5 Reasons why you should open a business in Chicago this year

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By Ikram Ullah

Chicago could be the last place you might think of when it comes to opening a business; the city has a reputation for high crime rates, high taxes, tons of regulations, and outrageous rents.

However, some of the city’s most innovative entrepreneurs would disagree. They see America’s third-largest city as a vibrant and progressive business environment, with all of the amenities you’d ever need.

Affordable Commercial Real Estate is Widely Available in the Windy City

Thousands of retail shops, restaurants, bar stools, and gyms struggled, and some ultimately closed for good during the shutdowns. The city is currently marred by hundreds of permanently shuttered shops and vacant buildings, due to the prolonged shutdowns.

While to some this seems like a bad thing, the shutdowns left quite a bit of commercial real estate available at very reasonable prices. Moreover, the city has launched a program to make it easy for businesses to move into those vacant spaces.

Commercial real estate brokers are eager to find new tenants for these vacant spaces and are willing to make a deal. To find out more about what commercial real estate brokers in Chicago have to offer, click here.

Some Businesses are Need Very Little Space

 Internet-based businesses employing mostly remote workers may only require a small office space. The opportunities are nearly endless when it comes to online businesses, such as consulting, marketing, and software providers. HomeAdvisor, GrubHub, Groupon, LinkedIn, Lyft, and Salesforce are just a few of the businesses based in Chicago.

The fact is, Chicago is a growing hub for technology and one of the largest tech employers in the country. While you could start an online business anywhere, the City of Chicago has a huge pool of educated talent from top universities like Northwestern, DePaul, and Loyola.

Chicago is a progressive, forward-looking, tech-friendly city, with plenty of people and resources to draw from. It could be the ideal place to launch a startup.

The Shutdowns Left a Vacuum in Some Industries

As we mentioned, some businesses, such as restaurants, were especially hard-hit by the government-mandated shutdowns. As some businesses were forced to shut for good, it left a vacuum in their neighborhood that needs to be filled.

One alternative to a brick-and-mortar restaurant that might survive the next possible shutdown is a food truck. For one thing, outdoor dining is part and parcel of a food truck. Second, a food truck can move around town to where the people are and don’t rely on foot traffic.

Another pandemic-proof business is a health food or a supplement store. These were deemed essential and vitamins and supplements are definitely always in demand. Add a shelf of CBD products, and this is a sure-shot business.

Retail boutiques were also hard hit, leaving plenty of empty commercial real estate. Chicago is known for its street-smart sense of fashion; the right clothing boutique in the right neighborhood could succeed.

Millions in Grant Money for Small Businesses

As a new business owner in Chicago, you could be able to claim a generous grant to get your startup off the ground. For one thing, the city is also known for its generosity to underserved and minority communities.

For one, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund offers $250,000 grants to new and existing businesses in Chicago’s West and South Sides, as well as the Southwest commercial areas.

The University of Chicago Law School’s Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship sponsors a yearly business plan contest. In order to enter the contest, your business plan must include at least 50 employees, generate at least $1 million, and be located on the South Side.

Finally, in an effort to “build back better” after the small business devastation triggered by the shutdowns, the state of Illinois is offering $250 million in back-to-business grants.

These are just a few grants available right now. There are always new grant opportunities being launched, so be sure to look into available business grant money.

Chicago is a World-Class City

Despite the recent hardships, Chicago’s economy is ranked #21 in the world, ahead of countries like Sweden, Poland, and Belgium. Chicago also dominated the list of “Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies 2020”, with 32 S&P 500 and 35 Fortune 500 companies based here. Chicago also tops the list as a logistics and food distribution hub.

But, best of all, Chicago is a vibrant and diverse place to live, filled with art, music, and a global food scene. As a young entrepreneur, Chicago offers many opportunities, both for business and your personal lifestyle.

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