NorthBridge Blog

Pat DuganWe love working in downtown Chicago. So do a lot of our clients. So do a lot of our candidates. Unlike a lot of other urban cores, Chicago has a vibrancy, character and sense of life that’s missing in so many other city centers.

McDonalds HQ

Rendering of new McDonald's HQ

The fact that people want to live and work here, and be part of a scene you just don’t find in many other large American cities, has been a point of difference for this town for over 20 or 30 years.

Long before other cities caught on to the benefits of having affluent professionals and white-collar types staying within the city limits, raising families and building a better overall community, Chicago was already swinging it.

There’s an energy in downtown that’s obviously an attractant for many companies, and McDonald’s return is just more evidence of that.

“Moving” reasons for coming back downtown

When its leadership decided it needed to become more “modern, progressive” company, the move to the West Loop – onto the site formerly occupied by Oprah’s Harpo Studios, no less – was key to that makeover.

One of the expected side benefits of the move? Many of McD’s suppliers will probably follow suit and open shop nearby, in order to stay close to an important customer.

In our mind, there are several reasons why any company would choose to locate its HQ downtown:

  • Centrality – Downtown is obviously a hub that’s easy to reach by an entire transportation infrastructure.
  • Quality of life – Not just out of the office, but during working hours; there’s a buzz and energy an urban-based workforce enjoys in a bustling downtown that isn’t found elsewhere, and probably helps drive higher engagement and productivity.
  • Resources – As we’ve seen, suppliers will follow a big company nearly anywhere, but it also puts the company closer to educational, technical and logistical resources than anywhere else.
  • Fiscal benefits – A McDonald’s obviously receives inducements from the city to re-locate operations downtown, and the same is true for many companies.
  • Attracting talent – In the long run, this may be the most important reason to set up shop in downtown Chicago; the urban lifestyle available here is a terrific inducement for top-tier candidates from far and wide who probably wouldn’t be beguiled by the chance to work in Oak Brook.

In years to come, we hope the same formula for success that’s helped downtown thrive can be expanded to other areas of the city that need a boost.


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