World Business Chicago took out a full-page ad in the Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News to encourage businesses and individuals to relocate to the Windy City. The ad alluded to the controversial abortion and voting legislation recently passed in Texas, as well as the state's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Dear Texas," the ad begins. "There were always more than 100 reasons why Chicago is a great place for business ... Now we'd like to highlight a few more. In Chicago, we believe in every person's right to vote, protecting reproductive rights, and science to fight COVID-19. If you want to build or expand your company or are looking to build your career, come to Chicago.”
World Business Chicago is the city’s public-private economic development agency. Its mission is “to drive inclusive economic growth and job creation, support business, and promote Chicago as a leading global city.”
Could the Texas abortion ban repel businesses?
The new Texas law bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, even in the case of rape or incest. Although some companies have been silent about the legislation, others including Bumble, GoDaddy, Lyft, Match, Uber, and Yelp have made public statements or taken actions to counter the legislation's effects on employees.
One aspect of the ban that is particularly concerning to many is that it gives citizens with no connection to the woman receiving an abortion after six weeks the right to sue abortion providers and anyone who "aids and abets" the procedure. If the plaintiff wins, he or she can receive $10,000 plus legal fees. Yet defendants need to pay their own legal fees, even if they win. As a result, Uber and Lyft have created legal funds for drivers who are sued because they give rides to women seeking abortions. Critics say this could encourage bounty hunters to enforce the Texas law.
Likewise, new voter restrictions in Texas have been under scrutiny for creating barriers for marginalized people. This comes on the heels of the 2020 election and near-record voter turnout. Numerous prominent businesses, including HP, Microsoft, Unilever and Patagonia, as well as local companies and chambers of commerce in Texas, have voiced opposition to these new restrictions.
Is Chicago a good place for corporate relocations and expansions?
In 2020, the Chicago metro area saw more new and expanding corporate locations than any other city. And Site Selection magazine recently ranked it No. 1 for corporate expansion for the eighth consecutive year.
"Being the nation's leading destination for corporate relocations and expansions — especially during this unprecedented year — is a testament to the resiliency and strength of Chicago's talented workforce, world-class infrastructure and diverse economy that's able to weather any storm," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. "Our continued success in attracting businesses is the direct result of our citywide efforts to collaborate with our corporate partners and develop the resources and supports they need to grow their companies and shape their industries across the global, 21st-century marketplace."
Although it has a lot to offer, Chicago is also known for handgun violence, segregated neighborhoods and few economic opportunities for young Black residents. In fact, some say the latter is fueling gun violence and propelling a vicious cycle.
In the last decade, businesses have indeed been flocking to Texas due to no income taxes and a relatively low cost of living. In particular, the state has lured numerous tech companies from Silicon Valley in California. Since 2010, the Texas population has increased by nearly 4 million people.
Yet some say recent legislation could turn the tide. “We believe that the values of the city you are doing business in matters more than ever before,” Michael Fassnacht, CEO of World Business Chicago, told Bloomberg News. If Fassnacht is correct, more left-leaning businesses could be lured away from the Lone Star State to greener pastures like Chicago.
Image credit: Pedro Lastra/Unsplash
Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.