Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Business interests still come to Chicago despite Trump trash talk. Maybe he doesn't know of what he speaks?

I remember during the times of my life I lived in downstate Illinois (Bloomington, while in college, and Springfield for a stint working at the Statehouse), the locals would always refute my Chicagoness by pointing out the major corporate entities that considered central Illinois to be home.
Could this road symbolically lead to Chicago for Caterpillar?

There was Archer Daniels-Midland in Decatur. Then, the big gun, Caterpillar, in Peoria, the manufacturer of farm machinery and vehicles used by agriculture interests the world over.

ANYBODY INTERESTED IN farming or food or eating ought to know of Caterpillar. Or ADM, which processes grains and soybeans into products that can be turned into food.

I don’t deny those are significant corporate entities in their own right. But I can’t help but note that ADM left Decatur a couple of years ago; following the lead of the central Illinois city’s one-time National Football League team, which came to Chicago and became the Bears many decades ago.

Now, Caterpillar seems to be following their lead.

Corporate officials said this week that their top executives are moving from their offices at the main plant in Peoria to a yet-to-be-determined site in Chicago. They want access to life in a large city like Chicago, rather than small-city life of Peoria. They also like the idea of being a short drive away from O’Hare International Airport, from which they can go anywhere in the world!

IT MAY ALSO be that corporate types want to be able to follow the Chicago Cubs themselves, rather than rooting for their local Midwest League ball club and spending their time reminiscing of the days when it was a Cubs’ minor league affiliate (it’s now with the St. Louis Cardinals).
No longer dreaming of Cubs' one-time affiliate

One bit of consolation for the Peoria people – corporate officials say it’s just the corporate offices. The actual plant in Peoria where equipment is made will remain there. Few of the 12,000 people employed in Peoria will be out of work because of the move.

Who knows? They may come to like having the top brass located elsewhere. While we in Chicago will love being able to say we’re the corporate offices of yet another business entity. Not bad at a time when President Donald J. Trump, for purely partisan political reasons, seems determined to come up with weekly attacks on Chicago.

As though he wants the world to think that our fair city is as ugly as that 1,389-foot tall building he erected along the Chicago River.
If Chicago Bears could once play a season at Memorial Stadium, why not Fighting Illini games in Chicago?

ALTHOUGH THE MOVE makes me wonder now what business entities rural Illinois types will be able to cite when they tout their region? Perhaps they’ll start boasting of the many state universities located in the rest of Illinois – particularly the University of Illinois.

Though one could argue that all you’d have to do is move the Big Ten athletic programs of the Fighting Illini to the Chicago campus, and the UI-C would take over that school’s niche in the state.

Although I’m sure that to the people of Urbana-Champaign (or should it be Champaign-Urbana), that very notion constitutes “fightin’ words” worse than the notion of Caterpillar sending a piece of itself to Chicago.
Could one-time U.S. Steel plant along the lakefront ...

Yet this isn’t the only outside interest we’re seeing these days. I couldn’t help but notice the talk this week of a company ultimately based in Barcelona, Spain, wanting to take the one-time site of U.S. Steel’s Southworks plant and convert it into homes.

SPECIFICALLY, SOME 12,000 homes, to be built in four phases of 3,000 each – with certain communal amenities meant to try to create a spirit of community.

Not that the area, which is adjacent to the South Chicago and South Shore neighborhoods, couldn’t use some freshening up. South Chicago in particular (the neighborhood I was born in, for what it’s worth) has old housing stock.
... truly become the 8080 Lakeshore housing development.? Image provided by Barcelona Housing
But any chance this project by Barcelona Housing Systems (with offices in San Francisco) and WELink has of succeeding depends on whether they can make the existing surrounding working-class residents feel like they’re not being rejected for potentially upscale newcomers. That is a large part of why a past developer’s talk of turning the 430-acre site along Lake Michigan from 79th Street to the Calumet River never got off the ground.

Yet still interesting to see that at a time when Trump wants to undermine our city by making it appear too much of a hell hole to want to have anything to do with, interests as diverse as Caterpillar and Barcelona see money to be made in Chicago; which makes me think we ought to be questioning Trump’s own business instincts – instead of taking anything he says all that seriously.


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