Many companies that have taken major positions on the stage of global business got their starts in Chicago. The city has been known for generations for its hospitable corporate climate. In fact, in 2014, Site Selection Magazine named ”the windy city” the number-one destination for corporate investment for the second year in a row. And in recent years in particular, a number of companies previously established elsewhere have moved their headquarters or expanded their operations to downtown Chicago.
Here are the stories of five successful corporate transplants:
1. Archer Daniels Midland
Officials at global agribusiness giant ADM cited downtown Chicago’s proximity to world market connections and the city’s ability to help the company sustain its strong partnerships with individual farmers as reasons for relocating dozens of its top executives from the suburb of Decatur to downtown Chicago in 2013. Like many other internationally focused corporations, ADM also noted that downtown Chicago was an attractive move because it offered the company a more diverse and educated pool of potential employees.
2. United Airlines
United Continental Holdings, the parent company of United Airlines, recently moved its global headquarters into Willis Tower, the renamed Sears Tower in downtown Chicago. Thought by many business experts to be Chicago’s biggest private company, United focused on the benefits in communication and collaboration that having its entire staff in a single location would offer. As part of the relocation agreement with the city, United returned more than $5 million in tax incentives that had been designated for use at its previous location.
United currently occupies 16 floors of the Willis Tower. This amounts to 830,000 square feet of office space for the roughly 4000 employees who now work there.
3. Hillshire Brands
Sara Lee, which traces its origins to 1939 as a Baltimore-based sugar, tea, and coffee business, changed its overall corporate name to Hillshire Brands in 2012. Later that same year, it moved from Downers Grove into new corporate headquarters in a redesigned industrial building in Chicago’s bustling West Loop neighborhood. Built during World War II, the South Jefferson Street building later served as an induction station for troops entering the military during the war in Vietnam.
The company’s move provided some 650 new jobs for the area. And by taking on the tenancy of its new building on Jefferson Street, the company hoped to revamp its corporate culture as well. During Hillshire’s transition to its new location, its executive team focused on providing clear and open communication throughout the organization, giving frequent updates to make sure that everyone stayed informed.
Visitors to 111 North Canal Street in Chicago can now see the name of Gogo, Inc., atop the building. The inflight broadband Internet provider to major airlines completed the move in 2015, transferring hundreds of staff members out of its Itasca, Illinois, office into Chicago’s West Loop. At the time of the company’s announcement, in 2013, Crain’s Chicago Business called the project one of the largest corporate moves in recent years.
With a current workforce of 900, the firm continues to expand. Like other companies, particularly those in the technology field, Gogo understood that a move from the suburbs to downtown would bring it closer to a wider and more diverse talent pool.
5. Mead Johnson Nutrition
In a joint statement with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel early in 2015, Mead Johnson Nutrition, which makes several popular lines of infant formulas, announced that it would relocate to the River Point office tower in the West Loop from its offices in the Chicago suburb of Glenview. Mead Johnson plans to occupy three floors containing 75,000 square feet of space in the 52-story-high riverfront building.
The building plan includes a 1.5-acre public green space and has already won pre-certification as meeting the LEED Gold standard for environmentally sustainable design. With the construction of River Point estimated to finish in 2016, Mead Johnson expects to move into its new offices by the middle of 2017.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office noted that Mead Johnson is just one of more than 30 companies that have chosen to relocate their headquarters to Chicago since 2011, when he first became mayor.