Chicago’s economy is enormous. In 2003 its GDP was $366bn – more than Switzerland’s, Taiwan’s, or the State of Michigan’s.

Chicago is at the centre of one of the largest trading areas in the world: the east-west nexus joining the markets of Europe and Asia, and the north-south nexus of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Its location puts 50% of North American industry a day’s journey away by truck; 75% of North America’s consumers are less than two days away. The location, central time zone and unequalled non-stop passenger service means that businesspeople can fly to meet clients or customers in nearly any US city and return on the same business day.


Chicago has grown rich on location and transportation, drawing first the railroads, then the communications wires, then the interstate highways and the air traffic. It has also attracted people from all over the world and the US for career opportunities and quality of life.

Chicago continually reinvents itself, always taking leadership in new sectors, resulting in it being North America’s most diversified economy. This combination of market access and economic diversity offers all of the resources needed to build a successful, world-class business: stability, support, opportunities for growth, and the good life.

World-class healthcare and research facilities are on offer in the city, provided by more than 12,300 doctors and 88 hospitals, six medical schools and 31 teaching hospitals.

Chicago is home to headquarters for 30 Fortune 500 companies, 12 Fortune Global 500 companies, 17 Financial Times Global 500 companies, and 98 corporates. Chicago is the US’s leading city in high-tech employment (347,100 workers), air travel, distribution and manufacturing with a $72.4bn regional manufacturing output.

Well-educated workers are easy to find in Chicago with 10.6% of its residents holding advanced degrees. The city is home to 98 higher education institutions with a total enrolment of 487,000 students. Among them are the University of Chicago, winner of 77 Nobel Prizes (more than any other US university), Northwestern University, DePaul University, Loyola University and University of Illinois-Chicago. In addition, the area boasts dozens of high-performing primary and secondary schools, more than 20 private primary schools, three major foreign-curriculum schools (French/Japanese/British), and numerous ethnic-oriented schools. The population is diverse with 26 ethnic groups of more than 25,000 people, 120 ethnic media outlets, 100 languages spoken, 72 consulates and immigrants from 200 countries.

Chicago attracted three significant deals last year. BP announced in October that its new $13bn Olefins and Derivatives spin-off was becoming an independent, US-based Fortune 200 company in 2005 and would have its world headquarters in the city centre. Astellas Pharma, created by the merger of Japanese pharmaceutical giants Fujisawa Healthcare and Yamanouchi Pharma America, chose Fujisawa’s current location at Deerfield, a Chicago suburb, for its North American headquarters. The third deal was the 99-year lease of the City of Chicago Skyway toll road to an investment consortium of Macquarie Bank (Australia) and Cintra (Spain) for $1.82bn, the first transaction of its kind ever in the US.