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Survey: More Companies, Jobs to Head Back into Chicago

Almost 80 percent of 12,000 area professionals surveyed by Ernst & Young LLP say they believe companies will keep moving from the suburbs to Chicago.

October 10, 2012
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Expect companies and jobs to continue moving back to Chicago.

Almost 80 percent of 12,000 area professionals surveyed by Ernst & Young LLP say they believe companies will keep moving from the suburbs to Chicago. In Illinois, Google Inc. decided to move more than 2,000 Motorola Mobility Inc. workers from Libertyville to Chicago after it bought the cellphone maker. United Airlines also moved downtown from Elk Grove Village and Hillshire Brands, Sara Lee's meat business, is moving to Chicago from Downers Grove.

The big reasons for the migration are transportation, concentration of talent and availability of technology infrastructure, according to the survey, which was done for Chicago Ideas Week. It's the basis of the "Work: No Longer Business as Usual" talk at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Goodman Theatre. Sixty percent of survey respondents were based in the city and half were managers or business owners.

"To find all those attributes in a single area like Chicago is unique," says Kelly Grier, managing partner of Ernst & Young's Chicago office.

Chicago has been particularly attractive to technology companies that have found that younger workers are less likely to move to the suburbs than previous generations.

"Chicago is the most livable city in the U.S. in terms of cost and quality of culture, and the diversity of work opportunities," says Brad Keywell, co-founder of venture fund Lightbank and the organizer of Ideas Week. "That appeals to young people who are just entering the workforce who want to be around other young people."

However, it creates challenges for suburbs faced with losing major employers and taxpayers amid a growing glut of office space.

Among the other noteworthy findings in the survey: The traditional full-time job will continue to vanish. Sixty percent expect companies to increase their reliance on contractors in the future. And 48 percent said they expect contractors to become more important than full-time employees.

Most of those who believe the use of contractors to increase are those doing the hiring: managers, executives and independent business owners.

John Pletz writes for Crain's Chicago Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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