A center of industry innovation with a high concentration of companies, ideas and talent, Chicago is a tech hub that will maintain its resilience and employment growth through the next cycle and beyond.
That’s because it’s not just startups after the 25-year-old whiz software developer. Big enterprise users from the Fortune 500 on down are challenging tech, both name-brand and early-stage, to attract millennial brainpower. Take IMC, a fast-growing trading firm JLL Managing Director Matt Carolan and Senior Vice President Phil Geiger expanded to 78,000 square feet in Willis Tower earlier this year.
“IMC is battling it out with the Googles, Facebooks and LinkedIns of the world for top tech talent,” Phil said. “Like companies across the spectrum, they secured market-leading space as a big component of their recruitment strategy.”
And competition is fierce. With lower costs and higher quality of life relative to the coasts, Chicago has become the next destination of choice for tech giants expanding their footprints. Chicago tech employment is up 6.1 percent year-over-year, with wages up 5.9 percent to an average of $89,294.
While national tech employment is slowing, it remains the leading industry driving overall U.S. employment growth. With annual growth of 4.3 percent in May versus 1.9 percent for the U.S., tech is still growing at more than twice the national rate. Leveled off venture capital funding may slow the startup segment, but established tech firms and other industries seeking tech talent will keep tenant-demand pipelines full and employment growth up in tech hubs such as Chicago.
What does this mean for tech companies seeking to expand? Those with deep pockets should continue to focus on establishing footholds in existing tech meccas while companies who are more price conscious should look to emerging tech centers. Good news, Chicago is the answer for both categories.
There are now 13.1 percent more tech jobs than there were at the height of the 2001 dot-com boom. With a shift toward an economy centered on consumer-based applications, enterprise cloud software and social media platforms, tech has involved into a services-based industry on a large scale, having a greater impact on office demand than ever before.
Since the previous peak in 2001, tech manufacturing has failed to recover 48.4 percent of peak-level jobs, while tech services jobs are 43.6 percent above peak level. The shift has allowed the industry to diversify geographically as well, since software development can be done from nearly anywhere with a good internet connection—like the Windy City.