Why Uber, Salesforce, And Other Tech Powerhouses Love Chicago
Last week, Uber confirmed that it will expand its Chicago presence into a 463,000 square foot space. Chicago is headquarters to Uber’s Central region, as well as to Uber Freight. With Chicago’s deep expertise in logistics, it makes sense for the company to deepen its roots here.
While Uber’s lease size is one of the largest that Chicago has seen in years, the tech powerhouse’s decision to double-down on its Windy City presence is not anomalous. Chicago has witnessed a steady clip of major coastal-based technology companies setting up shop — and then expanding their presence — in the city.
Late last year, Salesforce announced that it would add 1,000 new jobs by expanding its Chicago presence. The company signed a 500,000 square foot lease in a new tower, solidifying the office as its new regional headquarters. The company already employs more than 1,000 Chicagoans.
Similar to Salesforce, Google announced in late 2018 that it would expand its presence in the Windy City. Google’s Chicago office started out small but has since expanded to house many technical roles within the organization.
As I reported last year, Chicago was first in the nation in 2017 for corporate relocation and expansion, and it only makes sense for tech giants to be part of that. Chicago is second in the nation for undergraduate computer science degrees. Moreover, the city is third in the nation for the momentum with which it's gaining tech talent. It’s not surprising to learn that tech talent is increasingly mobilizing to the Windy City given that, according to 2018 CBRE data, Chicago is home to some of the best tech talent in the nation, while offering a cost of living at a fraction of the price of coastal tech hubs like the Bay Area and New York City.
The leaders of P33 — a non-profit organization designed to catalyze Chicago into a global tech leader by 2033 — continually analyze business and economic development data as it relates to Chicago’s growth. P33 CEO Brad Henderson shared some of the Bay Area tech companies that have developed presences in the city. Aside from those that I mentioned above, Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM, LinkedIn, and Oracle all have a Chicago office with roughly 1,000 or more employees. Meanwhile, companies like Facebook and Yelp are continually increasing their presence as well. These industry titans’ involvement is great news for P33, which endeavors to build strong Chicago connections across established large businesses and the city’s wealth of emerging startups.
It’s not just the long-established tech giants that reap the benefits of having a coastal and Chicago presence, however. Newer companies have taken note and are doing the same, including social media marketplace Cameo and e-commerce fulfillment platform ShipBob*. Both tech startups have established locations in California, in addition to their Chicago headquarters. This trend is a continuation of what we observed last year with Chicago-based companies Livongo, G2, and Kenna Security*. These companies span a spectrum of industries, all fueling tech growth in California, where they have access to coastal talent while remaining rooted here in the Midwest.
With Chicago’s entrepreneurial leadership becoming increasingly visible on a national scale, its affordable cost of living, and its nation-leading technology talent, it is no surprise that the nation’s biggest tech companies are increasingly taking notice and planting more flags here in the Windy City. We look forward to seeing this trend continue to take root as Chicago stakeholders collaborate to turn P33’s vision of the city as a global leader into a well-established reality.
* My firm HPA invested in this company.
This story originally appeared in Forbes on August 27. 2019.