Economy of Chicago

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Chicago and its suburbs, which together comprise the Chicago Metropolitan Area, is home to 29 Fortune 500 companies and is a transportation and distribution center. Manufacturing, printing, publishing, insurance and food processing also play major roles in the city's economy.

Real estate and corporate location[edit]

The central downtown area has experienced a resurgence, in contrast to recent years, with construction of major new condominium and Class A office buildings. These include the 92-story Trump Tower Chicago, Lakeshore East development, and the 300 North Lasalle office building. Since the recession, other projects, like the planned 150-story 2000 foot Chicago Spire by architect Santiago Calatrava, are now in limbo.[1] Many city neighborhoods are gentrifying at a rapid pace as well, including Logan Square, Pilsen, Uptown, Near Southside, and Rogers Park. The massive expansion of O'Hare International Airport and recently reconstructed Dan Ryan Expressway will shape development patterns for years to come.

Changes in house prices for the Chicago metropolitan area are publicly tracked on a regular basis using the Case–Shiller index; the statistic is published by Standard & Poor's and is also a component of S&P's 10-city composite index of the value of the residential real estate market. Home prices in Chicago advanced 7.8% in March 2013 over March 2012[2]


Top publicly traded
companies in metro Chicago

according to revenues
with metro and U.S. rankings
Metro Corporation US
1 Boeing 30
2 Walgreen 37
3 Abbott Laboratories 70
4 Sears Holdings 71
5 United Continental 79
6 Mondelēz International 88
7 Allstate 92
8 McDonald's 111
9 Exelon 129
10 Kraft Foods 151
11 IL Tool Works 155
12 Baxter 193
13 Navistar 216
14 RR Donnelley 264
15 CDW 267
16 Hillshire Brands 288
17 Discover Financial 294
18 W. W. Grainger 295
19 Motorola Solutions 304
20 Dover Corporation 308
21 Tenneco 349
22 OfficeMax 367
23 Ingredion 386
24 Anixter 405
25 CF Industries 419
26 Telephone and Data Systems 468
27 United Stationers 484
28 Old Republic International 496
Further information:
Companies in the Chicago area

Source: Fortune 500 2013[3]

The city houses one of the Federal Reserve Banks, established in 1914. There is also the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. The largest banks in the Chicago region (by % of deposits) are: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America (through its acquisition of LaSalle Bank), BMO Harris Bank (a BMO subsidiary), and Northern Trust. The largest banks headquartered in Chicago are: Northern Trust, BMO Harris Bank, Corus Bank, Wintrust Financial, and First Midwest Bank. Many financial institutions are in the Loop.

Chicago has five major financial exchanges, including the Chicago Stock Exchange (CHX), the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), and NYSE Arca. While the city of Chicago houses most of the major brokerage firms, many insurance companies are in the city or suburbs, such as Allstate Corporation.

Historic highlights[edit]

Further information: History of Chicago

Before it was incorporated as a town in 1833, the primary industry was fur trading. In the 1770s, Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, the area's first resident and Haitian-born fur trader, established a fur trading post in the area which later became known as Fort Dearborn, along the bank of the Chicago River, where he traded until relocating again in 1800.[4]

The American Fur Company, established in 1808 by John Jacob Astor to compete with the powerful Canadian North West and Hudson Bay companies, practically took control of the fur trade in the United States following the War of 1812. It quickly became known for its ruthless practice of buying out or destroying the competition, as most private traders in Chicago soon found out. It appointed John Kinzie and Antoine Deschamps as its first agents in northern Illinois, and they reported to the company's headquarters on Mackinac Island. Their field of operations covered North northeastern Illinois and the Illinois River. In 1819, Charles H. Beaubien was brought in to assist Kinzie and eventually became head of the outfit. Gurdon S. Hubbard replaced Deschamps in 1823 but soon went on his own by purchasing all interests of the company in Illinois.



After the Civil War ended in 1865, the American economy was transformed by the industrial revolution, in which the city of Chicago was its leader. In the last 30 years of the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution transformed the city of Chicago into America’s second largest city and leading industrial center, as well as the world’s fastest growing city.[5] By the second half of the nineteenth century, Chicago developed into “the prototypical industrial American city”, where foreign visitors came to view the future of American industry.[6] Unlike established east-coast cities like Boston and New York, Chicago’s economy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came to be dominated by giant industrial enterprises that exerted strong international economic power.[7] The industrialization of Chicago was a harbinger for the sweeping economic changes that the United States underwent in the late 19th century.


Ever since its first settlers founded it in 1785, Chicago grew and developed because its location was ideal for commerce.[8] In 1673, French explorer Louis Jolliet discovered with the help of Native Americans that Chicago’s location on a very small and low divide between the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers was an extremely effective portage that connects the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River systems. After Fort Dearborn was erected in 1803 to secure the burgeoning village from Indian attacks, Chicago began to rapidly expand. When New York State’s Erie Canal connected the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, Chicago was viewed as the western terminal port in the Great Lakes, linking it to world markets.[9] In return, the Illinois government began planning the Illinois & Michigan Canal that would connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River system via the Chicago River.[10] Chicago thus developed into major water transport hub by the 1830s by shipping Midwestern agricultural products to the east coast and then eastern manufactured goods to the booming Midwest region.[11] The first manufacturers came to Chicago in the 1830s to process farm produce and natural resources that were shipped in and out of the city—thus Chicago’s first industrial development was due to its superb location for transportation.[12/] In 1847, Cyrus McCormick decided that Chicago’s transportation advantages and proximity to rapidly developing Midwestern agricultural lands to set up his famous McCormick reaper works, which began one of Chicago’s most important industries—the production of agricultural machinery.[13] By 1848, the first railroad opened, connecting the growing city to the East Coast by the “iron horse.” By 1856, 10 large “trunk” railroads ended in Chicago, increasing the city’s position as one of America’s most important crossroads for rail and waterborne trade.[14] The development of the surrounding Midwest also spurred the growth of industry in Chicago in that the city was the terminal market for Midwestern grain and timber from Michigan and Wisconsin.[15] Chicago’s superb water and rail transportation advantages caused a number of manufacturers to decide to set up production lines in the growing city.[16]

During the Civil War, Union military forces used Chicago’s extensive rail and water transportation network to procure and ship vital supplies and munitions for the war, encouraging many entrepreneurs to set up shop in the city.[17] In addition, the Union blockade of the Confederate Port of New Orleans shut down shipping traffic on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, which significantly reduced trade and commerce in Cincinnati and St. Louis, Chicago’s two principal rivals at the time for economic preeminence in the nation’s midsection.[18] Because Chicago was at the crossroads of the nation’s most extensive rail network, most of the trade and shipping originally bound for Cincinnati and St. Louis was instead routed through Chicago during the Civil War.[19] By the end of the Civil War, Chicago was poised for its most extensive period of industrialization yet.

The vast expansion of the American railroad network increased the potential market size for Chicago’s manufacturers and encouraged the founding of massive industrial enterprises. Because Chicago was the eastern terminus of the major western railroads and the western terminus of the major eastern railroads, Chicago was the central transfer point for people and freight moving across the United States.[20] The amount of commerce and freight moving through Chicago made the burgeoning city an ideal location for new industrial enterprises.[21] This transportation network also expedited the procurement of raw materials from the surrounding regions and the easy shipment of manufactures to the rest of the new, rapidly growing national market.[22] After the Civil War ended in 1865, industries increasingly employed the economies of scale to organize and integrate production, which meant that the processing and final fabrication of manufactured goods occurred in large cities with the best access to widespread consumers and Chicago was the most prominent example of this.[23]

Leading Industries[edit]

As Chicago became the nation’s leading railroad center following the Civil War, merchants and budding industrialists flocked to set up shop in boomtown Chicago, developing the city’s steel, meatpacking, railroad, and mail-order catalog industries by the turn of the century. Chicago’s central, Midwestern location encouraged a plethora of industries to develop and prosper well into the 20th century.


The city of Chicago developed into the international center for meatpacking by the 1870s. Between 1860 and 1920, Chicago was the undisputed meatpacking center of the world.[24] By 1890, the Chicago meatpacking industry had developed into the largest concentration of labor and capital in the world. After the establishment of the Union Stock Yards, the American meatpacking industry came to be dominated by the Armour, Swift, Morris, and Hammond packing companies, all of which based their operations at the Union Stockyards.[25]

Like other industries before and after it, Chicago’s famous meatpacking industry developed in the city due to its superior rail transportation advantages. By the Civil War, Chicago’s extensive railroad network tied its booming Midwestern hinterland region to the city and the large markets on the east coast.[26] Before the Civil War, Cincinnati was the center of the American meatpacking industry, using its location on the Ohio river to ship packed meat throughout the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys.[27] Cincinnati’s meat packing industry was dealt a fatal blow during the Civil War when the Union army blockaded the Mississippi River, severely restricting meatpackers' access to their markets and the Union army directed their contracts for processed pork and beef to Chicago packers because its rail based transportation network was deemed more efficient and secure during wartime.[28] In order to prevent cattle and hogs being driven through city streets, leading packers and railroads formed the Union Stock Yard and Transit Company in 1865 south of city limits that was accessible to all rail lines serving the city. These “stockyards” were a system of holding pens that spanned 475 acres, housing animals waiting to be slaughtered.[29] By the mid 1870s, major packers had located their slaughterhouses next to the stockyard, resulting in a massive consolidation of industry.

Once the Union Stockyards were established, Chicago’s meatpackers transformed the industry. The industrialist Philip Armour introduced a number of innovations in his meatpacking plants that were west of the stockyards, including the use of ice-cooled rooms to allow year round packing, steam hoists to elevate animal carcasses, and an overhead assembly line to move them.[30] Gustavus Swift pioneered refrigerating railroad cars, allowing fresh beef to be shipped throughout the United States.[31] They continued to expand the profits and scale of their businesses throughout the end of the 19th century by developing canned meat and turning previously discarded animal parts into glue, fertilizer, glycerin, ammonia, and gelatin.[32] By 1900, Chicago “Big Three” packers: Armour, Swift, and Morris controlled a complex industrial chain that spread from the Great Plains to eastern ports, allowing them to control livestock prices for the entire United States.[33] By 1900, the “Big Three” Chicago packers controlled 82% of the American meat market and employed 25,000 workers in the stockyards alone.[34]

Iron and Steel[edit]

Although Pittsburg is most famous among American cities for its steel industry, Chicago became one of the largest and most important steel producing regions of the world by the mid 19th century. The development of Chicago’s large iron and steel industry occurred because of its superb geographical location, highly developed transportation network, and entrepreneurial effort.[35] Since most of the iron ore used by the American steel industry during the 19th and 20th centuries was mined in northern Michigan and Minnesota, Chicago’s location at the southern end of Lake Michigan allowed steel mills easy and cheap access to vital iron ore shipments via large lake freighters.[36] In addition, Chicago’s status as America’s central rail hub by the 1860s ensured that steel mills would have easy access to coal shipped from southern Illinois and Appalachia. By the 1850s, giant iron-shaping foundries developed to supply railroad expansion radiating out of the city. By the 1860s, mills in Chicago fully adopted the Bessemer steel making process and the number and size of steel mills increased substantially. By the end of the nineteenth century, Chicago area mills began to consolidate and expand while simultaneously moving to the Calumet Region in southeastern Illinois and Northwest Indiana, in order to take advantage of extensive cheap land, with good access to the water and rail transportation at the southern end of Lake Michigan.[37] Chicago area steel companies sold huge amounts of iron and steel products to railroads, building companies, and manufactures throughout the Untied States. At the same time, the considerable expansion of local industry, such as the giant Pullman railroad car manufacturing company and the McCormick reaper works, created extensive local demand for steel that was produced in the region.[38] Chicago’s growing local market, along with its geographical and transportation advantages for steel production caused its steel industry to expand substantially throughout the first half of the 20th century. For example, even though the formation of U.S. Steel in 1901 consolidated many locally owned mills, U.S Steel built a huge new mill on the southern shores of Lake Michigan in 1906 in what would become Gary Indiana. Following World War II, the United States accounted for half of the world’s steel production, and production in the Chicago area accounted for 25% of total American production.[39]

Agricultural Machinery Industry[edit]

Chicago’s superior water and rail transportation links and location near the booming Midwestern agricultural region in the mid 19th century spurred the development of a dynamic agricultural machinery industry.[40] In 1847, inventor Cyrus McCormick chose Chicago as the location for manufacturing his successful mechanical reaper machine. McCormick’s reaper was a success and proved to be very popular with farmers developing the Midwestern agricultural regions. Like McCormick, other agricultural machinery producers were attracted to setting up shop in Chicago because the city’s superior rail transportation links to the Midwestern agricultural hinterland allowed easy access to their farmer customers.[41] By 1855, George Easterly built a Chicago factory to manufacture a grain header and John S. Wright began to manufacture a “self-rake reaper.” The sector continued to grow in Chicago, and by the 1870 Census, Chicago was home to over 4,000 agricultural machinery establishments—the most in the world.[42] This growth continued, and in 1902, the McCormick, Deering, and Plano companies merged to form the International Harvester Company, now known as Navistar. This new company controlled more than 80 percent of world production in the agricultural machinery industry, employing over 23,000 workers throughout the first half of the 20th century.[43]


Although Chicago enjoyed particular dominance in the transportation, steelmaking, meatpacking, and agricultural machinery industries, the city was home to a plethora of successful, diverse industries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[44] By the 1880s, Chicago was unquestionably the industrial and transportation center of the United States.[45] Before the 1880s, most manufacturing operations in metropolitan Chicago employed hundreds of workers. By the 1880s however, manufacturing in Chicago came to be dominated by giant industrial enterprises, like the Union Stockyards, the McCormick Company reaper works, and the Pullman Car Works that each employed tens thousands of workers in large capital intensive factories.[46] This shift towards mass-scale industry had a number of important effects: including the growth of the labor movement, a reduction in the number of women and children in the industrial workforce, and massive emigration and population growth in the Chicago area.[47]

Effects of Industrialization[edit]

The massive industrialization that Chicago faced in the late 19th century transformed the city from a sleepy town to a globally significant economic powerhouse and America’s second largest city. Millions of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were attracted to work in the boomtown city’s growing industries.[48] Chicago in the second half of the 19th century grew more than any large city in the history of the Western world.[49] In the 1890s alone, the city’s population increased by 600,000 people alone.[50] Starting in 1890, a new wave of immigrants from central and Eastern Europe began to pour into Chicago, seeking work in the city’s booming industrial sectors.[51] By the turn of the century, for instance, Chicago had the third largest Czech population in the world after Prague and Vienna.[52] In addition, hundreds of thousands of Poles were attracted to the opportunities for work in Chicago’s factories, giving Chicago the world’s second largest Polish population after Warsaw by 1910. Chicago’s dramatic economic growth from industrialization coincided with important changes in American culture and society, in which the city was at the center of these changes.

Additional Information[edit]

Chicago has produced many of the foremost industrialists, corporate lawyers, merchants, and financiers in United States history. Among the foremost of the Chicago industrialists, lawyers, financiers, and merchants were John Villiers Farwell, Edmund Dick Taylor, Potter Palmer, George Pullman, Charles Gray, Marshall Field, Richard Teller Crane, Martin Ryerson, John Jacob Glessner, Jacob Bunn, John Whitfield Bunn, John Graves Shedd, Cyrus Hall McCormick, Edward Avery Shedd, Charles Banks Shedd, Leander McCormick, Stanley Field, Charles Deering, James Deering, Robert Law, Francis Peabody, Leonard Richardson, Milo Barnum Richardson, Joseph Edward Otis, Frank Hatch Jones, Arthur Jerome Eddy, Arthur J. Caton, Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, Ezra Butler McCagg, Julius Rosenwald, Morris Selz, Harry Selz, William McCormick Blair, William Douglas Richardson, Charles Farwell, James Monroe Stryker and John Stryker of the Bunn-Richardson-Stryker-Taylor family (See: John Whitfield Bunn and Jacob Bunn), Samuel Insull, Max Adler, Lucius Fisher, Lucius Teeter, John Peter Altgeld, Walter Gurnee, Philip Danforth Armour, Gustavus Franklin Swift, Michael Morris[disambiguation needed], Jacob Best, Jonathan Y. Scammon, and many others.

Late in the 19th Century, Chicago was part of the bicycle craze, as home to Western Wheel Company, which introduced stamping to the production process and significantly reduced costs,[5] while early in the 20th Century, the city was part of the automobile revolution, hosting the brass era car builder Bugmobile, which was founded there in 1907.[6]

It was also home to Grigsby-Grunow, which manufactured radios under the Majestic brand until the company failed in 1934.[7] (Majestic Radio and Television Corporation preserved the Majestic name, while General Household Utilities kept Grunow alive.)[8] Chicago also hosted E. H. Scott's Scott Transformer Company, which introduced a high-grade radio in 1928, and grew into Scott Radio Laboratories;[9] this was located at 4450 Ravenswood Avenue in 1946,[9] and produced "very expensive, beautifully-designed, chrome-plated chassis".[10] It added "a line of high-quality television sets in 1949".[11] Other entrants in this business were Zenith, which started life there in 1918, entering auto radios in the 1930s,[12] and Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, which started manufacturing power supplies in 1928 and went on to automobile radios under the Motorola marque in 1930,[13] as well as Walkie-talkie and Handie-Talkie and for the Army.[13]

Modern-day futures and commodity trading markets were pioneered in Chicago.[citation needed] A number of events led to this, along with Chicago's transportation systems and geographic proximity to the rest of the country. Massive amounts of goods passed through Chicago from places in the Mississippi Valley such as St. Louis, Missouri. Grain was stored in Chicago, and people began buying contracts on it. Later, people as far away as New York City began buying contracts by telegraph on the goods that would be stored in Chicago in the future. From this were established the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), and the modern systems in use today for futures and commodity trading.

Chicago Economy[citation needed]
2000 Census Data Chicago Illinois US
Manufacturers shipments, 1997 ($1000) 26,745,880 200,019,991 3,842,061,405
Wholesale trade sales, 1997 ($1000) 31,971,060 275,968,383 N/A
Retail sales, 1997 ($1000) 13,882,143 108,002,177 2,460,886,012
Retail sales per capita, 1997 $4,944 $8,992 $9,190
Accommodation and foodservices sales, 1997 ($1000) 4,481,917 14,826,805 N/A
Total number of firms, 1997 176,605 882,053 N/A
Minority-owned firms, percent of total, 1997 26.7% 12.5% 14.6%
Women-owned firms, percent of total, 1997 27.0% 27.2% 26.0%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Death knell for Chicago Spire as receiver appointed". The Boston Irish Emigrant. 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Fortune 500 2013: Full List". Fortune. CNNMoney. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  4. ^ DuSable Heritage Association
  5. ^ Norcliffe, Glen. The Ride to Modernity: The Bicycle in Canada, 1869-1900 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), p.107.
  6. ^ Clymer, Floyd. Treasury of Early American Automobiles, 1877-1925 (New York: Bonanza Books, 1950), p.178.
  7. ^ Mahon, Morgan E. A Flick of the Switch 1930–1950 (Antiques Electronics Supply, 1990), p.107.
  8. ^ Mahon, p.107.
  9. ^ a b Mahon, p.167.
  10. ^ Mahon, p.169.
  11. ^ Scott himself quit in 1945. Mahon, p.167.
  12. ^ Mahon, p.189.
  13. ^ a b Mahon, p.110.