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As corporate HQs move jobs downtown, Chicago suburbs wonder what will take their place

Ryan Ori and Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

CHICAGO -- Even after years of high-profile office moves from the suburbs to downtown Chicago, the current predicament of Lake County, Ill., stands out.

The far north suburban county is bracing for the loss of about 2,700 office jobs by early next year, from prominent companies Walgreens Boots Alliance, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. and Mondelez International.

Meanwhile, it's unclear what drugmaker AbbVie's $63 billion deal to buy Ireland's Allergan will mean for area employment. Abbvie has 9,300 workers in Lake County, making it the county's largest employer.

History indicates corporate campuses in Deerfield, Ill., and nearby suburbs -- and the homes and businesses those high-paying office jobs support -- can weather the storm. But the challenge has only intensified as more companies move jobs to downtown Chicago, in pursuit of younger workers who want to live in the city.

"I do not think the sky is falling, by any stretch," said Kevin Considine, president and CEO of economic development group Lake County Partners.

By now, Chicago's suburbs are familiar with the challenge of retaining their largest corporations and replacing those that have left. Suburban companies in recent years have shifted thousands of jobs downtown in pursuit of young, urban workers.

 

McDonald's, Kraft Heinz, Motorola Mobility, Hillshire Brands, Gogo, Wilson Sporting Goods, Motorola Solutions and Beam Suntory are examples of companies that have moved their headquarters downtown in the past few years. Others, such as Walgreens, have established large offices in the city while retaining suburban headquarters.

On June 25, Japanese drugmaker Takeda said the already announced shutdown of its U.S. headquarters in Deerfield would come by year's end, and work at the 1,000-employee campus will shift to the Boston area after Takeda's acquisition of Irish drugmaker Shire. That same day, North Chicago-based AbbVie announced it would buy Allergan.

Those changes come as Deerfield prepares for Walgreens' relocation of 1,300 jobs to Chicago's Old Post Office redevelopment in the next few months, as well as snack-maker Mondelez's shift of 400 jobs to Chicago's Fulton Market district next spring.

"It's a concern," said Brad Joseph, principal at Chicago-based real estate investment firm Core Acquisitions, which owns a building in the Parkway North office complex in Deerfield. "You can't ignore the expansion that's going on in Fulton Market and the West Loop that's attracted a lot of suburban companies.

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