NorthBridge Blog

Pat DuganWe’ve previously posted about the move downtown by McDonald’s and other companies who have re-located to urban sites after decades in the suburbs. That’s not only true in our area, but it’s a trend that’s taking hold across the rest of the Midwest, too.

Jobs Following TalentIn Cleveland, there’s an increase in the use of old building for new business ventures and move-ins, plus new construction. The fact that the Cavaliers and Indians had great seasons, and the RNC came to town, have helped invigorate the downtown vibe there.

marquee-at-block-37-webIn Detroit, more construction is underway, including the first Class A office building to be put up downtown in over a decade.

In Milwaukee, there’s increasing demand for office space downtown, even after a major office building was opened in 2016.

Thanks to a growing science and technology sector, Indianapolis is experiencing a robust office market, with Salesforce among the notable firms grabbing large swathes of office space.

Even in towns like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, there’s been healthy improvement in commercial and residential real estate.

In Chicago, new developments like The Marquee at Block 37 (pictured) have been springing up at an enormous rate, with more on the way in both downtown and near suburbs like Oak Park.

The dynamic that’s driving this move by businesses into urban areas? It’s simple: they’re chasing talent, in large part. In other words, the jobs are moving to where there are the right people to fill them.

Reversing flight

Back in the years when companies took flight to the suburbs, there was an obvious concern about quality of life for employees. Americans had embraced the suburban dream and were leaving decaying city centers en masse. Much of that was the so-called “white flight,” which researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Michigan Technological University and the University of New Hampshire have documented in a series of interactive maps.

white migration 70s

Migration in the 70s: Orange counties lost population, blue ones gained population.

As downtown areas recovered, younger people became the early pioneers of urban living in these areas. What’s happening in Detroit nowadays is what was going on in some areas of Chicago a couple decades ago, whether it’s called gentrification or hipsterfication or some other -fication.

Some moved there to take jobs, and others created those jobs. So as these areas became increasingly energized, safe and livable, more people wanted to be part of those scenes, because their definition of “quality of life” didn’t include a picket fence in the suburbs: they were largely reacting against that lifestyle.

Today, that’s created a wealth of educated, aspirational younger (and even not-so-young) workers are available in these urban areas that are highly desirable for companies, especially those competing in a data-and-innovation-driven economy.

The fact that companies are taking great pains to re-locate to the places that are most attractive to this new generation of workers, rather than insisting those workers follow the jobs, is a remarkable shift. For Chicago and other Midwestern cities, it’s a promising one, too, if the momentum can be kept up.

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Looking for jobs in downtown Chicago? Look here!


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