Suburban companies still find region the place to be

There are lots of reasons some suburban companies move to Chicago, but lack of talented workers isn't one, survey says

  • Motorola Solutions said this week it plans to move its headquarters and 800 workers to Chicago, while 1,600 workers will remain in Schaumburg.

    Motorola Solutions said this week it plans to move its headquarters and 800 workers to Chicago, while 1,600 workers will remain in Schaumburg. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Gogo, which provides Wi-Fi on airlines, moved from Itasca to Chicago.

    Gogo, which provides Wi-Fi on airlines, moved from Itasca to Chicago. Photo courtesy of Gogo

  • Motorola Mobility left its Libertyville complex for Chicago. The move was completed last year.

    Motorola Mobility left its Libertyville complex for Chicago. The move was completed last year. Courtesy OF Binswanger Corp.

  • Brian Richard

    Brian Richard

  • COURTESY OF ROOSEVELT UNIVERSITYThe Schaumburg Business Association worked with Roosevelt University to conduct a survey of Schaumburg businesses. The team includes, from left, Sarah Jones, member for SBC Retention Project; Kaili Harding, SBA president; Ayesha Jamaspi, student director of the Consulting Center at Roosevelt University and project manager for SBA Retention Project; and Shelomi Gomes, member of the SBA Retention Project.

    COURTESY OF ROOSEVELT UNIVERSITYThe Schaumburg Business Association worked with Roosevelt University to conduct a survey of Schaumburg businesses. The team includes, from left, Sarah Jones, member for SBC Retention Project; Kaili Harding, SBA president; Ayesha Jamaspi, student director of the Consulting Center at Roosevelt University and project manager for SBA Retention Project; and Shelomi Gomes, member of the SBA Retention Project.

 
 
Updated 9/18/2015 9:33 AM

In spite of Motorola Solutions' decision to move its headquarters to Chicago for wider access to talent, business executives and other experts say there's no shortage of talented workers in the suburbs.

There are a number of reasons why companies seek new locations in Chicago or other areas. They can be motivated by difficulty finding skilled workers within a particular industry, a lack of convenient public transportation to the suburbs and traffic congestion leading to longer commutes, according to a new survey by the Schaumburg Business Association and Roosevelt University's Organizational Effectiveness Consulting Center in Schaumburg.

 

SBA President Kaili Harding points out that while Motorola will move 800 jobs to Chicago, "a substantial part of Motorola's workforce" -- 1,600 employees -- will stay in Schaumburg.

"There certainly is not a mass exodus," she said of Schaumburg, "and, in fact, we've welcomed several new businesses to Schaumburg in the past few years that moved out of Chicago."

The SBA will host a commercial real estate summit in October to outline the results of the survey. It was conducted to better understand what today's workforce wants, and what local companies and Schaumburg need to do to offer it,

Motorola Solutions is among 36 companies that are planning to move or have moved from the suburbs to Chicago since 2011, according to World Business Chicago data.

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Among the recent moves was Gogo Inc., which left Itasca with 500 workers and settled in Chicago with plans to boost the staff to as high as 1,000.

Motorola Mobility exited Libertyville with 2,000 workers, only to announce a more recent cut of about 500 workers while based in Chicago.

And Presence Health made Chicago its headquarters after Mokena-based Provena Health and Chicago-based Resurrection Health Care merged. Most of their 22,000 workers are actually scattered around the suburbs and city in about a dozen hospitals, according to news reports.

"We don't need to look at this move of 800 (Motorola Solutions) employees to the city as a devastating loss but as a reminder to always be thinking toward the future, and further developing Schaumburg's resources to attract and retain our key businesses," Harding said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The SBA survey, conducted between May and August, talked with 41 companies in eight industries doing business in Schaumburg. Results show that 56 percent of the responding companies said they faced no issues with recruitment. But many companies, including those in IT, manufacturing and hospitality, reported recruitment issues that existed only within their industry and were not related to the availability or the quality of workers within Schaumburg.

"About 50 percent of the companies who responded said it was more of an industry issue and not related to the village of Schaumburg itself," said Ayesha Jamaspi, the project manager at Roosevelt who oversaw the survey. "This was not city versus suburbs, but it's because of a lack of certain skills they are looking for within their own industries, what they believe is a limited area for expansion in the suburbs, too much road congestion and even property taxes that are too high."

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, Schaumburg companies said workforce availability was in the middle, while quality was at 4, said the survey.

Besides retaining 1,600 workers in Schaumburg, Motorola Solutions will move another 200 workers to Elgin for new manufacturing facilities. The company said it may expand the workforce to about 400 in Elgin as well.

Other companies also have been looking toward Elgin instead of the city, said Carol Gieske, executive director of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce. "It all depends on the business and the ownership, but everything is very fluid," Gieske said.

Officials from some companies search nationally for employees to fit their needs, said Brian Richard, assistant director of workforce and economic development at Northern Illinois University's Center for Government Studies in DeKalb.

"They may be finding that it is easier to attract talent to jobs in the city versus jobs in the suburbs," said Richard. "In the longer term, these trends tend to go in cycles. Now, it may be that companies are looking for more urban locations. This obviously wasn't the case years ago when they were locating in the suburbs. It is likely that sometime in the future we will see the pendulum swing back and the suburbs will become more popular for large employers."

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