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

Industrial deals include food company Nature’s Fynd’s large expansion of space on the South Side and the Aviation Institute of Maintenance’s conversion of a Southwest Side warehouse into an airplane hangar where it will teach aspiring plane technicians.

The booming e-commerce sector also continues to drive industrial leasing in the area, which is a key part of the national supply chain. That is among the factors helping the Chicago area overcome obstacles such as a relatively stagnant population and concerns about crime in the city and rising property taxes in Cook County.

“We frequently hear from company decision-makers that Chicago’s unmatched pipeline of diverse and skilled talent, central location and connectivity to the world, coupled with strong business infrastructure, sets the city apart from others when it comes to relocation and expansion,” Michael Fassnacht, president and CEO of World Business Chicago, said in the statement. “Today, Chicago is also seen as a role model for equitable recovery and economic growth. Our commitment to drive sustainable, inclusive growth in order to realize healthier communities and improve the livelihoods of all Chicago residents — especially those in historically underserved neighborhoods — is significant.”

Projects that qualify must be private-sector investments of at least $1 million, create 20 or more new jobs, or add 20,000 square feet or more, according to the magazine. Using those same criteria, Texas won the magazine’s Governor’s Cup for the 10th consecutive year, with 1,123 qualified projects. Ohio ranked second with 507 projects and Illinois was third with 480. Kansas was No. 1 in investments per capita.

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