During the past five years, at least 10 companies have relocated some or all of their business to downtown Chicago, including United Airlines, BP, Thomson Reuters and Willis Group Holdings. Now, according to a story in this weekend’s Chicago Tribune, other major employers like Acco Brands, Sara Lee Corp. and Barilla are also considering moving back to the city – and they’re not alone.
Businesses moving downtown
The suburban campus headquarters, once the pinnacle of corporate America, is on the decline. Two recent pieces from the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine explain that many companies are choosing to leave their suburban headquarters in favor of walkable downtowns with smart growth features.
“The youth of America, when they graduate, they’re looking to go to an urban environment,” Quicken CEO Bill Emerson explained to Fortune. Explaining that top recruits wanted to be in a place where they could live, work and play, Emerson added, “An asphalt parking lot is not necessarily the best way to do that.”
Features like mass transit, shorter commutes, the option of walking to work and access to restaurants and shops – all key principles of smart growth development – are forming a new model of what America’s most desirable workers want. Rather than trying to lure these workers out to the suburbs, many companies – including corporations like United Airlines, Zappos.com, Credit Suisse AG, Panasonic – are relocating to where young, talented professionals want to live. According to Fortune:
In general, suburban or rural locations are cheaper per square foot, have lower taxes, ample parking, and don’t require higher salaries for employees to feel reasonably compensated. But for companies looking to recruit younger people, all those factors have to be weighed against the reality that there is nothing hip about the ‘burbs.