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 State, Provincial and International Reviews 
Wednesday, January 11 2017
Illinois: The State of Innovation

While Chicago is affectionately called the “Second City,” Illinois is second to none as a center for global business. Illinois offers a vibrant economy and world-class business community, an educated and skilled workforce, infrastructure that facilitates the seamless movement of goods and people, and strong support for investment and growth. 

As one of the largest and most diverse economies in the United States, and the 17th-largest economy in the world, Illinois draws companies from across a diverse range of industry. Thirty-seven Fortune 500 companies, including Boeing, Caterpillar and Abbott are headquartered in Illinois. 

A vibrant business community and a culture of innovation attract the nation’s brightest minds. Illinois is a major magnet for new graduates, and with nearly a fourth of the state’s working-age population completing postsecondary education, has one of the most educated populations in the Midwest. With so many great advantages and assets, Illinois stands apart for the next home for your business. 

Photo Caption: Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, Acting Director, Sean McCarthy, helps break ground for MercyHealth’s new hospital in Rockford, Illinois.

The Epicenter of North America

Located in the nation’s heartland, Illinois is at the center of the U.S. and North American transportation network. Unique geographical advantages have resulted in the growth of an extensive shipping and logistics industry; the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan offer two international shipping routes, while Chicago serves as a primary connector for the east and west coasts. Chicago is the world’s third-largest intermodal port, with six of the state’s seven Class 1 freight lines, the Port of Chicago and access to nine interstate highways. In total, Illinois is home to two major inland ports, Midwest Inland Port and America’s Central Port, and 14 waterway ports along the state’s rivers. With a wide variety of options for domestic and international shipping, it’s no wonder that Illinois has nearly 12,000 transportation and warehousing establishments, the fourth-largest cluster in the U.S., and 300 distribution centers operated by Fortune 500 companies.

Photo Caption: Thank God It’s Natural, a company located in Chicago, Illinois, accepts their 2016 Governor’s Export Award with Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanquinetti, President and CEO of Intersect Illinois, Jim Schultz, and Acting Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce, Brittany Ladd.

Global Connections

In addition, Illinois offers a gateway to international markets, with any continental North American destination within a four-hour flight and five flight options for international travel and shipping. Among them is O’Hare International Airport, which is the best connected airport in the country. O'Hare serves 90 million passengers annually with 1,400 daily departures and nonstop service to over 200 destinations – domestic and international. 

As you can see, Illinois has a strong connection to the global economy. Exports account for nearly 10 percent of the Gross State Product and total over $68.2 billion, making Illinois the largest exporting state in the Midwest and the fifth largest in the nation. The state’s Office of Trade and Investment offers resources and international connections for firms eager to expand into foreign markets, operating ten foreign offices and conducting yearly trade missions to locations such as New Delhi, Sao Paulo, Dubai and Beijing. In addition to being a major exporter, Illinois is a magnet for Foreign Direct Investment, with nearly 2,000 foreign-based companies doing business in Illinois. 

Well-Educated Workforce

Access to a high-quality workforce is a top concern for companies, and Illinois’ well-educated, hardworking and loyal workforce has long been a draw for companies around the world. Illinois’ high quality workforce begins with the state’s emphasis on education, from early childhood through high school. From there, students from around the world come to Illinois to learn at one of the state’s 200+ institutions of higher education, world-class universities and colleges. Additionally, a vibrant cultural scene and diverse career opportunities draw college graduates from across the country to Chicago, making the city the number one metro area for Big Ten Alumni. As a result, Illinois boasts one of the most educated workforces in the Midwest, with over 38 percent of the state’s 6.6 million person labor force holding a bachelor’s degree or better. 

Photo Caption: Fuyao Glass in Decatur, Illinois uses innovative technology to manufacture their products

Culture of Innovation

A culture of research and innovation drives growth throughout the state. Illinois benefits from a strong commitment to research, with over 300 corporate R&D facilities, $2.4 billion in annual R&D funding and growing communities of entrepreneurs. 

Illinois’ thirteen technology parks, many of which partner with the state’s universities and colleges, 87 business incubators and accelerators bring together researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses at various stages to share expertise and resources, push the boundaries of innovation and produce game-changing processes and technologies. A diverse community of business incubators has produced a growing digital startup community, resulting in the third-fastest growth in tech jobs in the country. Chicago is home to 2,100 digital companies, including locally-founded tech companies such as GrubHub and Groupon, as well as Midwest outposts for Silicon Valley powerhouses like Google and Facebook. Chicago’s tech scene continues to grow, with 275 digital startups launched annually. Most recently, Illinois launched a state-wide initiative to attract the emerging industry of Blockchain technology.

Why Illinois?

As you can see, Illinois has a wide range of assets and characteristics that make it an optimal home for business. Additionally, Governor Bruce Rauner along with his administration, including the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, are committed to attracting innovative investment to Illinois and making the state a better place to live, work and raise a family for generations to come. If you’re looking for a new business home in the Midwest, look no further than Illinois. 

If you would like to learn more about doing business in Illinois please visit

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Posted by: AT 09:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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