Big Companies Continuously Leaving Chicago. What’s Happening?

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : October 8, 2022

One by one, a handful of big companies are leaving Chicago. A trend that kicked off earlier this year is hosting new hits as each month passes.

If ‘Tyson foods’, the meatpacking giant, the largest U.S. meat supplier in terms of sales is the last one to report packing their bags from Chicago,  Boeing, Caterpillar, and Citadel left even before. 

Tysons Foods Next Big Company Leaving Chicago

On Wednesday, Tyson made it clear that they are leaving offices in Chicago, Downers Grove, Illinois, and Dakota Dunes in South Dakota. which hosts a notable share of its prepared foods and beef-division employees.

Big Companies Continuously Leaving Chicago

The heads of the company explain the company’s current measure is to summon all its corporate employees to its global headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas. Provided enough time, the company will have to relocate early in 2023, which will see about a total of 1,000 employees working in the three offices ending their Chicago journey.

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Across the US, the company has about 120,000 employees, with about a majority (114,000) of them working in production plants.

“Bringing our talented corporate team members and businesses together under one roof unlocks greater opportunities to share perspectives and ideas, while also enabling us to act quickly to solve problems,” said Tyson Chief Executive Officer Donnie King.

The assumed reason for these departures? Chicago’s impending crime rates – recent months have seen a rise in various offenses including murder, rape, drug violence, etc. 

Whilst Tyson Foods were modest in revealing the exact reasons for the departure, companies like McDonald’s, which is headquartered in Chicago, have made it clear what’s cooking underneath. CEO Chris Kempczinski did hold back nothing when he blatantly criticized the city for crime and warned that it’s not safe.  

“Everywhere I go, I’m confronted by the same question: ‘What’s going on in Chicago?’” Kempczinski told the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday. 

“There is a general sense out there that our city is in crisis. We have a violent crime that’s happening in our restaurants … we’re seeing homelessness issues in our restaurants. We’re having drug overdoses that are happening in our restaurants,” he said last month at the    Economic Club of Chicago. “So we see in our restaurants, every single day, what’s happening in society at large.”, he further remarked.

Along with sharing his own concerns, he further disclosed his employee’s worry as he said it’s difficult to recruit people to work at the company’s headquarters, noting: “One of the things that I hear from our employees [is] … ‘I’m not sure it’s safe to come downtown.’” But even despite these sharp statements, McDonald’s has decided to stay.

Going back to earlier this year, ‘Boeing’ in May announced the withdrawal of its headquarters from Chicago to Virginia (Arlington). Not much later, ‘Caterpillar’ also said it was moving its headquarters from the Chicago suburbs to Texas.

Echoing the McDonald’s CEO, Citadel hedge fund CEO Ken Griffin has been equally vocal on Chicago’s presumed downfall in standards over the months. Often deemed as the richest man in Illinois, the billionaire’s criticism of Illinois’ Democratic governor has been grabbing headlines for quite some time. A company that has been headquartered in Chicago for more than three decades, their departure certainly gifted a massive blow to the city, journalists say. 

While he cited personal and professional reasons for the departure including Florida’s business-friendly climate and tax advantages, Griffin earlier this year considered leaving Chicago, due to violence. “If people aren’t safe here, they’re not going to live here,”, he said to the Wall Street Journal.

One cannot blame these companies blindly as Citadel’s present office, located in the Loop at 131 South Dearborn Street, is a neighborhood that has recently experienced an uptick in violent crimes such as deadly shootings, violent armed robberies, and carjackings.

On the whole, experts are pointing to the after-effects of Covid-19 as the reason for exacerbating the inequities, violence, and crime, with murders hitting an almost three-decade high last year. Even though the US as a whole is grappling with the demons unleashed by the pandemic, Chicago-centred departures concentrate on enduring issues that existed before the outbreak.

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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