Chicago is the gateway to the USA for Italian companies

Chicago is the gateway to the USA for Italian companies

We dedicate this space to Kyle Schulz, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Global Strategy of World Business Chicago. We met him and we propose you his interview to let you know how the WBC is able to help Italian companies that aim to develop their business in the United States even in these difficult times.

  1. Chicago, the door to USA for Italian companies?

Chicago is the best entry point for the US market. We are the third largest US metro, with America’s most diversified economy. Chicago has a GRP of $671 billion and more than 400 major corporate headquarters (36 Fortune 500, 2nd only to New York) and two global financial exchanges. Chicago is the shipping and transport center for North America, with the most connected US airport (3rd globally) providing the best access to the continent.

We are proud to highlight some of the Italian success stories that have recognized Chicago’s advantages including:

  • More than 50 Italy-based companies in the Chicago area including: Armani, Autogrill, Barilla, Lavazza, Ferrero, Luxottica, Nutella, CNH Industrial, Prada
  • Italian Consulate and Italian Trade Agency, Chicago
  • Italian-American Chamber of Commerce Midwest
  • Chicago-Milan Sister City relationship since 1973, managed by WBC
  • IIT Institute of Design and Politechnico di Milano University School of Design cooperation agreement, 2017
  • Prime Minister’s visit to Chicago in 2016 with over 50 Italian companies

Thanks to this Italian investment Chicago has been recognized as the for seven (7) consecutive years as the best US city for in new corporate investment (Site Selection Magazine) and foreign direct investment projects (IBM Global). Chicago was recently named the #1 city in North America for transportation, distribution and logistics and the #1 city in the U.S. for venture capital return on investment. These rankings indicate an “open door” for Italian companies looking to grow their business through expansion into North America.

  1. Italy and Chicago, a great story to tell from a business point of view, why?

Italy is a valued business, economic and tourism partner of Chicago. That partnership is reflected by the nearly 80 Chicago companies have operations in Italy and the more than 50 Italian companies that are in the Chicago area. Italy is Illinois’ 13th largest trading partner (5th in Europe) and Chicago and Milan have been Sister Cities since 1973.

This partnership has been successful because Chicago offers the best transportation access to North America combined with a large and talented workforce supported by top educational institutions. Chicago’s diversified economy allows Italian business to find an immediate market for any solution, service or product and with the highest venture capital return among US cities Chicago embraces innovation. With a diverse population and a committed international outlook have all been part of the great Italian – Chicago business story.

  1. Can you tell if in the last 10 years you see a change of doing business for Italian companies? Compared to 20 years ago?

While Italian companies have largely remained concentrated in the same sectors over the last 10-years – manufacturing, especially food, and transportation and retail – there has been increased Italian investment into Chicago during this period. We see many Italian companies hailing from Northern Italy. That might be contributed to our longstanding Sister City relationship between Milan and Chicago and the dozens of exchanges that have taken place between 2010 and 2020.

  1. How Italian are approaching your market? What they do, what they should or shouldn’t.

Our advice for Italian companies is the same we give all foreign companies seeking their first US home headquarters: first, connect with us at World Business Chicago, share your vision, objectives and goals. We can help provide real-time information, intelligence, and introductions so that you can make an informed decision.

No matter what stage of consideration – connect and follow World Business Chicago on social media. We host international summits for business, economic development, tech, innovation and our sister cities – and because of the COVID-19 pandemic many of these summits are virtual. Our city’s diversity is our strength – home to hundreds of languages, business and citizens from across the globe.

Our prime location – in the heart of the U.S. – makes doing business easier, and more efficient and economically sound. We actively work with likeminded companies from Fortune 500 to startups and neighborhood businesses.

Chicago is a resilient, hardworking city. The pandemic has accelerated and birthed new tech, innovation, research, and transportation, warehousing and logistics. Chicagoans include active and proud Italian communities, organizations, businesses, families and people. From Little Italy to the American Chamber of Commerce and other related organizations, Chicago’s Italian-American community is enthusiastic about seeing home country business thrive and grow here.

  1. Doing Business in USA, Is still a possibility in Covid time?

World Business Chicago and Chicago’s business community have skillfully adapted to meet today’s challenges. Chicago is the first US city to have published an economic recovery plan for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable economy that is already supporting and fueling business growth.

Our technology, food production, life sciences, manufacturing, transportation industries are actively growing and expanding. The global pandemic has necessitated new innovations within these sectors creating opportunities for Italian innovations and expertise immediately.

COVID has accelerated the adoption of e-commerce and thanks to Chicago’s central location situated in the middle of North America our city offers advantages in moving products locally, nationally, and around the world more efficiently and reasonably. Retailers, including many well-known Italian retailers are very likely benefitting from Chicago’s connectivity to the world during this digital age.

  1. Are there recently success stories?

Ferarra Pan, confectionary maker and a subsidiary of the Ferrero Group, relocated to downtown Chicago in 2020 and in the process expanding its workforce from 400 to 600 employees. Additionally, Ferarra Pan announced it will construct a 500 employee distribution center in the Chicagoland area to support their growing network.

While Ferarra Pan is a recent success story there are over 35 Italian companies that have expanded in the Chicago area since 2011. Most Italian companies that have come to Chicago are in food production or other manufacturing sectors. Additionally, with world renowned shopping including the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago we are proud to have welcomed a number of retail companies.

  1. What industry sectors are you welcoming to Chicago? Can you name specific sectors or broad industry categories (i.e. broad ranges of healthcare, technology or more specific) that you are seeking to bring to Chicago? Are there sizes of companies, revenues, employees, types of talent (technology, skilled trade, etc.)

Chicago is the most diverse large city economy in the US, and is not dependent on any one industry, so there are opportunities in a great many sectors. Chicago has a special focus on

  • Transportation/Distribution/Logistics (some 200K employees, 13.5K annual graduates, $23.2B GDP)
  • Food and Agriculture, (61K food manufacturing employees, leading food science programs in Illinois, $8.97B GDP)
  • Manufacturing and Life Sciences, (421K manufacturing employees, 675K life science employees including 266K in healthcare; 38K Health/Bio/Biomedical graduates; 6K annual engineering degrees and extensive community college system; 2nd largest manufacturing economy in the US, mfg. GDP $75B, life science GDP $66.22B)
  • Headquarters Operations (2nd largest Fortune 500 HQ center in the US; over 400 corporate headquarters and facilities)

One of Chicago’s greatest advantages for businesses is a well-educated workforce – Chicago is one of the top US cities in percentage of college graduates thanks to the highly regard universities like the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois to highlight just a few. From the highly-educated talent to the research collaborations these universities are key – and welcoming – partners for Italian companies of all sizes.

  1. You mentioned the business partnerships/relationships with Consulates and other entities in Chicago, what can you do for a company?  

World Business Chicago has assisted hundreds of foreign firms over the years. WBC can provide extensive information on Chicago’s business advantages and economy, including overviews of key industries, and can respond to particular questions or needs of a company.

We focus on helping companies locate in Chicago. As the city’s public-private economic development agency not only do we have strong ties to the business community but also with other key partners including the Consulates, trade ministers, and business associations. We work closely with our network to ensure that we can provide direct introductions to the local connections a company will need to grow and thrive in Chicago.  

WBC is here to be a resource and partner for all business inquiries. We assist and offer counsel, from general information on the main aspects of setting up a business in Chicago, and the US, to more targeted consideration as to how Chicago can meet, and exceed, your businesses goals and objectives and help your business prosper in North America.